The Wii and the PS3 David Vs. Goliath?

by Luofei Deng | 11/17/06 6:00am

With the holiday season almost officially upon us, thoughts turn to dreaded holiday shopping. The Sony Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii are destined to find their way onto many shopping lists. Both of these videogame consoles were just released and the two could not be more different. The Playstation 3 is a black monolith filled to the brim with bleeding-edge components and has a price tag to match. The Nintendo Wii is a small white box that lacks stunning graphics but makes up for it in genuine innovation and a substantially lower price.

Sony has designed the PS3 to outgun the Microsoft Xbox 360, which was released last year. Upgraders will be glad to hear that the PS3 can play almost all PS2 and PS1 games. Given the extra year of development, Sony was able to fit some exciting features inside, such as a Blu-ray high definition DVD drive and HDMI port (to watch movies in high definition, if you have an HDTV), Wi-Fi/Ethernet for network connectivity, Bluetooth for wireless controllers, as well as a hard drive to save games and store media (photos, videos, songs, etc.). All these features are wrapped in a glossy black case.

Like the Xbox, the PS3 comes in two configurations: The "basic" configuration which rings in at $499 and the "deluxe" version which costs $599. The extra hundred dollars brings with it a 60 GB hard drive, built-in Wi-Fi, a multi-format memory card reader and chrome accents on the case. Included with all PS3s is the new SixAxis controller which can sense motion in six directions (up, down, left, right, forward and back).

With its multimedia and internet features, the PS3 is meant to be more than just a gaming device. It is meant to be the center of the living room, capable of all the various entertainment options one desires.

While the PS3 is a high-powered gaming rig capable of all your multimedia needs, the Nintendo Wii is almost its polar opposite. Targeted towards casual and even non-gamers, the Wii is much simpler and less powerful. Its $249 price reflects these differences. The Wii allows full backwards compatibility with Gamecube games.

The most radical feature of the Wii is its controller, which changes the very way the games are played. The controller is a wireless remote, with full motion sensing capabilities. This means that in a tennis game, swinging the remote will swing the racket. The speed and motion of the swing determines the power and trajectory of the shot. An attachment, called the Nunchuck, can be added to increase the controller's function for more complex games.

A more conventional controller is also available for those unwilling to give up the joystick twiddling and button mashing. With the remote, Nintendo has rethought how games are played; getting gamers off the couch and hoping to attract people who previously have not been into gaming.

Both of these new machines are technologically impressive. The Playstation 3 targets the core gaming audience with photorealistic graphics and media features galore.

The Nintendo Wii, however, takes a unique route by taking much of the learning curve out of video games. The Wii completely rethinks the gaming experience and attracts non-gamers into the fold.

Expect both of these devices to be in short supply this holiday season.