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Published on December 3rd, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor

The Dummies Guide to Video Game Console Gift Giving

Since the holiday season has kicked into high gear, it’s time to get cracking on the rest of your holiday shopping. The dark retail shadow of Black Friday has passed, bringing shoppers out and about on the daily in search of the right gift. I’ve heard every end of the spectrum when it comes to parents/spouses/friends/siblings who are buying a video game console as a gift. Unfortunately, most of which have not carried with them the slightest idea as to what they are looking for. I’ve overheard things like, “What? That 3DS game doesn’t play on the PSP too? That’s stupid” Or, “Do you know where you can get Nintendo game station?” Gamestation? Really? It is also a bit daunting for these gift buyers to enter a store and know nothing more than what they were “told” in an email, on the phone, or by obvious hints left scattered all over you Christmas countdown calendar.

It is easy for your kids or spouses to simply circle what they want in a weekly ad, but where does that leave the parents who don’t shop online and do it the old-school way? Whether it is for someone who already owns a gaming console and are just looking for an additional accessory, such as a Kinect sensor to go with their Xbox 360 or a Move controller to go with their PlayStation 3, it is easy to get confused as to what it all means.

I’ve observed enough doubting and confusion in fellow shopper’s eyes to know that it can be an overwhelming experience when you are just trying to buy a gift. It doesn’t make it any clearer when you are bombarded with package deals and bundles. You might even be flogged with information from the excited nerd at your local retail store. These interactions almost overwhelm a would-be-customer and can even drive them away.

It is quite easy to get side-swiped with all of the information they may be dropping about Skyrim and why it’s the best freaking game ever made. Hang in there if you have no idea what a “Skyrim” is, you are not alone.

Here are a few guidelines that should ease your troubles and if anything, provide you with some sort of knowledge before entering any electronic filled department store. After all, before a purchase of a few hundred dollars, you don’t always want to admit that you have no idea what you are buying. Even if this statement is true, you don’t want to walk in with a sign on your head that says sucker, but you definitely want to give a great holiday gift. After all, you wouldn’t buy a new car without gas, would you?

What’s with all of the Xbox LIVE, MS Points, PlayStation Plus and Wii Points?

All of these points and subscriptions can become confusing. Companies that create these consoles sell subscriptions to their online marketplace and often host exclusive content for their devices. The subscriptions are broken down from a month-to-month basis, or even a year. The points are exchanged for downloadable content. Depending on the online marketplace, the goods can be movies, game content or even full games. There are higher priced items and even games on sale. These are also a great stocking stuffer or added gift. Trust me, if a gamer gets one of these, it’s like striking gold!

Xbox LIVE Subscription

This is where Xbox 360 owners can go online to download additional features for games, music, and movies. They can also connect with other players from around the world, right down to your typical friend across the street. For someone who is a gamer, has a full time job, and still works to write articles such as this one, I play enough to say that a Gold Membership for a year is the only way to go. Paying month-to-month is less economical and simply for the birds.

Microsoft Points (MS Points)

Microsoft Points (MS Points) can be redeemed online in exchange for products. Things like games, movies, and other items can be purchased with these points. Microsoft Points are a great stocking stuffer and can be purchased on Xbox LIVE with the use of a credit card. They come in multiple denominations as do the games and items that players can download from Xbox LIVE.

PlayStation Plus Subscription or Network Card

PlayStation Plus is an added feature to the already popular PlayStation Network. The PlayStation Network itself hosts a variety of exclusive games to the Sony PlayStation 3, as well as movies and music. It is also free to play online over this same network. The PlayStation Plus subscription is not necessarily needed to play online, but it does give subscribers access to promotions ahead of time and discounts when buying new titles.
Nintendo Wii Points

Similar to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii also has an area for online play. Wii owners can connect to the Wii Shop Channel and trade points for games. By giving Wii Points, the person receiving the points can go online and download games created specifically for the Wii that cannot be found in stores. Some games also offer the ability to play against others around the world via the Wi-Fi connection. It doesn’t have a profile as in depth of that of other consoles and disguises most of your identity in an ambiguous friend code.


