It used to be that people chose gaming consoles because of the games they could play. Each console maker has games exclusive to their machine. Nintendo is known for Mario and his buddy Link. If you want to slay gods as Kratos you need to buy Sony’s machine. And Microsoft found their mascot in the big green machine known as Master Chief.
These games are played on the most powerful gaming consoles the world has ever seen: the Nintendo Wii, the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. Gaming has advanced light years since people first plugged an Atari 2600 into their televisions to play “Space Invaders.” The new machines render cutting edge graphics and are capable of running the most complex console games ever made. Worlds are imagined and explored. Sports dynasties rise and fall. People even dance and sing in front of their TVs now that consoles double as karaoke machines and rock star simulators.
But what else can these things do?
Sony says the PS3 only does everything – and they’re right
Sony is known for making consoles with staying power not only because of their sturdy construction, but because they launch with bleeding edge technology. More than a decade after its release the Playstation 2 is still on store shelves and is still relevant. It’s big brother, the Playstation 3, is packed with technology that was well ahead of its time when it launched nearly five years ago. Now, the system is hitting its sweet spot as a games machine and the technological hub of your living room.
The built–in, 3D-ready Blu-ray player alone is nearly worth the price of admission at $299 for a PS3 with a 120-gig hard drive. A comparable Blu–ray player could run you around $200. If all you use your PS3 for is to watch Blu– ray movies and play games, you’re doing fine. And Sony, as they were with Blu-ray, are on the forefront of the home 3D revolution.
Beyond that, Sony’s pitch that the console is an all-in-one device is hard to challenge. The machine offers a half-dozen instant streaming applications for TV, music and movies, and the PlayStation Store offers more than just games. When you add in the new PlayStation Move and the Eye camera technology which allows for video chat, there’s not a lot the PS3 can’t do.
• Hulu Plus – $9.99/month for all seasons of your favorite network/cable TV shows
• Netflix – $9.99/month for instant streaming movies and TV shows, including Starz original series
• Qriocity music network – $3.99/month to have over 9 million songs at your fingertips
• VUDU – Rent and stream newly released HD movies for as little as $2 for 2 nights
• MLB.tv – $19.99/month stream any MLB game anywhere in the country in HD
• NHL.tv – $19.95/month stream any NHL game anywhere in the country in HD
•PSN Store – Rent HD movies for $5.99; purchase/DL to hard drive for $19.99; TV shows, too
• Media server – Play movies and music and display photos wirelessly from laptop to your PS3.
• Web browsing – Visit your favorite web sites and surf the Internet on your television
• Social media – Check Facebook and Twitter, browse Flickr and watch YouTube videos on your TV
Is it right for you?
The first console that watches you watch it
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was the first next generation console out of the gate when it released in 2005.
Building on the success of their first Xbox gambit, the 360 included hard drive capability, required all games to run in high definition and immediately focused on the growing popularity of online console gaming – which the first Xbox got off the ground. It also connected to your iPad, let you chat seamlessly with your online opponents and friends, and displayed the most impressive graphics ever seen on a home console. The immediate focus was on the games, but Microsoft has methodically been waging a war to conquer your living room. The recent launch (and immediate success) of their Kinect technology is their latest salvo.
Kinect is a a camera peripheral that scans your room, your body, your pets, etc. It allows you to control the system without a controller, making Xbox the exclusive home of completely controller-free entertainment. Want to watch a movie? Say “Xbox, play.” Can’t find the remote control? Use your hand to search for the movie you want to watch. You can even voice chat with friends while you’re watching the big football game, or join in a movie party with family on the other coast.
Microsoft has a strong foothold as an Internet TV device with an install base of 50 million consoles in 35 countries, 10 million Kinect sensors sold worldwide and 1 billion hours spent on Xbox LIVE every month. The company says Xbox LIVE (their online service) is the world’s leading social entertainment network with 30 million active members across 35 countries.
The console boasts thousands of live and on demand sports, tens of thousands of movies and TV shows in 1080p streaming, and millions of songs. This spring Hulu will join entertainment partners on Xbox LIVE including ESPN, Netflix, Zune, Last.fm, Sky, Canal+ and FOXTEL.
Is it right for you?
The innovation Microsoft has displayed with its Kinect technology is astounding. There’s nothing else like it on any other console. Its ability to accurately scan bodies in motion and recognize individual faces will certainly revolutionize gaming and entertainment.
The little console that could
Nintendo changed the way people play games when they introduced the Wii five years ago. With controllers that look like TV remote controls and the introduction of motion-based gaming, the Wii was a huge gamble for the company that turned into an enormous hit. Their logic was simple: Most everyone knows how to use a DVD player and a computer, but not everyone knows how to use a video game console. Now they do – the Wii is even used in senior citizen centers as a rehabilitation/exercise tool.
What else can it do?
Well, compared to Sony and Microsoft’s machines, not as much. But with a low price point – $199 – and a huge library of games, the Wii has become a popular choice for families and casual gamers. Like its competitors, the Wii offers Netflix streaming – but not in high definition – and the ability to view photos on your TV. However, it does not play DVDs and it lacks the robust online gaming features of the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.
What the Wii has going for it, however, is the one thing its competitors will never have: That Nintendo magic. There’s something charming and playful about Nintendo systems that appeals to everyone in the family – from Grandma to the hard-core gamer. The Wii is the company’s finest example of this intangible genius.
• Shopping: Online holiday shopping via the Internet Channel
• News and Weather: Up-to-the-minute news/weather via Forecast and News Channels
• Gaming: Decompress by downloading and playing Nintendo WiiWare games in the comfort of your home at an affordable price
• Retro: Revisit the games of your childhood through Virtual Console
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