These days when talking about console gaming systems there are three main options; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii. (Editor’s Note: We know about the Wii U, we promise. We will discuss that system in a next generation comparison.)
Each console has its own history, niche, and style to bring to the table. When choosing a console it really comes down to knowing what interests you and your family the most. If you are not sure how to answer these questions, you do not have to buy the newest system on the market. There is something to be said for looking at older systems and what they offer. Keep in mind that Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox all have an extensive history, and if this is your first walk down the console path, it is best to know what your interests are and what you will get the most enjoyment from. Are you interested in high end graphics and games that look like movies? Are you interested in iconic character games that your family will immediately be comfortable with? Or, are you interested in extensive online gameplay? Each of these interests will point you to a particular style, and it may be cheaper to investigate some consoles and games that have been out for a few years to find out what your family will really enjoy before spending the money to be at the current tech level. This is particularly important heading into the next few months, as new consoles are expected to be released by both Sony and Microsoft, possibly at a very high price tag.
With regards to the current popular systems, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are really very similar in capabilities and are marketed to similar types of gamers. Both systems have high graphics, speed, and memory capabilities. Both systems have additional capabilities beyond gaming. They are both capable of playing DVDs and have the ability to stream Netflix. The Playstation 3 can also play Blu Rays. They both can connect wirelessly to the internet and have subscription networks. They are capable of online play and offer the ability to download game content. Only Microsoft charges for their online subscription. It is important to note that even though the two systems usually offer the same game titles, you cannot play with friends online unless you have the same system.
Players who enjoy sports games and first person shooters are typically drawn to the hardware offered by Microsoft and Sony. The HD graphics, downloading speed and internet capabilities are all key for these systems. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 tend to have more mature rated games because of their graphical fidelity. Likewise, you won’t typically find mature titles on the Nintendo Wii. Although most of the games released for these two systems are playable solo or through some form of story mode and cooperative play, the most popular games offered for these systems are online multiplayer games. Both systems support a vast online community complete with online profiles, friend lists, and the ability to chat via microphone while connected and playing online. Much of the online gameplay is highly competitive and can require a decent time investment to get a sense of accomplishment or to complete achievements.
While it is true that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems do have titles that are written for a lower age bracket and even some multi-player/party games, the selection is not as vast as the Wii with regards to titles of this nature. Overall, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are systems that appeal to an older demographic. Many titles released for these systems require a higher level of game play ability and time dedication.
The Nintendo Wii systems are more typically geared towards kids and families. Most of the Wii’s popular titles are built around adventure platform games or in house multi-player gaming (not usually online multi-player). The Wii uses wireless controllers and promotes active gaming. The Wii has become known for mini-game copllections and party games that can be highly entertaining for any age group. The Wii also features platform games that appeal to a broader audience than the more hardcore games that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are known for. These games have a relatively short learning curve and are far easier to pick up and put down at leisure then some of the first person shooters and online multiplayer games that the other two systems are known for. The Nintendo Wii’s biggest draw comes from iconic characters that are well known and loved like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link.
The Wii system hardware is vastly different from the other two systems. It connects to the internet and can stream Netflix (It does not, however, play Blu Rays or DVDs). There are many good retro games available on their Virtual Console as well as some WiiWare software and games available for purchase in the Nintendo eShop. While the Wii can browse online, it is less than user friendly then the other systems and it cab be difficult to use the Wii controller to navigate. Overall, the Wii is a great system that appeals to families.
Before making a final decision on which console to purchase, keep in mind that consoles have a technology cycle of about 5-10 years, but your system’s actual life cycle can average 10 years or more. Many gamers still have systems that work from 10-15 years ago or more. In fact “retro gaming” is a big passion for many of us who still have our old systems or access to the old software of some of our favorite games. Just because the next generation of system is coming out does not necessarily mean your system is obsolete or near the end of its life.