Bill's 2010 Holiday Buying Guide - Console Edition

Bill Loguidice's picture

Since other media outlets have had to fulfill their apparent obligation this holiday season like every holiday season to recommend what to buy and why, I thought I would join in on the fun, with the big difference with my guide being that I actually own and use all of the systems in question, so I'm not just talking out of a hypothetical butt like some others do. Allegedly. Now here's a bad cell phone photo of my three consoles as evidence (you're welcome in advance for the bikini snow angel):

I'll talk about the systems in order of their initial release. Don't agree with any of this? Take it to the comments!

Xbox 360
For those where online gaming and interactions are important, the Xbox 360 is hard to beat, though its base cost is not as competitive as it should be compared to what you get standard on the PS3.

Pros:

  • Very strong game line up with a nice mix of game types
  • Relatively easy to use interface
  • Often the lead platform on multi-platform games, so it often has the best versions
  • Xbox Live, which is a wonderfully unified online service with rich social interaction possibilities, achievements, etc., by far the best online structure in consoles
  • Via Xbox Live, free demos of pretty much everything and access to a wide variety of downloadable games
  • Great controller (see Cons)
  • Supports up to 1080p and digital surround sound, has built-in HDMI and optical audio ports, and even has an optional VGA connection available
  • Upscales DVDs
  • Supports Netflix in HD
  • Wireless N support now built-in
  • Supports Kinect, which is arguably the most revolutionary motion controller to date and is a more natural way to play many games, particularly dance and fitness titles
  • Streams media from USB and PCs; has Windows Media Center integration
  • Supports Facebook, Last.FM, ESPN Streaming and other services
  • Can universally play your own music in the background of any game
  • Supports USB keyboards for data entry
  • Support for 3D TVs for compatible games
  • Cons:

  • Xbox Live requires a paid subscription to get at anything remotely good
  • No Blu-ray support
  • Terrible d-pad on the controller (latest model of the controller - which is available separately - has a new type of d-pad that fixes some of the issues, but this is not yet standard)
  • Cost of Kinect is very high and as an add-on will never be very well supported
  • Units with decent size hard drives are pricey
  • Does not have 100% backwards compatibility with Xbox 1 games; No support for Xbox 1 controllers or accessories
  • Reliability of the older Xbox 360 models was always suspect (the new models seem to be quite reliable so far)
  • No Web browser
  • PlayStation 3
    Besides offering a nice combination of much of what the Wii and 360 offers, it's hard to ignore the fact that the PS3 also makes a great Blu-ray player. As a pure games machine, though, it's not quite at the level of the Xbox 360, particularly in the area of online support.

    Pros:

  • Very strong game line up with a nice mix of game types
  • Most online activities are free; Premium online service is truly optional and includes free games every month that remain valid as long as you're a subscriber
  • Plays Blu-rays and upscales DVDs
  • Best overall support for Neflix in HD, with improved sound in some cases (at the moment) over the Xbox 360
  • Supports Hulu Plus, MLB.TV and NHL GameCenter subscriptions
  • Has a Web browser
  • Offers a free pseudo-Second Life-like virtual environment (PlayStation Home)
  • Supports the Folding@Home project
  • Supports up to 1080p and digital surround sound, and has built-in HDMI and optical audio ports
  • Streams media from USB and PCs
  • Popular controller format
  • Supports bluetooth keyboards, USB keyboards and printers, and bluetooth headsets
  • Supports Move, which is a slightly more sophisticated variation of Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus
  • Support for 3D TVs for both compatible games and movies
  • Cons:

  • Interface takes some getting used to, with some important features buried in sub-menu after sub-menu
  • Game installs can take a long time
  • Updates and patches, which are frequent, can take a long time
  • Online system is still half-baked in comparison to Xbox Live, with only partial achievements and uniformity
  • Motion controls in DualShock have seen little use
  • Units with decent size hard drives are pricey
  • Does not have 100% backwards compatibility with PS2/PS1 games; limited support for PS2/PS1 controllers and accessories
  • Rechargeable controllers (with no user replaceable battery) are annoying if you don't remember to charge them
  • Nintendo Wii
    I'd say the Wii offers the most distinct alternative for those who are primarily high-end PC gamers. It's also a good choice for those with old TV's or who want a companion system for an Xbox 360 or PS3. While the PS3 and, particularly the Xbox 360, offer a nice selection of classic games, Nintendo has the only offering with a large selection of classic Nintendo platforms and titles.

