My Brother is Going to Hate Me for This One...

October 2, 2009 at 1:30 PMJeremy

This past Sunday, Brandon and I got into a somewhat lively discussion about a very important topic; no, not healh care reform or the situation in Iran -- explaining to Lucas the relative merits of Sony's Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.

In our discussion, Brandon made the claim that, although the base system is cheaper, the Wii is actually the most expensive system because of the various add-ons and extras that you have to buy for it.  This seemed true enough; after all, there are extra remotes, extra "nunchuk" peripherals, the new MotionPlus add-on, and that certainly does add up.  I decided that the best way to settle it was with a spreadsheet comparing one system to the other, and see just how much it would cost to outfit the system to play a single game.  I used the current MSRP for all items, as other times or sales aren't a fair representation.

For Wii, I decided to be generous and chose Wii Sports Resort, which requires a remote, a nunchuk, and the MotionPlus add-on to play (although one MotionPlus comes with the game).  I thought about asking Brandon which game he'd nominate for the PS3, but I knew he'd pick Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. 

To outfit the Wii for 1 player requires the Wii system ($199.99), which includes a remote and nunchuk (plus a free game!) and a copy of Wii Sports Resort ($49.99) which includes a MotionPlus; total: $249.98.  For the PS3, I'd need the system ($299.99) which includes a DualShock 3 controller and the game ($29.99, as a bestseller, which includes Metal Gear Online for free); total: $329.98.  So the Wii wins by 80 bucks.

Of course, part of the appeal of the latest generation of games is that they enable multiplayer much more easily than previous generations.  So, what happens if you scale these out to support more players?  Well, for Wii Sports Resort, you just need more remotes, nunchuks, and MotionPluses.   For Metal Gear Online, you need more Playstation 3's and more copies of the game.  How does that stack up?  For four players:

  MSRP Quantity Cost
Wii $199.99 1 $199.99
Wii Remote $39.99 3 $119.97
Wii Nunchuk $19.99 3 $59.97
MotionPlus $19.99 3 $59.97
Wii Sports Resort $49.99 1 $49.99
      $489.89
       
Playstation 3 $299.99 4 $1,199.96
DualShock 3 $54.99 0 $0.00
Metal Gear Solid 4 $29.99 4 $119.96
      $1,319.92

The difference is $830.03 in Nintendo's favor.  (And that's not even counting the 4 HDTVs and HDMI cables you'd need...)

Now, I can already anticipate the counter-argument.  "Not every PS3 game require multiple systems."  True enough, the PS3 does support local multiplayer on the same system for some games, which at $54.99 for a Dual Shock 3, would have to be cheaper than buying $40 remotes plus $20 nunchuks and $20 MotionPluses, right?

Again, pitting a fully-kitted Wii Sports Resort setup against some random new 4-player PS3 game yields these results:

  MSRP Quantity Cost
Wii $199.99 1 $199.99
Wii Remote $39.99 3 $119.97
Wii Nunchuk $19.99 3 $59.97
MotionPlus $19.99 3 $59.97
Wii Sports Resort $49.99 1 $49.99
      $489.89
       
Playstation 3 $299.99 1 $299.99
DualShock 3 $54.99 3 $164.97
Local MP Game $59.99 1 $59.99
      $524.95

The Wii is still $35.06 cheaper!  And all these figures are based on the recent price reductions on both systems.  For about two weeks, the Wii was still $249 while the PS3 had dropped to $299.  At any other point, the Wii has been more than $100 cheaper, so there is only a small window where this would've played out differently.

So there you have it, folks.  The myth that the Wii has these hidden costs that make it ultimately the more expensive system has been busted.  To be fair, the PS3 also plays Blu-Ray and is an awesome upscaling DVD player, so with that factored in there are certainly scenarios where the Playstation becomes a better overall deal. But from a pure gaming standpoint, the cheaper system is the cheaper system, regardless of the extras.

Personally, I like them both.  There are more games that interest me on the Wii, but the PS3 does a lot of non-gaming stuff really well... and it is the exclusive home to certain Tactical Espionage Action.  [Of course, that may be changing in the future, as Metal Gear's creator Hideo Kojima has expressed his interest in Microsoft's Project Natal; It won't surprise me in the least to find my brother sneaking over to the Xbox 360... in a cardboard box, of course...]

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