If you are dead set on the owner of the console playing alone, then read no further. Controllers are always a good thing to throw in, especially if you have more than one kid, or if the owner of the console will be playing with another person in the same room.

Things to consider about these controllers are whether or not they are wired or wireless. Wireless controllers = more batteries to buy! If you don’t want to hear whining and crying about buying batteries from week to week, then pay the extra cash to get a play and charge kit, or a set of rechargeable batteries.

It has been my general rule of thumb that: You get what you pay for. Most of the time, settling for cheaper third-party equipment will leave you to purchase something that the gamer themselves will regret ever getting. Don’t be that gift giver!

What are GB’s (Gigabytes) and why are they so important?

These mysterious abbreviations are simply indicating a form of storage. In the case of video game consoles, they are indicating Hard Drive space. Depending on how much the person who will be receiving the console plays, the more the better.

Although 4GB most of the time seems like a way to spend less money, it might not always be the best buy. For example: If you purchase the Kinect bundle with the 4GB built in HD space, there is not much room left for all of the applications and games that you will most likely be playing on the Kinect. Even the use of ESPN or other downloadable applications TAKE UP SPACE. Applications such as Netflix can be downloaded from Xbox LIVE or from the PlayStation Network, along with other things such as patches–which when installed they might fix any previous bugs that the game may have had at its initial release. The limit on size doesn’t really affect the PlayStation 3, as the bundles now start at 160 GB. The Nintendo Wii also houses a slot for additional space that can be added with the use of an SD card input into the front panel of the console.

Let’s start with one of the most common in the console gaming family, the Xbox 360:

This bundle is one of the base models you can find for the Xbox 360. It is your basic console and does not normally come packaged with a game. This is a great gift idea if the person receiving the gift has had a failed console and already owns the essentials to get started. It has a MSRP of USD 199.99.

The Xbox 4GB Kinect Bundle comes with the Kinect sensor bar. This sensor bar has a MSRP of USD 149.99, which is usually less expensive when bundled with the console. It is not essential to play all games on the Xbox 360, but it is required to play any motion games on Kinect. There are some games that offer a “better with Kinect” option on the cover. These usually have some sort of Kinect controller option included. The total package has a MSRP of USD 299.99.

The Xbox 360 250 GB without the Kinect might be a good choice for someone who just wants to play games and doesn’t want to get up out of their comfy recliner. It might be a good choice for someone who has already owned an Xbox 360 and is ready for a wireless console upgrade, or one with more space than their old white Xbox 360. Shoppers can find this new bundle packaged with the holidays in mind. This new bundle includes a few free games, so be on the lookout. It has a MSRP of 399.99.

The Xbox 360 250 GB with Kinect comes with the same type of deal, which essentially makes the bundle cheaper, but it also gives added space for someone who might be playing Dance Central or a similar game where additional songs or features can be purchased. If you were to think of your hard drive space like a tool shed for a carpenter, the more tools the better, right? When you buy more tools though–the less space you have for them. In this case, the gamer can do more with more items, thus needing more space.

Modern Warfare 3 Limited Edition Bundle and Gears of War 3 Limited Edition Bundle
These bundles are limited editions for two of the most popular games featured on the Xbox 360. The Xbox console itself has a unique skin that is similar to the game art. The two bundles include their respective games and two controllers. Another added feature is the 320 GB Hard Drive. This is an added feature, being that they are the same price as the 250 GB Kinect bundle, which is USD 399.99.

With so many great offerings, why else would you choose one console over the other? There are quite a few factors that play into which gaming habit the person may take on. For many reason, the fragile creature known as the “gamer” has chosen to stick with a preferred console. Here is the other side of the gaming coin, the PlayStation 3.