    Pros:

  • It's relatively inexpensive
  • It has Nintendo games on it
  • It has a wide variety of game types and many games not featured on other platforms that might appeal to a wider demographic
  • It has a strong vintage games library featuring a nice range of classic systems
  • The online service is free
  • The interface is clean and straightforward
  • Supports Netflix
  • Works great on your old standard definition television
  • Universal support for its stock motion controller
  • Near 100% backwards compatibility with GameCube games, controllers and memory cards
  • Supports USB keyboards for data entry
  • Best selection of light gun-style games
  • Has a Web browser
  • Cons:

  • Does not support high definition or digital surround sound (analog surround sound supported) and can look bad on larger high definition televisions
  • Widescreen support is not 100%
  • Does not play DVD videos
  • Way too high of a ratio of crappy licensed games and quick cash-ins, particularly of the mini-game variety; multi-platform games are often given the shaft in their Wii iterations
  • Games that only support the original motion controller do not always control like you want them to
  • Even with Motion Plus, the Wii does not offer the same potential level of sophistication that Kinect or Move do (though it now has the advantage of being included with every new Wii, so it will receive greater support than either of those other two)
  • No mass storage other than SD cards and no way to cleanly integrate what's on the SD card and in the Wii's memory in the main menu
  • Far fewer media and media integration options than the competition
  • Not many games have online multiplayer support, particularly in regards to the competition
  • Online in general does not encourage much social interaction
  • Standard controller and nunchuk not necessarily ideal for some types of traditional games
  • Bottom line, it's about the games, stupid. So if you take a look at each system's combination of boxed games and downloadable offerings and determine that that's the system for you, then hey, that is in the fact the system for you. If it's close, maybe some of the extra features might be the deciding factor, the total cost to get all of the features you're after, or perhaps what most of your friends have. In short, there's no right answer for everyone and it's hard to go wrong with any of the three if you go into the purchase aware of the limitations.

    Happy holidays and good luck shopping!

    Comments

    Keith Burgun
    Keith Burgun's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 09/06/2010
    You forgot the fourth console

    The fourth console:

    "None"

    Pros: Save all your money and still play a ton of awesome independent and PC games!

    Cons: Can't access crappy, overpriced, un-supported lowest-common-denominator software

    With that said, I have a Wii, but only for running old-school emulators on - it has never run a single actual Wii game, I'm proud to say.

    Bill Loguidice
    Bill Loguidice's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 12/31/1969
    The fourth console?

    Please, Keith, don't even get me started on the PC as a gaming platform. It's certainly an option, but it's certainly not cheap and certainly not a picnic trying to keep up with running all the latest games or making sure everything is stable. I'm back into PC gaming and enjoying it, but the console experience is still far, far superior to me for a lot of reasons.

    n/a
    Chip Hageman
    Chip Hageman's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 10/06/2010
    When I moved a few years back

    When I moved a few years back I boxed up my PS3, Wii and Xbox360. I still haven't unboxed them yet. The only games which really interest me are the "marketplace" games and since those games are tied to the unit (which can break) and/or the actual service (which could be discontinued or made obsolete) I can't really even get into those.. I have a heavy aversion to service based DRM (Only use still to pick up sub $5 goodies on steam.. because I really just consider them rentals)

    So, I have all three current systems but the only ones I actually have hooked up are the PS2, Dreamcast and the original Xbox (for emulation).

