So… Anybody Else Jumping Aboard the PS3 Slim Train?

With the announcement of the PS3 Slim and its Australian RRP of $499 – an announcement we all knew was coming anyway, thanks to internet leaks – Sony have firmly swung momentum back in their favour after years of floundering at the bottom of the console sales charts, with many gamers, myself included, deciding that now is the time to pick up one of Sony’s little black boxes.

***DISCLAIMER***

Participating in a “my system is better than your system” console flame war is the most useless and demeaning exercise that a gamer can engage in, however the very existence of something called the Sony Defence Force made me weary to even write this article for fear of being targeted in a tactical fanboy strike. To that end let me state once and for all my position: If I had the money and the space I’d own every major console ever released and I don’t understand why any full-time gamer would think differently. We’re here to see how far Sony has come, not bash on them, so put your bananarangs away and be cool.

***END DISCLAIMER***

With that out of the way, gather around the campfire as I retell that old favourite, the horror story of the Playstation 3’s Australian launch.

Down here in the gaming ghetto that is Australia, we have to put up with a lot. Games cost a lot more here than they do just about anywhere else, consoles usually launch months after they’ve been out elsewhere and our ratings system is horrifically ill equipped to deal with the growing maturity of games and gamers.

You’d have thought we would have developed thick skin by now, but when Sony announced that the Playstation 3 would launch on March 23rd 2007 at the face-spasmingly high price of $1000 despite having a major feature removed – backwards compatibility with Playstation 2 titles – the collective tears from expectant gamers could have ended our current water crisis.

I, like many I assume, baulked at paying significantly more for significantly less. It wasn’t so much that they removed backwards compatibility – at this point, who doesn’t have or can’t afford a PS2? – more that Sony Australia made our PS3 the most expensive in the world despite having less features than its cheaper US counterpart. It felt like a $1000 slap in the face.

“I’m surprised there aren’t more people here, I thought the place would be packed”

From a consumer standpoint, the choice was a case of simple maths: the PS3 at launch was as much as $450 more expensive than the XBOX 360 (depending on SKU/retailer) and over double the price of the Wii. Blu-ray was nice, but at the time of the PS3 launch a format war was raging between Blu-ray and HD-DVD (remember that?) for the Hi-Def crown.

Of course now we know that Blu-ray unequivocally curb stomped HD, but at the time they were neck-and-neck with no finish line in sight. Fearing that we may be left with the Beta of the Hi-Def era, most of us were content to sit on the fence until the whole thing blew over.

On top of that, there was the small issue of the lack of exciting exclusive titles. Metal Gear Solid 4 was on the horizon, as was Final Fantasy 13 (it still is), but what else? The FPS one-two punch of Resistance 2 and Killzone 2 showed promise, but the market was already saturated with shooters (it still is). The Playstation Network had yet to prove itself as a games delivery service and Playstation Home looked like an application in search of a purpose (it still is)(mostly).

With most third-party titles going multi-platform and word spreading that developers were having a hard time coming to grips with the PS3’s alien architecture, the future didn’t look so rosy.

It’s a testament to gamer’s love for the Playstation brand that the PS3 has done as well as it has. Those who didn’t have an allegiance to any particular games megacorporation and were just looking for a machine that would do the job faced a lopsided argument.

Sure, you could buy a PS3, but for close to half the price you could buy a 360 which has most of the same games, as well as a number of great exclusives, an established and feature-rich online service, (admittedly limited) backwards compatibility, etc.

It’s no wonder the PS3 has had such a slow start.

Final Fantasy 13. ETA: Umm… 2011?

The new PS3 Slim and its price now render all of this moot and, with the benefit of time, the argument has turned around on itself.

Sure, you could buy an XBOX 360, but for almost the same price you can buy a PS3 which now not only has most of the same games, as well as a number of great exclusives, but also includes a Blu-ray drive, a free online service, built-in Wi-Fi, etc.

That may be simplifying the argument somewhat, but the facts remain; the PS3 is now half its launch price and a much more attractive proposition. With the library of quality games growing – the day The Last Guardian goes on sale is the day I buy my console – the Playstation 3 is, finally, too good to resist.

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