The Sony PlayStation 3 is the obvious third generation PlayStation console. If you have heard of blu-ray, then be glad that you are considering the purchase of this device. The PlayStation 3 plays blu-rays, but does a lot more than just play movies and games.

The device, similar to the Xbox 360 S, can connect to the internet via a Wi-Fi connection. If you have wireless internet in your house then it should be pretty easy to turn it on and simply locate the network to connect it. Along with HD video and wireless internet connectivity, the console also has a quite a few games made specifically for the console. While most games in this day and age are created with multiple gaming platforms in mind, some people simply purchase the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 to play those specific games.

What exactly is the PlayStation Move?

Similar to the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii consoles, the PlayStation 3 also has its own rendition of motion controllers. The PlayStation Move is a motion based controller that allows players to not just hold the controller, but to interact by moving the controller. Such games as Little Big Planet and Killzone 3, two specific titles found only on PlayStation; utilize this unique mobility in their control scheme. There are similar games such as sport centric and dance games, but there are also wide arrays of other games that can be played with the motion controller. The PlayStation Eye (camera accessory needed for the PlayStation Move controller) can be found bundled with the controller.

If the gamer already owns a PlayStation 3, there is also an available Move only bundle that starts out at a MSRP of USD 99.99. These are Move oriented bundles and peak interests of various levels of gamers.

For FAQ, visit the official Son PlayStation Move Site .

This is the most inexpensive bundle in the PlayStation 3 family. The 160 GB package does not include a game, but does have a MSRP of USD 249.00. Older PlayStation 3’s had a wider body, but have since–literally slimmed down and voilà! This base bundle is great for anyone that might be looking to just get the console, or to someone who is looking to combo the gift with another relative. An idea might be to go halvsies on it. For example, someone can buy the console and have other relatives provide the games. Most of the time, gift givers can locate a deal online for games, but still purchase the console in stores.

Are you a true Harry Potter fan? Own a 3D capable TV? Sony might just have the bundle you have been barking for. The Harry Potter 3D Experience Movie Pack, which includes a copy of the newest Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2 Blu-ray 3D and a slew of vouchers to download previous Potter titles, has a MSRP for USD 249.99. This is great for someone looking to kill two Snowy Owls with one stone.

There are now quite a few bundles including the 320 GB HD. It now boils down to what type of gamer the person is. Infamous 2 and Uncharted 3 are two exclusive titles that you can only get on PlayStation 3. This is great combination for someone that might already have a PlayStation 2 and is finally getting ready to upgrade, or introducing another toy to their collection. Either way, most people consider the blu-ray compatibility a plus. The Infamous 2 and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception bundles have a MSRP of USD 299.99.

These bundles are mostly based on hard drive space and whether or not they are going to play with the PS Move hardware. Games can usually be played with the controller, but given more free motion with the PS Move option. There are options for PlayStation 3 owners who just want the bundles. In this case, there is a separate one they can purchase without the console attached.

For all specifications and bundle information, please visit the official Sony PlayStation 3 site.

The Nintendo Wii has seen high-high’s and low-low’s over the course of its release. Debuting back in November 2006, it has had a good run. It was the hot ticket item from launch day and has since become a very common product in households across the US of A, not to mention the world. As of lately, the console has not been bundled with the well-known Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort, the latter of two being Wii Sports Resort. These games now retail separately and you can still find the original (older) bundle online or at some stores.

The addition of another Wii Sports game also brought on the use of the Wii Motion Plus Remote. This remote is like the others, except it includes the Wii Motion Plus inside of it. This allows games to be played without 100 percent being directed at the sensor bar at all times. This is great for a wider range of motion in some games and the games themselves will tell you on the back of them whether or not it is needed. Even without the Wii Sports titles, there are still some great games to consider when buying this fun family system.

Wii Remote and Nunchuk? Huh?