    My primary platform of choice is the PC.. and even there I have a quad core with 2 graphics cards in SLI, 4 gigs of memory that I hardly ever use.. 98% of the time I use this old Athlon XP 2800+ with 2gigs mem and a nVidia 6800 graphics card.. and I don't even begin to max it out.. but that's really because the games I play are twitch action low spec games.. or old school RPG's.

    n/a
    Matt Barton
    Matt Barton's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 01/16/2006
    One nice thing about most PC

    One nice thing about most PC games is that you can turn off the bells and whistles to optimize performance. I suppose everyone would like to go "ultra" or "high" in their graphics settings, but I don't mind knocking this down to improve my frame rates. Of course, this can result in a muddy look on very old systems.

    While it's possible to get by on the cheap with PC gaming, there's no doubt that you'll spend a lot more upfront. But if you're willing to pirate games or stick to indie/budget software, you will save thousands in the long run and get better performance to boot. Even if you choose to buy top-tier games, you'll still save (usually $10-$20 per title or more) since the publishers don't have to pay fees to the console makers. Plus, you'll get access to PC exclusives like Star Craft II and pretty much all the adventure/RTS games. On top of all that, a gaming rig is powerful enough to run most any app at high speed, so you can do some graphics, audio, or video work on the side.

    Consoles are the "Joe Gamer" solution. Cheaper than buying a PC upfront, but you'll make up for that when you start spending a few hundred bucks each trip to the game store (let's not forget that consoles make most of their money on the licensing fees, not the hardware itself--sometimes they even sell it a loss!). Furthermore, all the emphasis on online and connectivity these days also reduces the fool proofing. On the other hand, it's getting easier to mod systems for pirating games as well as rent/gamefly type services, so you might make out anyway.

    In any case, now seems like a bad time to jump into this generation. Once the new systems come out, this current crop will be dumped into bargain bins and treated like second-class citizens. They are also quite long in the tooth compared to a modern PC. Nevertheless, the prices are still high. I wouldn't do it.

    n/a
    Bill Loguidice
    Bill Loguidice's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 12/31/1969
    I can't say I really agree.

    I can't say I really agree. To me, consoles are where it's at if you want the latest and greatest games, and still after all these years rival what a high end PC can offer you. Just take games like Halo Reach or Gran Turismo 5 as just two recent examples of the technical prowess of consoles. There's also more innovation going on in consoles, particularly in terms of motion gaming. So yeah, consoles remain the place to be.

    With that said, I never intended this partially tongue in cheek shopping guide to the three consoles to bring out the PC fanboys. We know what you guys prefer and I'm fine with that. However bringing up PC stuff in a console discussion is the equivalent of mentioning Linux when someone talks about Windows. Sure, you may love Linux, but the topic is about Windows. We don't need another console versus PC discussion because everyone has already picked what side they want to be on around here. As I've always said, if you're stuck with only one platform then the PC would be it because it does a little bit of everything well. If you want to play the hottest games hassle free than a console is probably a better choice. And no, it has nothing to do with piracy which is a risky proposition on both 360 and PS3 if you ever intend to do anything online. The Wii is a bit easier to get away with that nonsense, but it's so far removed from PC, 360 and PS3 gaming that it's a separate discussion anyway.

    n/a
    Matt Barton
    Matt Barton's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 01/16/2006
    Well, as you know, I went

    Well, as you know, I went with the Wii precisely because it was the console I felt was the most distinctive from my PC experience. The 360 just seems too much like what I can already play on the PC, though of course now that has changed with Kinect. As for the PS3, the only thing that interests me is the fact that it's also a blu-ray player. I don't like the bulk of the games for that system, and they are missing the unique Nintendo franchises. It really seems like the worst proposition to me.

    If I didn't have a PC, though, I would definitely choose the 360. Almost all of my gaming friends have them, and love playing all the Halo and Gears of War games on them.

    However, I feel comfortable waiting until the next generation, when I can hopefully scoop up a 360 for $20 or so like I did with the original Xbox and the PS2. :)

    n/a
    Bill Loguidice
    Bill Loguidice's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 12/31/1969
    Don't underestimate the PS3
    Matt Barton wrote:

    However, I feel comfortable waiting until the next generation, when I can hopefully scoop up a 360 for $20 or so like I did with the original Xbox and the PS2. :)

    To me, picking these systems up AFTER their effective commercial lives is missing out on some of the fun. These consoles are at their greatest when they're on top and everyone is playing them.

