Christmas: what console should I buy?
Which console should I buy? What are the top consoles?
There are so many choices in the Video Games Console market that it is actually difficult to know if you have made the right choice when you take that shiny new machine home. There are many factors that should be considered before giving away your well earned cash:
- Is High Definition Graphics important to you, or are you more interested in game-play?
- Do you want DVD or Blu-Ray?
- Do you want to be able to swish your controller around, or wear out your thumbs?
I'll explore these questions and more in this hub, and hopefully by the end of it you'll know which console is right for you - if you don't - then don't blame me!
What are my choices?
Personal Computer (PC)
I first started playing computer games on an old Atari console, but eventually 'graduated' to a home computer. Starting off with a Sinclair ZX81 and finally ending up with a high powered Quad Core PC. I've played games on most of the consoles, but always come back to the good old PC.
Most of the top games available on the consoles are available on the PC - in fact, with the power of the PC quite often the graphics are better than those you could hope to see on the console.
The advantage of buying a PC to play games is that you also can use the PC for other applications such as MS Office, Corel Draw, Photo Shop etc. You also have a powerful multi-media device that can be used as the center of you entertainment system that includes movies, music and video games.
The downside is that to get the best gaming computer you have to spend thousands of dollars - and while the extra power is good, if you only use the PC for games then it's probably not worth the extra investment.
Microsoft XBOX One
Microsoft have updated the XBOX 360, improved the Kinect, added a Blu-ray player and enhanced the multimedia aspect of their device. Their strategy seems to be aimed more at the living room, giving users the option to stream all media to their TV, control other gadgets while still playing the top games.
It's a bold move and one aimed at taking market share away from Nintendo and Sony while adding additional customers who are not traditionally gamers. While it may not please hardcore gamers, the XBOX One may be the best selling console simply because the product can be used by casual gamers and non gamers.
Sony Playstation 4 (PS4)
Sony have probably introduced the best new console and have managed to take the attention away from Microsoft by pointing out some major flaws in the XBOX One infrastructure. Cheaper than the XBOX, this console is likely to dominate Christmas 2013 sales, but over time may not capture the living room audience or casual gamer.
The Sony PS4 has superb high defintion graphics; this combined with the in-built Blu Ray player makes it a very attractive console. It has huge support in Japan and therefore has probably the most diverse range of games.
The console itself probably boasts the best technology, and potentially, as games develops, will have the best graphics, sound and multi-media experience.
Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo have finally brought out their newest console that takes the best of their original Wii and improves it with modern technologies. With specs that now match the XBOX 360 and PS3, plus a new innovative 'tablet' controller they will hope to re-capture soome of the market share they have lost recently.
With the addition of more games aimed at the hardcore gamer they also hope to steal some of the thunder from Microsoft and Sony. Time will tell if this is a great system or an update too late.
Sony Play Station Portable (PSP)
Nintendo have always been kings of the hand held genre - however Sony have made some inroads by introducing their PSP. Essentially it is a portable PS2, with basically the same capabilities and games as their older console. Additionally, it is beginning to offer a more multimedia experience with internet, music and movies. This is likely to become a cluttered market and the PSP is beginning to look a little 'old-hat' - but if you want to play some of those old PS2 games while travelling, then this is ideal.
The latest hand held console from Nintendo builds on the 'family' feel of the Wii. While there are many decent games, more and more games aimed at the family are appearing on this fun little gadget.
Games like Brain Age are bringing this device to a whole new generation (seniors) and this ability to reach gamers and non gamers makes the DS stand alone at the top of the tree.
While I would say it's not technically as good as the PSP, there is a much larger user base on the DS and therefore there are far more games available.
Apple iPhone and iPod Touch
Apple have always been game changers - they watch a market and then introduce something so innovative that they end up taking a huge market share - they did this with the mp3 market and now they are doing it with the hand held gaming market.
The iPhone was introduced to combat two markets - cell phones and casual games. Their innovative design made it a huge success as a phone, but perhaps more unusual was their introduction of their games and apps.
Their device is true multi-media - you can play music, games, video as well as phone people. The games are simple (much like the casual games on the PC), but more and more major titles are appearing on the iPhone.
They've created such a buzz that eventually hand held devices like the PSP and DS could disappear as more and more phones delve into the gaming market.
Other Cell Phones
Thanks to Apple, more and more cell phones are entering the gaming market. With the same 'apps and games' model, most modern phones allow high quality games to be played on them, and in doing so they are beginning to break into the hand console market.
As the casual game market grows, you may see Sony and Nintendo fight back by adding phone capabilities, and increase their multi-media functions.
It is an exciting time for the hand console market.
Android based consoles
It's an exciting time for the casual gamer; several companies are releasing Android based consoles that are cheaper than traditional consoles but are bringing smart phone games to the big screen. These Android based games may capture much of the casual gamer market and the biggest loser could be Nintendo.
With cheaper games, an open source environment, and plenty of support these consoles (like the Ouya) could dominate the console market in the future.
Should I buy a console to play on my TV or get a Hand Held console?
Perhaps the biggest driver in the games market today is the prevalence of the high definition TV and the move towards a full multi-media experience in the living room. As console become more advanced, seeing a console in the living room will become the norm. Pop culture is a primary driving force behind this as music and games seem to be merging in many different ways.
So if you want your console set up in a home environment hooked up to your high definition TV then you do not want a hand held console - sure they can be linked to the TV, but they are not made for the full multi-media environment - you're therefore limited to the XBOX 360, Wii, PS3 or PC.
If you want to be able to play game wherever and whenever you want and are happy with a little less quality, but a similar game experience then you should get a handheld console - the PSP, DS and iPod Touch are probably your best choices currently. The games won't be quite as good as 'real' consoles but the experience is improving every day.
What Types of Games do you intend to play?
One of the most important aspects of choosing your console is the games you intend to play. If you're looking for superb graphics and sound with online gameplay then you probably will want an XBOX 360, PC or PS3. The games available on these are generally aimed at hard core gamers and therefore casual gamers probably should consider a Wii or a hand held console.
If you're more interested in involving the whole family then the Wii is the one for you. There's not doubt that the Wii is the only console aimed at the family and the broad range of games for families surpass any other console (handheld included). While the graphics and sound are now where near as good as the XBOX 360 and PS3, the gameplay more than makes up for this.
There are some games that are currently only available on one console - this exclusivity is used to drive sales of the console. Microsoft have the Halo series, Sony have the Final Fantasy series and Nintendo have the Wii Fit series.
They exclusivity barrier may eventually die though as the games market increases - for instance, the next Final Fantasy game will be XBOX 360 compatible.
However, if you want to play Halo, you have to buy the XBOX 360 or a PC.
One growing aspect of the gaming market is the ability to experience online gaming. With the growth in games like World of Warcraft, and other franchises that offer online game, the major console makers are beginning to compete in the online environment.
This is one area where Microsoft have a clear lead - their 'Live' environment is excellent and allows XBOX 360 and PC users connect and play games together, download new games or updates, or simply chat.
Sony and Nintendo have their own versions but so far are nowhere near as good as the Microsoft 'Live' experience.
Will it become obsolete?
Every time I buy any electronic gadget I always worry that it will be obsolete by the time I get it home. However, most consoles have a life cycle of at least ten years - giving the current generation a good four or five years before a newer version comes out.
Additionally, even though a new console comes out, the old version will still be useful for many years - I still have a Playstation PS2 - I can still by new games and I will probably be able to continue using it for another five years at least.
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