Game Console Buying Guide

By many accounts, the old console wars that the video game industry experienced during the 1980s and 1990s have long since passed. This is largely due to the fact that so many multi-platform (available on multiple game consoles) games are being distributed today. However, there are very important differences between game consoles that can be an important factor in your decision. Whether you are purchasing a game console as a gift or just want an entertainment system for yourself or family, investing in a game console is an important, and often difficult, decision. Each game console has its distinct benefits and disadvantages and these will be important to your game console buying decision.

Playstation 3 Overview

The Playstation 3 recovered from its sales slump in 2010 when they released several key exclusive games for their system including the popular entry into the God of War series, God of War 3. Before this, the game console was widely available. However, buying a Playstation 3 today might require being placed on a waiting list. Playstation 3 has built its console on reliability, accessibility and options. For example, it is the only game console that comes with a built in Blu-ray player capable of playing Blu-ray discs on your high definition television in as high of quality as 1080p. The PS3 also comes with built in Wifi (wireless Internet) so that users can connect their game console to the Internet through any available wireless signal.

The major advantages of the Playstation 3 over other game consoles starts when you take it out of the box. While the XBox 360 requires you to both purchase an additional wireless adapter and pay for monthly multi player services, the Playstation 3 comes ready to connect to the Internet and online multi player activity is completely free. The Nintendo Wii also features built in wireless Internet but you must pay a fee to use the browser required to connect to the web. Finally, the Playstation 3 features the only controllers that are wireless and motion compatible but still come with rechargeable battery packs. With the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, you must either purchase the rechargeable pack or replace the batteries when necessary.

One of the major reasons that many shoppers ultimately purchase the Playstation 3 is that it is the perfect example of an all in one multimedia center. For example, you can download pictures, music and movies or upload them from your computer or mobile device and store them on a 60GB or 80GB hard drive - depending on the model that you choose. You can also watch regular DVD movies or Blu-ray discs without having to make any additional upgrades. While some buyers complained about the availability of games and the price of the game console when the game console was first released (programmers claimed that it was difficult to program games for the PS3 and the price tag for the original 60GB model was $599.00), things have changed. Today, you can purchase a 60 GB Playstation 3 for around $275.00 and access some of the best exclusive games on the market.

Popular Playstation 3 Games

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - War Shooter
God of War III - Action/Adventure
Madden 2010 - Sports/Football
Final Fantasy XIII - Role Playing Game
Guitar Hero 5 - Interactive Music

Nintendo Wii Overview

The Nintendo Wii has made its mark on the video game console industry by being one of the first consoles designed to be primarily operated through the motions of the player. In other words, the player holding a controller can manipulate the actions of a character or item on the screen by making different motions with the controller. One of the clear indications of this consideration is that the Nintendo Wii is designed to be a more physically demanding experience than the Playstation 3 or XBox 360, its major competitors. In fact, the Nintendo Wii has been endorsed by the American Heart Association as a step towards improving the physical fitness of people that tend to be sedentary. The game console comes packaged with some of its more motion intensive games, Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort.

Unlike the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the Nintendo Wii is not equipped to play either DVDs or Blu-ray discs. In fact, the Nintendo Wii is not considered to be a high definition console. Players familiar with the recent graphical achievements of games on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will notice a marked difference in the scope and intensity of the visuals (often called "cartoony"). However, the Nintendo Wii is designed primarily with the family or party in mind. Even the games that are typically packaged with the Wii are specifically geared towards a group atmosphere, although many of the games can be played with a single player.

Although it requires you to have a separate controller, the Nintendo Wii does allow players to play the older Nintendo GameCube games on the game console. In addition, the built in wireless connectivity that comes with the Wii allows users to directly link the game console with their Nintendo DS without the use of any additional software or accessories. In order to use the Wii remote as intended, a sensor bar must be attached either directly on top of your television or on the front of the surface on which the television sits. The Wii includes controller ports for up to 4 Nintendo GameCube controllers and 2 USB ports. Although Nintendo has been cautious to prevent technical specifications from being distributed to the public, it is clear that the Nintendo Wii is the least powerful but also least expensive of the current generation home consoles (starting at around $150.00)

Popular Nintendo Wii Games

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Platformer
Wii Fit - Home Fitness
Mario Kart Wii - Sports/Racing
Mario Party 8 - Party/Interactive Games
Super Smash Bros. - Action/Fighting

XBox 360 Overview

The Xbox 360 is a system primarily geared towards online play, especially with popular shooting games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Despite the fact that the system does not come with a built in wireless adapter and Xbox Live (the online multi player interface) requires the game console owner to purchase months of service ($19.99 for every 3 months or $49.99 for a year of service), the Xbox 360 has continued to drive its video game sales based on a strong multi player and replay value market. Many of the bugs and console hardware issues that plagued this game console following its release have been remedied and the XBox 360 continues to compete in high definition gaming with its primary competitor, Playstation 3.

However, there are some major differences between the high definition entertainment provided by the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. For example, while the PS3 can play high definition movies in the form of Blu-ray discs, the Xbox 360 does not have compatibility for high definition discs. You can play high definition movies from the Xbox Live network, however. Previously, the Xbox 360 did offer high definition disc entertainment in the form of HD-DVD discs but this format fell out of use and was discontinued when Blu-ray players and discs began to appear on the market. In addition, the Xbox 360 is less technically advanced than the Playstation 3 - although the high definition graphics are still fantastic.

The Xbox 360 was the highest selling game console of the seventh gaming generation when it was first released - largely fueled by the popularity of game series such as Halo. However, the Nintendo Wii quickly eclipsed the Xbox 360 during the holiday season and the Playstation 3 began to show signs of overtaking Microsoft's hold on the gaming market when they released a broader library of games. Today, the once very expensive Xbox 360 Elite game console is available for as little as $230.00 new. For an Xbox 360 with less additional features and a smaller hard drive, prices for new Xbox 360s are often listed for less than $200.00.

Popular Xbox 360 Games

Left 4 Dead 2 - Action/Survival Horror
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Shooter/War
NHL 2010 - Sports/Hockey
Dante's Inferno - Action/Adventure
Red Dead Redemption - Action/Adventure

Nintendo DSi Overview

The Nintendo DSi is the company's answer to the multimedia functionality of the Playstation Portable systems. The third installment in the Nintendo DS console library, the Nintendo DSi features interactivity much more powerful than the previous portable game consoles. Although the Nintendo DSi features a larger screen than the previous release of the game console, the Nintendo DSi XL features the largest screen available for the portable handheld system with dual 4.2 inch screens. In addition to playing games both locally and on the Nintendo wireless network, the Nintendo DSi allows users to take photos with two separate cameras (one for the user and one for the subject) and edit them directly on the game console. Once you have edited the pictures, you can instantly send them to any other person on the Nintendo wireless Internet network.

Through the use of an SD card, you can also use the Nintendo DSi as a portable music player. With a built in microphone, you can record as many as 18 ten second audio files and edit them with features such as pitch change and splicing. You can also change the speed of pre-recorded music in order to make it easier to study or practice, especially useful for musicians or listeners that have a difficult time understanding the lyrics of a song. Finally, you can use the Nintendo DSi to browse the Internet where there is a wireless connection available without having to pay any additional fees or download software.

The feature that sets the Nintendo DSi apart from the Playstation Portable game console is the use of touch screen technology through with a special touch pen. This eliminates the need for an external keyboard and allows users to interact with the game console without having to physically touch the screen - possibly degrading it due to oils and debris from the skin. The Nintendo DSi and DSi XL are available in four colors - pink, white, blue and black. Clearly designed with accessibility and user friendliness in mind, the Nintendo DSi is fully customizable through the use of a system settings menu and downloadable applications and programs. The Nintendo DSi is available at prices as low as $166.00 while the DSi XL is available for about $20.00 more at $189.00.

Popular Nintendo DSi Games

New Super Mario Brothers - 2D Platformer
Mario Kart DS - Sports/Racing
Pokemon SoulSilver Version - Action
Namco Museum DS - Arcade Classic
Cooking Mama - Interactive/Cooking

PSP Go Overview

In response to complaints about the size of the original PSP (Playstation Portable), Sony released the Playstation Go with as a smaller game console without sacrificing screen space. To do this, the Playstation Go is equipped with a slide out control panel that can be pushed back into place when the game console is not in use. In addition to reducing the size and weight of the original PSP, the PSP Go also comes with 16 GB of flash memory (with a memory stick, expanded to 32 GB) for storing games, video, music and photos. The PSP Go maintains the same controller interface as the PSP but compacts the buttons to make them more comfortable to the user and to make the entire game console easier to transport and store.

The PSP Go is also equipped for full wireless Internet and Bluetooth technology. PSP Go owners can download programs such as Skype and use them directly on the game console. One of the most interesting capabilities of the PSP Go is that it is an HD game console - meaning that it can show games and movies in high definition. This is primarily what sets it apart from other handheld game consoles such as the Nintendo DSi. Unfortunately, one of the features that the PSP Go lacks when compared to the Nintendo DSi is a built in camera. Although you can exchange and edit photos much like Nintendo's entry into the portable game console market, you must purchase an accessory in order to take pictures or record video with the PSP Go.

The PSP Go is primarily a portable game console built for customization and high definition gaming. Many of the popular titles on the Playstation home console network are available on the PSP Go as well as a few game console exclusive titles available as downloads. PSP Go is a wise purchase if you do not already own the PSP 3000 (the previous PSP release). This is because, if you purchased any accessories for the older PSP, the new proprietary USB port will not allow you to use them on the PSP Go (the older USB port was smaller). The PSP Go is available in black and white and is priced starting around $228.00.

Popular PSP Go Games

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker - Action/Adventure
God of War: Chains of Olympus - Action/Adventure
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories - Action/Adventure
Gran Turismo - Sports/Racing
2010 FIFA World Cup - Sports/Soccer

Game Console Buying Guide for Consumer Types

Family Focused: The obvious choice for family friendly games that can be enjoyed by the entire family is the Nintendo Wii. The motion based controller is fun to use and Nintendo has a reputation for releasing games appropriate for all ages such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Wii Sports Resort. It is also very easy to set up and use. However, there are also games available for the older gamers such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Resident Evil 4.

Entertainment Junkies: The most entertainment packed game console is the Playstation 3 with its built in Blu-ray player and large hard drive. The customizable aspects of the system also make it a great choice for the hardcore gamer. Experts have noted that the Playstation 3 has not yet reached its potential as a game console while the Xbox 360 has approached its peak.

Multi player Fanatics: For those that prefer to play against other players from around the world will enjoy the accessibility and traffic afforded by Xbox Live. Some of the most popular games for the XBox 360 are popular because of their multi player features - not single player campaigns. Although Xbox Live does come at a fee, it is the best online multi player interface currently on the market. As with Playstation 3, you can also stream Netflix videos on while connected to the Internet if you have a Netflix account.

Portability Pro: Depending on your personal taste, the Nintendo DSi or the PSP Go are a bit of a toss up. If you prefer high definition entertainment to interactivity, the PSP Go would be a good choice. However, for entertainment similar to the Nintendo Wii, The Nintendo DSi is the right selection. Company loyalty really applies here - Nintendo DSi games will emulate Wii games while PSP Go games will emulate those of the Playstation 3.