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The PlayStation Network is the PS3 equivalent of Xbox Live, only it’s totally free to PlayStation 3 owners. Xbox Live, by comparison, costs $49.99 a year and offers many of the same functions. Personally, I consider the PlayStation Network to be one more reason why the PS3 is superior to the Xbox 360 video game console.
An internet connection is all you need to connect to the PlayStation Network. In fact, the PS3 has a wireless adapter built into it, so if you have a wireless network set up in your home then you should be able to get online no matter where you place your PS3. Once you get your PS3 online, just follow the on-screen instructions to set up a user account and you are on the way.
Once you are logged in, you can go to the PlayStation Store and download games, demos, videos, themes, and more. Some of the games must be purchased, such as the premium stuff like Jeopardy or High Velocity Bowling, but all of the game demos are totally free. Most of the premium games run $9.99-14.99, which a few titles being more expensive. They even have some classic PS1 games on there for just $5.99 each. Once you buy a game, they are downloaded to the internal hard drive of the PS3 and then you can play them whenever you like.
I think the best feature of the PlayStation Network is being able to download free game demos. Since most new PS3 games costs $60, and a rental at Blockbuster is close to $10, it is nice to be able to get a free demo that you can play through before deciding to plunk down any money on a game that might not be any good.
In addition to the games and demos, you can also download add-ons for your existing games. For example, if you have Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, there are tons of tracks you can get. Some are free and some cost a few dollars, depending on the artist. A lot of other games, such as Resistance: Fall of Man, have map pack add-ons that feature a bunch of new maps for playing online.
The PlayStation Network also has movies you can buy or rent, but I have not tried this feature. It works very much the same way that iTunes does with movies, but I think their prices are a little too high. The rental fee is as much as it would cost to rent a movie from Blockbuster, but the video quality is not quite as good. The same goes for when you buy the movie. For the same price or maybe a couple of dollars more, you could just buy the movie at Wal-Mart. I suppose the service would be great if you were in a location where movies were not readily available, but otherwise I see it as a way to spend too much money on mediocre versions of movies.
If you already own a PlayStation 3 and haven’t yet put it online, I urge you to do so. You’re missing out on a ton of free stuff that really make the experience of owning a next-gen console all the more better. If you are debating between a PS3 and Xbox 360, be happy to know you won’t have to shell out any extra money just to get on the PlayStation Network.