Not everyone understands the differences between the various video game consoles that are currently sold at department and electronics stores. To the untrained eye, they all basically look the same—rectangular shaped boxes that are operated with devices called “game controllers.”

For those who want a little more light shed on this topic, we’ll go over the major video game consoles, what they do, their advantages, and who might be interested in buying one.

So get ready because it’s game on, dude!

Sony PlayStation 101
An interesting note in video game history is that Sony partnered with Nintendo in the late 1980s to develop a new CD ROM disk player for the Super Nintendo game machine. Up till then, the SNES was strictly run off of game cartridges that were plugged into the machine. The finished video game console was revealed at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show and was dubbed the Super Famicom/SNES.

One day after the unveiling of the device, Nintendo broke its partnership with Sony and signed on with Philips Electronics instead. The resulting bad blood between the two companies ended with Sony forming Sony Computer Entertainment. Its first order of business was to develop a new video game console to compete with Nintendo.

In 1994, the Sony PlayStation was born and drove Nintendo SNES sales into the ground, and basically ended the life of the SNES. The first Sony PlayStation became a worldwide hit with over 102 million units sold. It was discontinued in 2006.

The PlayStation models
There are three other iterations of the Sony PlayStation; the PS2, the PS3, and the new upcoming PlayStation 4, which is expected to go on sale at the end of 2013.

The PlayStation 3, the current model as of this writing, has all of its games published on the Blu-ray DVD format. This allows up to 50GB of data on a dual-layered disc. Conventional DVD discs hold up to 8GB on a dual-layered disc. The extra storage space on Blu-ray, theoretically, offers more room for advanced graphics and more expansive games.

The PS3 was launched on November 2006 and has sold over 70 million units worldwide.

At the time of its launch, the PS3 was marketed not only as a game machine, but a multimedia hub that could also play Blu ray movies, MP3s, store images, do shopping online, and download video content and games.

The PlayStation 3 was later equipped with a handheld motion sensing device called “Move" in conjuction with the "PS Eye" that allowed certain games to track the user’s motion, position, and distance. The PS3 has also appeared in slimmer forms which have smaller device foot prints.

Because of its high computing power, relative to other game machines, the PS3 has been used for scientific purposes by linking a bank of PS3’s in parallel or in series to tackle advanced math problems in physics, medicine, and other related applications. The PS3 was seen as an inexpensive way for some institutions to build an affordable supercomputer.

The upcoming PlayStation 4 promises to up the stakes even more by including an 8-core processor, gaming via streaming, faster graphics and gameplay, and the ability to record and share gaming sessions with others.

Who will want it?
The PlayStation 3 has access to a vast library of video games stretching all the way back to the first PlayStation, which means a wealth of game content for anyone who is looking for a wide video game experience that spans almost two decades.

Multiplayer modes, where other gamers can compete or play in cooperation towards a common goal, is a free online service on Sony’s PlayStation Network, and requires no annual fee. Some consider this a big plus in purchasing the PS3 because the savings realized through Sony’s free online gaming service can actually pay for the entire cost of the game machine over time.

The PS3 is subject to various firmware updates, some of which have actually disabled third-party game controllers and devices due to Sony’s efforts to restrict the use of accessory products not made by the company, and to circumvent customization of the game console’s features.

While these updates, for the most part, have improved the performance of the machine, the negative aspects of the updates has caused a certain amount of friction and bad public relations for Sony and has led to hackers attacking the Sony PlayStation Network in protest of the company's firmware update policies.

The Sony PlayStation 3 has proven itself to be a reliable and full-featured video game console that can also double as a very good Blu ray player. It has access to a vast library of PlayStation games, and features multiplayer at no cost.

For those who are looking for a good all-around video game machine that can just about do it all, the Sony PS3 is definitely something to consider.

Frank Ling is the National Technology Examiner for He is a writer, professional photographer, and video editor. One of his all-time favorite jobs was working at a large video game publisher as a QA trainer for testing game software.

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