This quick guide is designed for the busy parent with a gaming child/grandchild that they want to be able to understand. We understand that your time is precious, so this guide will stick to the basics of PlayStation: What are the consoles, what games are ONLY on PlayStation, and what is this subscription service that they tell me I need?
Thankfully, Sony had the forethought to number their consoles in an intuitive way: numerically. As of this writing, we are in the age of the PlayStation 4, but let’s take a quick look at how we got here.
PlayStation X (PSX) / PlayStation One (PSOne)
The original rendition of the PlayStation console started with this little grey box. You likely won’t encounter this token of the ’90’s in your local GameStop, but it’s good to know where things started. Shortly after, a PlayStation One version came out, which was much more compact than the original system pictured above. Releasing a second, smaller version of their systems is a theme that PlayStation continued going forward.
PlayStation 2 (PS2)
We’re not making any leaps with the naming convention here, PlayStation 2 is, as the name suggests, the second PlayStation console. Launched in 2000 this system was the first of the PlayStation systems that could stand upright. A slim model of this system was released a little later on as well. It’s worth noting that the slim models of systems are just the same console, just smaller, they still play the same games.
On top of being able to play PS2 games, the PlayStation 2 and all of its slim versions were also backward compatible, meaning they could also play games from the previous generation, the PSOne.
PlayStation 3 (PS3)
The third console in the PlayStation line released to the world in 2006. The PlayStation 3 was the first to include built-in wireless to connect to the internet to play online with your friends through Sony’s PSN or PlayStation Network. Using the PSN on the PlayStation 3 was free, giving users access to the internet to use Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and other video platforms, as well as playing games together online. You still have to pay for your internet provider, though, but at least the PS3 didn’t charge to use their online features.
As you might expect, a few renditions of the PS3 slim followed the release of the original console. Some of the slim designs just made the console more compact, while others also changed the disc tray from a front-loading system to a top-loading system. All renditions of the PS3 will play PS3 games, but very few original models were backward compatible with PS2 games and are really difficult to find now. If you want to go back to play PS2 games, you’ll need a PS2, or you can buy the games in the PlayStation Store for your PS3. However, a software update a few years back added the ability for all PS3 consoles to play PSOne games from the original discs.
PlayStation 4 (PS4)
Four consoles in and Sony has kept with the numeric order of their console releases, something that you’ll be happy they did when you start getting into the obscure naming conventions of the other platforms and their consoles. The PS4 launched in 2013 and was a huge upgrade from its predecessor. The controllers were upgraded with a touch pad, a light, a microphone/speaker and a wider grip for more comfort.
This is the console generation where things start getting weird with consoles, so let me shed some light on the different versions of the PS4 console.
The basic PS4 system is the console as it was released. It will play any game compatible with the PS4, but is not backward compatible with any of the previous PlayStation games from the PS3, PS2, or PSOne (save for the versions that you can buy in the PlayStation store online).
Following traditions, after a while of the PS4 being out on the market, Sony released a “slim” model. The slim system still plays all PS4 games, it just has a smaller form factor and other minor adjustments.
This is where we get into the realm of confusing the non-gaming caretakers of gamers. The PS4 Pro is still a PS4 system, it still plays all of the PS4 games, but Sony has added new hardware to improve performance, speed, and increase your maximum resolution to 4K. This system is geared toward higher performance, nicer looking games (especially if you have a 4K television), and to be better at handling the new PlayStaiton Virtual Reality headset (PSVR). The PSVR is a whole different discussion, just know that all of these consoles with the PS4 title will play PS4 games.
PlayStation had a few different handheld systems that we will touch on briefly:
PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Without going too in-depth, this was the PlayStation’s first venture into portable gaming. It plays games and movies on Universal Media Discs (UMD’s) and was widely popular when it first released. It has the ability to connect to the internet, hosts a back lit screen, and had several models. The PSP 1000, 2000, and 3000 systems had some design differences and performance enhancements as time went on, but they still all play the same games.
PlayStaiton Portable Go (PSP Go)
This sliding beauty might look like an old cellphone minus a few buttons, but it was the first PlayStation handheld that was, essentially, download only for games. It boasted the same setup and library as the PSP, but it didn’t have a slot for UMD’s, which gave it an incredibly compact design. Games for this system had to be purchased and downloaded from the PlayStation store.
This system has become something of a collectors item in recent years, even though better versions of portable PlayStation consoles exist now. Currently, these little systems are going for around $250 on sites like Amazon.
PlayStation Vita (PSVita)
This is the current PlayStation handheld on the market. This system uses small game cartridges rather than the old UMD’s of its predecessor. It features a touch screen on the front of the system and a touch-sensitive back plate that is used in some games. Some of the games you can buy for the PS4 are also able to be played on the PSVita through a remote play function.
In the gaming world, you’ve got four major players: PlayStation, XBox, Nintendo, and PC (computer games). Each of those has what we call Exclusive Titles, or games that are ONLY available and playable on those systems. Although the line between consoles is constantly becoming blurred as far as exclusive titles go, just know that there are quite a few on PlayStation, some of which are listed below. When a game store employee tells you that a certain title doesn’t exist for a console, it’s because that title is specific to a different console. Nintendo, for example, safeguards much of its properties, which is why you won’t find Mario games on PlayStation or XBox any time soon. PlayStation Exclusive Titles include:
God of War
The Last of Us
Crash Bandicoot (for now)
Jak and Daxter
and many more…
If you’ve tried to buy a console for a loved one since the launch of the PS4 and XBox One, you’ve no doubt been told about the membership you need in order to play online with friends. I’ll explain a little bit about this service, what it does, the perks, and when you would need it vs when you wont.
What is it?
Sony has a subscription service called PlayStation Plus and it will cost you $60 per year if you buy a full 12 months access up front. You can pay for it in 3, 6, or 12 month increments, but the best value you’ll find is in the full 12 month membership as far as the up-front price.
What does it do?
PlayStation Plus allows subscribers to play games online with their friends on the PlayStation Network. You can still access the internet, and your video streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, without needing a PlayStation Plus membership, but there are some perks to having a subscription to the service
What’s the benefit of signing up?
Aside from being able to play online with friends, PlayStation Plus members have access to monthly free games. These are games that PlayStation puts out every month that subscribers can add to their library and download for free.
Games attained in this way will be yours to play as long as you’re a member of PlayStation Plus. If you have to cancel your subscription, you’ll no longer have access to those games, but if you pick the subscription back up later on, you’ll regain access to all of the games you had previously claimed.
Long story short, this provides free games every month for PlayStation Plus subscribers.
You’ve reached the end of the basic PlayStation guide for parents. I hope this article has helped shed some light on the basics of the PlayStation consoles to help you better understand all that video game jargon that gets thrown around regularly in game shops and by your kids and their friends.
We will be putting together Parent’s Guides for XBox, Nintendo, and PC as well in the future, so be sure to stay tuned for those. Are there still some basic questions that we didn’t cover? If you still have questions or comments about this article, leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can be sure to address them in future Parent’s Guides.
Thanks and happy gaming!