    Anyway, my prediction is that we won't see the next generation of consoles from the big three until AT THE EARLIEST holiday 2012, and Nintendo has to be the first out of the gate. I could then see the new systems from Microsoft and Sony hitting some six to eight months after that. We have the very real prospect of this being an incredibly long console generation and certainly the longest we've had in a few decades. I welcome long generations simply because it gives developers more time to learn the hardware and more time to wow us with mature software. The 360 and PS3 are more than capable to see us through 2013, which at least in the 360's case, would give it an active lifespan of 8 years.

    n/a
    Keith Burgun
    Keith Burgun's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 09/06/2010
    Bill

    Bill, could you and I be at opposite ends of the spectrum any more? I guess that's a boon to Armchair Arcade.

    "To me, picking these systems up AFTER their effective commercial lives is missing out on some of the fun. These consoles are at their greatest when they're on top and everyone is playing them."

    How does that make a game better if "everyone is playing it" or not? I can see like, a multiplayer game being easier to play, or an MMO, but *better*? I used to work at Gamestop and much to the chagrin of management I would always tell customers: "Games don't get worse; they only get cheaper." I believe this is true. Madden '93 is just as good today as it was in 1993. How could it not be? It is 100% exactly the same game as it was then.

    Bill Loguidice
    Bill Loguidice's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 12/31/1969
    Support is a factor, yes,

    Support is a factor, yes, Keith. You are still guaranteed access to all the online add-ons, upgrades, etc., and yes, multiplayer with actual people to play against when the system is still current. Now more than ever with the consoles being connected like they are, you'll probably miss out on 25% of the overall experience by getting one after it's off the market. So I stand by my statement that you'll be missing out on some of the fun.

    n/a
    clok1966
    Offline
    Joined: 01/21/2009
    ther is just one problem iwth

    ther is just one problem iwth ONLINE console games. The people who play um. I hae my 360, Ps3, Wii, and PC. I havwe put many hours online in on each (err no, not the Wii). While all contain A$$hats, the consoles contain 10X more than the PC, at least in my playtime. I have yet to play a game of HALO without hearing some racial, or foul assualt on somebody. I play MAG a bit on PS3 (probebly my favorite Online FPS on consoles), its a littel easier on the ears, mainly becuase hardly anybody uses mics. If i had any kids playing online games, with my time online, I wouldnt let tehm play online at all on consoles.

    But if i was buying for kids it would simpley be a Wii, for an adult it would be a PS3 (better selection of RPG's and none FPS), and for a teenager it would be a 360. Knowing what I do know, I would have skipped the Wii, then decide between the 360 and Ps3. Right now I have more games I truelly loved on the PS3 than the 360, but I have WAY more games on the 360... The great games I have played on either system.

    PS3: valkyria chronicles, Demons Souls ( Still stand that this is the BEST CONSOLE game in ages), Folklore, Heavy Rain, Littel Big Planet (even Im suprised at hoe much I played this), Metal Gear, WHite Knight, Warhawk, And BOTH Uncharteds (no better adventure games IMHO).

    360: Earth Defence Force (sadly I love this game!), and Bullet Witch (but that was on both systrems). Not a fan of Sticky cover game GoW, or Halo..

    But I prefer the PS3 controler.. so I'm biased again.. I also wouldnt have bought mY MOVE or Kinect (of course that may change with more games, but so far the girls next door are the only ones getting any play out of those).

    Im just far to PC... If i was to pick purely for somebody who knows nothing about games.. I may go 360... its $100 cheaper.

    I think Bill has a much more level headed guide ... I'm far to biased.

    Comment viewing options

    Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

    Post new comment

    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
    • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
    • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
    • Images can be added to this post.
    • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

    More information about formatting options

    By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.