PlayStation 3: History and Specs

PlayStation 3 Took Home Video Gaming to a Whole New Level

PS3 Console with Sixaxis
PS3 Console with Sixaxis. © SCEA

What Is PlayStation 3?

PlayStation 3 is a home video game console created by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was released in Japan and North America in November, 2006 and in Europe and Australia in March, 2007.  When released, it was the world's most sophisticated video game console to date. The successor of the most popular gaming system ever, the PlayStation 2, the PS3 quickly became the system to beat with its superior graphics, motion-sensing controller, network capabilities, and stellar lineup of games.

Sony decided to market two versions of the PS3. One had a 60GB hard drive, WiFi wireless internet, and the ability to read various flash ram cards. The lower cost version features a 20GB drive, and does not have the aforementioned options. Both systems were otherwise the same. Both cost significantly more than prior competition.

History of PlayStation 3

PlayStation 1 was released in December, 1994. It used CD ROM-based 3-D graphics, making it an exciting new way to experience arcade-style video games at home. The successful original was followed by three related products: the PSone (a smaller version), the Net Yaroze (a unique black version), and the PocketStation (handheld). By the time all of these versions had been released (in 2003), PlayStation had become an even bigger seller than Sega or Nintendo.  

While these versioned editions of the original PlayStation were hitting the market, Sony developed and released the PlayStation 2.

Hitting the market in July, 2000, PS2 quickly became the most popular home video game console in the world. A new "slimline" version of PS2 was released in 2004. Even in 2015, long after it had gone out of production, PS2 remained the best-selling home console ever.

PlayStation 3, which competed at its release with Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, represented a major leap in technology.

With its "Cell Processor," HD resolution, motion sensors, a wireless controller, and a hard drive that eventually grew to 500 GB, it was wildly popular. More than 80 million units were sold around the world.

PlayStation 3's Cell Processor

When it was released, PS3 was the most powerful videogame system ever designed. The heart of the PS3 is the Cell Processor. The PS3's Cell is essentially seven microprocessors on one chip, allowing it to perform several operations at once. In order to provide the sharpest graphics of any game system, Sony turned to Nvidia to build its graphics card.

The Cell Processor, for all its sophistication, had its plusses and minuses. It was designed to support complex programming -- and, at the same time, to resist hacking. Unfortunately, the complexity of the system made it so different from typical CPU's that developers became frustrated and, eventually, stopped trying to create PS3 games.

The game developers' frustration is not terribly surprising, given the extraordinary details of the processor's design. According to the HowStuffWorks website: The "Processing Element" of the Cell is a 3.2-GHz PowerPC core equipped with 512 KB of L2 cache. The PowerPC core is a type of microprocessor similar to the one you would find running the Apple G5.

It's a powerful processor on its own and could easily run a computer by itself; but in the Cell, the PowerPC core is not the sole processor. Instead, it's more of a "managing processor." It delegates processing to the eight other processors on the chip, the Synergistic Processing Elements."

Additional Unique Elements

PlayStation 3 HD-TV: One of the major selling points of the PS3 was its built-in Blu-ray High-Definition disc player. The PS3 can play new HD Blu-ray movies, PS3 games, CDs, and DVDs. It can even "upscale" the DVD movies you already own to look better on a HDTV. In order to take advantage of the PS3's HD abilities, you need to buy an HDMI cable. Both versions fully support HDTV.

PlayStation 3 Network: The PlayStation 3 was the first home console to offer the ability to go online and interact with others during play. This was provided via the PlayStation Network. The PS3 enables you to play games online, download game and entertainment content, purchase music and games, as well as transfer downloaded games to the PSP. The PS3's network is completely free to use; today, the PlayStation Network offers a wide range of services from streaming video to game rentals. The PS3 also supports chat and web-surfing using the Sixaxis or any USB keyboard.

 

PlayStation 3 Hardware and Accessories

The PS3 is not only a powerful system, but a beautiful one. The designers over at Sony wanted to create a gaming system that looked more like a piece of high-end electronics than a toy. As these images show, the PS3 looks more like a sound system designed by Bose than a videogame system. When first released, the $599 60GB PS3 came in shiny black with a silver accent plate protecting the Blu-ray drive. The $499 20GB PS3 came in "clear black" and has no sliver plate.

One of the biggest surprises the PS3 gave us was its totally redesigned boomerang-shaped controller. The new Sixaxis looked a lot like the PS2's Dualshock controller, but that's where the similarities ended. Instead of rumble (vibration in the controller), the Sixaxis featured motion sensing. The Sixaxis wasn't the only new accessory. There was a memory card adaptor, Blu-ray remote control, and HDMI AV cable available, as well, along with a laundry list of PS3 accessories that went well beyond existing home video game technology at the time.

PlayStation 3 Launch Titles

Game console manufacturers, such as Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, love to spout off about which system is more powerful (really, it's the PS3). But what makes any console worth having are its games.

The PS3 had one of the most impressive lists of games lined up for its November 17th launch. From family friendly, multiplatform games like Sonic the Hedgehog to PS3 exclusive titles designed with the hardcore gamer in mind, Resistance: Fall of Man, the PS3 had a stellar batch of games available from day one.

Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom - Preview and Screenshots:

Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is one the PlayStation 3's launch titles. This action role playing game allows players to develop one of several characters as they adventure through a fantasy realm. Based on the popular PSP franchise, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom looks to bring stunning visuals and deep gameplay to the PS3 on day one.

Mobile Suit Gundam: CROSSFIRE - Screenshots:

Gundam is one of Japan's most iconic animated series. While gundam games, cartoons, and toys have been huge hits overseas, they have yet to gain widespread popularity in the west. Mobile Suit Gundam: CROSSFIRE hopes to change that by bringing mecha (giant robot) combat to a wider audience. Mobile Suit Gundam: CROSSFIRE revolves around epic mecha combat in which gamers pilot giant robots, smashing trees and firing missiles at each other. CROSSFIRE looks to be the surprise hit of the PS3's launch.

More PlayStation 3 Information:

PlayStation 3 was replaced by PlayStation 4 in 2013. PlayStation 4 includes an app version, making it more appropriate for a world in which smartphones are ubiquitous. Unlike PS3, it does not use the complex Cellular Processor. As a result, it is easier for developers to create new games for the system. While PS4 is a step up in some ways, it is not a revolutionary product.

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