Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Playstation 3 that never really was, was so awesome

BTW: this is not the 60GB. Can't you tell?
Imagine a Dutch boy going to a game store in a neighboring city, anticipating his new console and finally meeting the grandiose that is the Sony Playstation 3 60GB. "I had go through a lot of trouble to get this thing," he says. "I know," the shopkeeper replies, "we even get people from Groningen (far side of the country), just to get this model." Now imagine that boy nearing his 30's and this event happening last year, because that is me.

Although I hate the stereotype of us Dutch being cheap, I did not want to shell out the 800 Euro's required to purchase the system on launch. I was happy with my PS2, but I had mostly be playing PC games before that and I did not mind going back. Unfortunately I missed out on the awesomeness that would be the PS3.

It has been almost 10 years ago, but do you remember all the features that would be in the original PS3? Backwards compatibility spanning back to the PSX era, communication with the PSP, Linux installation and it's possibility to play Blu-ray make it an absolute behemoth of a console.

Unfortunately these features did not only come with a price tag. Sony had to do them right in order for them to stick around and they let that one slip. They had to cut down on features to save on costs, not only because of the material used in the product, but also to save on labor. Since I finally got my hands on the original PS3, let me break down some of those features on why they are awesome and what went wrong.

The backwards compatibility

All playable on the 60GB version
Let me start by telling you that the backwards compatibility on the PS3 was awesome! Remember that the PS1 released in 1994, so on release of the PS3 you already had a library of games 12 years big. With the PS3 not yet at its end of life, that accumulates to 21 years today! Also, these games are possible to view over HDMI and the PS3 takes care of the image scaling for you. With the wireless PS3 controller you add extra play comfort. I would play all of my old games on it, if not for one of several major drawbacks.

You can't load your saves from the previous playstations. Yes, the PS3 60GB has a memory card slot, but somewhere along the design line something was misinterpreted and that slot was changed from a PS2 type to one of those multi-card readers you find on those (now) old PC's. You also cannot connect any old PS2/PSX controller. I can perfectly imagine why this happened, cutting costs among others, but it does not end there.

The PS3 is region free (perfect slogan), but the PSX and PS2 are not. Probably for commercial reasons, they kept the region locking. It makes perfect sense to make a console region free: you make 1 type for all regions, but if you design your backwards compatibility to keep the region lock, you are still building different consoles for different regions.

It is obvious why the backwards compatibility was scratched first, it was the most expensive, but it is such a shame. If they had taken a better look at the design, they might have kept it. Then again, if you know a bit about computer architecture, you'd know how hard backwards compatibility can be, but I'll save that for another post.

Linux compatibility

I am out of puns, insert punguin here...
You might not care to remember, but the PS3 had the possibility to install the Linux operating system. I have not tried this myself, since I did not want to jeopardize my collectible PS3, but I have played enough with Linux to be really excited to try it on another PS3 someday.

Although it was cool, this feature really gave me the idea Sony wasn't really thinking in the design phase. Mainly for these 2 reasons:
  1. Practically no gamer uses Linux
  2. Any OS, but especially Linux, gives the user full access to your hardware.
It wasn't a surprise the Linux feature was the leak that eventually made the PS3 crackable and Sony even removed it with a system update. It's a shame, because the PS3 processor had some new stuff not common in PC's. There's a lot to say about that, but I'll save that too for another post.

Communication with your PSP

We take the PSX hardware and make it portable.
What shall we call it?
Has anyone tried this? Did you know you can play games on your Playstation Portable from your Playstation 3? No? Well neither did I. You can also swap out savegames from your PSP to your PS3, so you can continue a game at home on the big screen after you've played it on the road.

I got my PSP last year too and I had that thing soft-modded before you could say "hey, isn't that be piracy?" The irony of it all is that I only play legally purchased PSP and PSX games on it, the PSX games being the original disc softwarematically mangled on a PC to be stored on the PSP memory stick. This last feature was never fully developed by Sony, because a hacker group found out before the release of the PS3. Again, it's a shame, because it works so well.

Then there is remote play. Long before Valve's Steam had a streaming function, you could stream your PS3 contents to your PSP. Yes, you heard that right, you can go to the little men's (or women's) room and play Playstation games on your PS3! You can insert a PSX disc in a PS3 60GB and have it streamed over Wifi!

Unfortunately, Sony thinks the PSP does not have enough sticks and buttons, so the PS3 downright refuses to play most content, including PS2 and PS3, but also Netflix and any other app you might have installed, which leaves remote play to be nothing more than a remote PS3 savegames-manager. Then, there is the problem of the PSP not being able to connect to WPA2 wifi (most modern routers) and its chip is barely fast enough to stream. You can play an RPG, but do not try a racing game, the delay is just a bit too much. Add to that that Sony never really pushed remote play for developers and you will therefore probably never use it.

Enjoying the PS3 nonetheless

Even though Sony did not polish a lot of its features, the original 60GB is a hackers dream come true. The amount of features is a rabbit-hole I'd love to dive in some more and I definitely will. To end on a high note: although most of these features did not come out as much as we'd hoped, at least Sony has learned from it. They now know better what works and at least they continued the remote play feature to PSvita and PS4. I haven't had my hands on a vita yet, but it seems it can connect to a PS3 as well. Just to keep a combo going, I'll save that topic for another post.


  1. You can actually get a PS2 memory card reader for USB, that you can use with PS3 and transfer your save games that way.

    1. As I wrote, it's a rabbit hole. I will look into it.

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  3. In my opinion Play Station 4 is much more better than to play station 3.You can buy it from any of the online games store in India.Best of luck from our side!

  4. you have done good efforts here, PSN card can be considered to be among the pioneer purchasing options in the digital marketplace