Yes, you read that right, another Playstation 3, as in one more in addition to the PS3 I already own. While some might consider this an act of insanity, there is actually a very good reason for owning a previous generation Playstation 3 -- PS2 backwards compatibility.
When the Playstation 3 was released, it contained hardware which enabled the PS3 to play PS2 games. When the second generation of the PS2 was released a year later, the hardware chip was removed, and the PS2 games remained compatible through the use of a software emulator. With the third generation PS3, they removed the PS2 backward compatibility altogether. No hardware chip, no software emulation, PS2 functionality was removed entirely. My hope was that this was merely something temporary; that backwards compatibility could be re-introduced in the form of a PS3 software update.
Earlier this month, Sony dropped the price of the PS3 and introduced the fourth generation PS3 - the PS3 Slim. Boasting a reduction of physical space, along with a smaller energy footprint, the PS3 Slim lacks a feature that the previous three generations had: the ability to install an alternative OS on the game console, in addition to PS2 functionality.
In July, I bought a third-generation Playstation 3, a 80GB model with 2 USB slots. While I was impressed with the quality of the output of Blu-ray discs and the high resolution available on the games, the third and fourth generation PS3 lacks the ability to play Playstation 2 games. Strangely enough, it can still play ancient Playstation One games.
Conspiracy theorist that I am, I suspect Sony's plan is this:
Step 1: Develop PS2 Software Emulation.
Step 2: Phase out PS2 Compatibility from PS3 consoles.
Step 3: Offer PS2 Titles for Download on the Sony Store.
While Sony has not yet put PS2 games available for download on the Playstation store, given their recent trend of trying to make games download-only (such as Patapon 2) and their game systems doing away with physical media (PSP Go), it seems likely to me that if they have the ability to encapsulate the emulator with the game download that they can then cut out secondhand retailers such as Gamestop from selling old games to be used on newer consoles.
There are still a lot of great Playstation 2 games out there, and while my ancient PS2 is still alive and kicking, the benefits of playing PS2 on the PS3 -- wireless controllers, virtual memory cards, HD upscaling, and a much crisper HDMI interface all make for a better gaming experience.
Gamestop still has refurbished units for sale, although they are slightly more expensive than one might think for being a used console. The following units are PS2 compatible: