Game Consoles

New gaming consoles guide

Console gaming has been around since the late '70s with the invention of the Pong home system, but didn't really hit big until the '80s with the release of the Atari 2600. At the time the choice was simple: you either owned an Atari or you didn't.

Here we are 20 years later and the choices are no longer as simple. With three consoles - the Nintendo Wii, Sony's Playstation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 - all bidding for your gaming money, which should you choose? If you have the expendable money, all three consoles are a valid choice - but what if you don't have the extra cash to spend? With a little knowledge and consideration of what is important to you, the choice should become a little bit easier.

The Money Factor

First off, let's look at cost. Unless you happen to catch a deal shopping online, more than likely you'll have to spend at least $250 just to get started, and spending more than $500 could be easy to do. Things to think about when considering cost are base cost, add-ons that you intend to buy, how many people and thus controllers you will need and the availability of each of the systems and the games.

The Wii comes in as the lowest cost system at $249 for a console, a game and one remote. There aren't many add-ons that are truly needed for the Wii, other than perhaps a memory card (around $14) and a remote charger or battery charger (around $20). Wii remotes are what will take the largest part of you gaming dollar, with a remote and nun chuck (an almost essential add-on per remote) costing around $60 per player.

Availability of the Wii is a huge deterrent, since finding one in store is next to impossible at this time. EBayers love buying all they can find and selling them for ungodly amounts via auction.

The Xbox 360 comes in a close second with its Arcade system costing $279 and its Pro system costing $349 - the biggest difference between the two being the almost essential hard drive, allowing you to download content as well as save your games.

The other add-on options you might want to look into are the different ways you can connect to the Internet with your Xbox, allowing a variety of options to open up for you. Controllers will usually run you between $40 and $60 with the majority of them being wireless. Xbox 360 has been out for awhile so finding one at your local retailer shouldn't be a problem.

Finally coming in as the most expensive console is the PS3 (Playstation 3), costing $399 for a barebones system. Luckily it makes up for such a high cost by having the fewest "must-have" add-ons - the one you may actually want being the Blu-ray remote at $25. Controllers made by third party companies can often be found for around $20, making multi-player fairly cheap. PS3 hasn't sold as well as its maker had hoped, so finding one someplace close by should be a cake walk.

Who's Playing?

After cost, target audience is the next consideration. That can be broken down into two general categories: casual gamer (somebody who plays a variety of games) and hardcore gamer (somebody who plays mostly to compete for high scores of one sort or another). Some of the games offered will cross the general categories such as family games, party games and online games.

The Xbox 360 seems to be the console of choice for hardcore gamers, offering up several exclusive games. The online play for the Xbox 360 is incredible, offering several different games to play for both the hardcore and the casual player. Though the system features some party games and a few family games, the target is beyond a doubt the hardcore gamer.

The Wii is a more casual, friendly system, offering up several party games and plenty of family games. The Wii is a great system for young and old, with most games being very easy to play and requiring little or no instruction. The Wii also has a few exclusive games such as Mario and Zelda to help cater to the hardcore gamers. The online play is definitely lacking for the Wii however, with only a few games made for online play.

The PS3 hasn't really found its target audience yet, dipping into several different markets without concentrating on any in particular. Online play is average with no real standout titles. Few exclusives also hurt the console, making the PS3 a tough sell.

The Extras

Finally, let's take a look at the extras that can sometimes mean the difference between wanting a system and passing on it. The Wii offers backward compatibility for all of the Game Cube games, as well as selling some of the older games online for download. The Wii also introduces a new way to play, with its innovative remote.

The Xbox 360 offers a limited backward compatibility with the Xbox, and it's a crap shoot to find out which games will work and which ones won't. One big extra for the 360 is the fact that there is an HD-DVD add-on you can buy that will allow you to play HD-DVDs on your 360.

The PS3's least expensive model offers no backward compatibility, although the more expensive models will allow you to play your old PS2 games. One of the major selling points for the PS3, however, is the fact that it has a Blu-ray player built right in each of its systems.

Keep all these tips in mind when you do your console shopping – decide which one is right for you, and you'll enjoy it for years to come.

By Jason Trigg