Home Theater Blog
Home Theater Blog
Pulling back the curtain on all things audio… including home theater, wireless

Video Game Console Buyers’ Guide

By Alex Pasco
Aperion Audio Creative Manager

This article was originally posted in 2008, we’ve updated it to reflect pricing changes. 

Studies have shown that this is going to be the biggest year yet for the video game industry – an industry that has seen record growth for the past ten years and no signs of slowing.  With this many systems, thousands of games, hundreds of accessory options and now the inclusion of things like downloadable games and content, how is the casual person supposed to decide which game system to purchase?  Even though each one of these systems is stuffed from the floor to the rafters with great games, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each of the systems so you can decide which one is right for you and your family.

Playstation 3

Price: $299

After a rocky launch and many rather confusing product configuration options, the Sony Playstation 3 is looking like it’s finally hitting its stride.  It’s finally got a critical mass of great multiplatform titles, as well as enough exclusive games to make it a viable choice.  The Playstation Network store has undergone a complete redesign and now features classic PS1 games available for download, as well as a complete catalog of downloadable PS3 games and video toys that range from under $5 to about $15.

Being the most expensive console on the market, it brings along with it the most bells and whistles – such as a Blu-Ray drive, high definition audio decoding, Bluetooth device compatibility, and more.  Seeing as how most standalone Blu-Ray players cost nearly as much or more than the PS3, it’s worth it for that alone.  The picture and sound quality out of the PS3 are nothing short of astounding.

Pros:

One of the most affordable Blu-Ray players on the market

Great selection of very unique downloadable games

Free multiplayer gaming

Easy to use

Extremely quiet

Motion control

Oddly enough, you can install alternate operating systems on it.  Want to install Linux on your gaming console?  Have at it.

Cons:

Price is still hefty, especially in a down economy

Few exclusive must-have games

No cohesive networking platform

Few games for kids

No compatibility with universal remotes

Verdict:

A great system for adult gamers and teens with gorgeous graphics and a great Blu-Ray player – but the price and lack of must-have exclusive games might turn some gamers off.   The high-end features make the PS3 a great choice for home theater enthusiasts who are also casual gamers.

Xbox 360

Price: $199 – $299

The first out of the gate in the next-generation video game war was Microsoft’s Xbox 360.  Learning from their past mistakes, they designed the Xbox 360 to be a sleek, community-based games console with robust graphics capabilities

One of the “Killer Applications” for the Xbox 360 isn’t a game at all; it’s the Xbox Live community platform.  Not satisfied with letting the games developers dictate the server method that had been employed with many multiplayer games in the past, Microsoft designed their Xbox Live tools to incorporate into every game and integrate tightly within the Xbox dashboard itself. The result is a living and active community that feels like something’s always going on and encourages participation from the users.  Jumping in and out of multiplayer games is simple and fun with a unified feel and quick performance.

If you’re a hobbiest programmer, it’s also easy to get the software development tools for the Xbox and start creating your own games.  Once you’ve made a game and it passes through the approval process, you can even sell them on the Xbox Live store.  This of course creates a mishmash of games of questionable quality, but the ability to make games or to play other people’s homebrew games is a great feature.

Pros:

Great price point, especially for the entry-level system

Huge library of next-generation games – both cross-platform and exclusive titles

Xbox Live community

Xbox Live Arcade games for download

Netflix streaming for Netflix subscribers

Full Windows Media Center support for streaming music and movies to your home theater

Cons:

Nearly as noisy as a jet engine

Early failure rates were excessive

No high-def dvd playback since HD-DVD lost the format war

Runs hot

Some aspects of the dashboard are confusing

Few games for kids

Verdict:

Between the PS3 and the Xbox 360, the Xbox is winning hands-down in installed base and game availability. If your friends also have game consoles, chances are they’ve got the 360 – and playing games with your friends is one of the best things about next-gen gaming.  If you’re an adult gamer without kids, this is the system we recommend.

Nintendo Wii

Price: $149

Nintendo released their groundbreaking game system last holiday season to rave reviews and amazing sales.  Over the past year, it’s been the biggest selling next-gen system and retailers have had a major challenge keeping it in stock. Instead of a traditional controller, the Wii utilizes a motion controller that looks very similar to a remote control, which lends a familiarity aspect to the system and is less confusing for casual gamers.  The system knows the position and movement of the controller, as well as the proximity of the screen to the player and what they’re pointing at on the screen.  This makes for some industry-changing game innovation, as well as bringing physical aspects into what has traditionally been a lazy hobby.  There are even physical fitness games that track your weight and exercise using a special accessory!

The extreme popularity of the Wii in nearly every demographic has made for an interesting situation.  On one hand, you have some of the best and most innovative games Nintendo has ever made  – and on the other, a glut of embarrassing gimmicky games churned out to make a quick buck.

Pros:

Very attractive price point

Unique and inventive control scheme

A few absolutely must-have games from Nintendo’s best game designers

Dramatically lower power consumption as compared to the other consoles

Great for every age group, from kids to seniors

Cons:

Tons of gimmicky games that aren’t very good

Multiplayer networking is a real chore

Graphics quality not up to current next-gen standards

Verdict:

If you’ve got kids or are a casual gamer looking for a way to dip your toe into game consoles, you can’t go wrong with the Wii.  It’s amazingly unique, very fun, and contains enough variety for every member of the family.  If you’re not a graphics snob and you don’t play a lot of the harder-core racing games, first person shooters and role-playing games that are prevalent on the other systems, the Wii is your ticket to the fun.

In Conclusion

For those of us who are deep into video games, there’s not much choice – we of course recommend getting all of the above.  But if you’re on the fence in trying to decide which one is right for you, we hope this guide helps you to your destination.  Video games are a great hobby, the cost per hour of gameplay is low compared to other forms of entertainment, and are just plain fun.  Have a great time!

Tags: Guru Tips and Tricks, Home Theater Blog, Home Theater Buying Guides

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