One of the most important features of the PS3 is the fully revamped and restyled PlayStation network, complete with the new PlayStation Store and an online gaming service that rivals Microsoft's heralded Xbox Live service. And while the Store is well-documented at this point, one aspect doesn't seem to be getting much publicity: the cost.
If you have the PS3, you might've noticed something awfully positive when you go to register for the Store and Network-
All you need is a fast Internet connection (DSL or cable), the ethernet cord that comes packaged with the PS3, and you're good to go. Simply plug in, register, and get gaming! Not only do you have immediate access to the Store, which features free playable demos and trailers, and moderately priced arcade titles, but you can also play online for no cost. This is one hell of a bonus, especially if you compare this to Live's service fees.
Now, you can sign up for a Silver Xbox Live membership, which is indeed free. However, this only grants you access to the Xbox Live Marketplace and voice chat, it does not allow you to play games online, which is kinda the whole point of Live. You can upgrade to the Gold membership whenever you like, which certainly enables online play, but that comes with your option of set fees.
You can be a Gold member for $49.99 for one year, $19.99 for three months, or $7.99 for one month. You can also pick up one of the bundle deals if you like: $39.99 nets you three months of a Gold membership, a headset, $10 mail-in rebate, and 100 points to be used in the Marketplace. For $69.99, you get one full year of Gold features, a headset, a $20 mail-in rebate, and 200 Microsoft points. Both these packages also include one Marketplace Arcade title each.
And if we look at the current state of the PlayStation network…
Despite the fact the Network doesn't quite have all the extras and bells and whistles Live boasts (no unified friends list that carries over to all the games you play online, for example), you can still play online for no cost. You can access the Marketplace and download trailers and playable demos for no cost. No, you don't get the "points" (it's basically money in the Live Marketplace) towards the Store, you don't get a headset, and you don't get one of those joyous rebates. But to play online and use the Store for free forever? That's a giant plus.
Comparatively speaking, to play online for five years with Live, you need to shell out $250.00, minimum. That's if you don't spring for any of the bundles and always do the one-year Gold membership. If you utilize either bundle offer – both of which are more expensive – or the three-month or one-month offers, you'll end up paying even more. Furthermore, you know Sony is in the process of adding all those little enhancements to the Network as the months progress, so…
Essentially, Live and the Network will soon become borderline identical. And if you want to go play a game online with the PS3, it won't cost you an extra dime over the next five years. If you want to do the same with the 360, that's an added ownership cost of at least $250. This is something to be considered, yes?