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Wondering if the PS3 has a way for game developers to make free / affordable games available to their consumer base? Is the only way to get your game on the PS3 to go through an approval process which may cost money?

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No, there is nothing equivalent to XNA on the Xbox 360.

There is LittleBigPlanet though, depending on how complex your game needs to be ;)

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and LBP 2 is set to be what amounts to a full fledged game creator for the PS3 :) –  RCIX Jul 27 '10 at 5:39
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No, there is no Creators Club equivalent for PS3, however Sony does have PS3/PSP Minis. There's a [rather large] outlay for a devkit though. More details can be found in the Minis Guidelines available on the License Enquiry Page

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If you somehow have a PS3 that hasn't been updated in a while you could use OtherOS to run some stuff under Linux. The GPU is disabled though, so nothing needing a lot of horsepower unfortunately.

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