For some reason, people are most confused at the Nintendo controller. The Wii Remote and Wii Nunchuk are two separate pieces that make up one complete controller. Not all games use this combination, but at the least they will use the Wii Remote by itself. On the back of Nintendo Wii game cases you will find a diagram depicting the supported controller types. My suggestion is to get a Wii Remote and Nunchuk so that you are not left running to the store the following day just so two people or more can play. There are a variety of charge kits available, or you can buy a large pack of AA batteries.

One thing that you should stay away from is the gimmicky sports accessory sets. Nothing more than what is included with the Nintendo Wii, besides the Wii Fit Balance Board, is needed to play it out of the box. Some accessories are good to have for that immersive feel, but others are nothing more than a $30 load of foam and plastic. If you are playing on an HD TV grab the component cables (Red/Blue/Green tips).The Wii isn’t HD, but it will still offer a better picture than just that of the composite yellow cord. If all else fails, just look for the official Nintendo Wii seal of approval, or products made by Nintendo.

The basic Nintendo Wii bundle is that bundled with Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort. This bundle has been around for some time, and let’s face it–most parents buying this for themselves bought it just to play tennis or bowling.

If you own the console yourself and found out that it can in fact connect to the internet, then you get a gold star! There are plenty of games and Netflix streaming that you can do once you are connected to a Wi-Fi connection. There is one remote and one Nunchuk included, so you might want to grab another if you plan on passing the remote around or playing by your lonesome.

If you have read any of the other sections, you might have noticed that I’ve skipped the “Better” category. This is because the other combo’d consoles out there for the Wii are some of the best you can get. Unlike the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii only comes in a one-size-fits-all. The only differences are the included games. For a family looking to play a fun filled action adventure title like the Super Mario of olden days, the New Super Mario Bros. Wii bundle screams “BUY ME!” Remember that it only comes with one controller, so be sure to pick up that extra Wii Remote.

If you’ve got a house full of competitive family racers, then the Super Mario Kart bundle is a great choice. It has a single Nintendo steering wheel included. You can play with just the remote by itself, but it doesn’t quite fit the right angle in which the game is intended to be controlled. Pick up another wheel you cheapskate they are only SRP’d at USD 9.99 for the white.

After you decide on what game to get, the number of people that are going to be playing, the only thing left is to decide, “What color should I buy it in?” Sorry folks, but that choice is strictly your choice.

From left to right: Nintendo DS Lite, DSi, DSiXL, and Nintendo 3DS.

To access an easy layout of all the features and specifications on each Nintendo handheld console, click here.

The Nintendo 3DS is the newest console in the line of handheld Nintendo gaming. Say goodbye to the name “Gameboy” that the line has formerly gone by; this handheld has a few new names that might seem a little bit confusing for first time buyers.

The Nintendo DS/DS-Lite/DSi/DSi-XL are all part of the Nintendo DS family. It was originally released in 2004, so you can see that it has had quite the run. A few features have been added to the console, such as a camera (for games that utilize this feature), but what is under the hood has not. This is where the Nintendo 3DS comes into play.

The console is a lot more powerful and hosts glasses-free 3D. Although the older console might have a nifty sale here and there, the DS family is living out the last of their lifespan as we speak. Be mindful of what you purchase, being that they have been quite the hot ticket this season and that could mean your kids/gamer begging for the next best thing. In this case, it is already here and it just might be worth the expense.

Here are a few things to think about before laying down those Ben Franklins.

The Nintendo 3DS Limited Edition bundles MSRP at USD 199.99. For the Super Mario 3D Land and The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D bundles, the games Super Mario 3D Land (the newest Super Mario game for the handheld) or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D ( a remastered version of the one for Nintendo 64, but with better graphics) are included.

The newest bundle dropping December 4th, which includes a pink Nintendo 3DS and nintendogs™ + cats: French Bulldog and New Friends or nintendogs + cats: Toy Poodle and New Friends, will MSRP at USD 169.99. This is a great incentive for girl gamers out there to get a discount on how you play.

The current set of colors available for the Nintendo 3DS are: Cosmo Black, Aqua Blue, Flame Red and December 4th will bring the Pink Rose. You can see what it looks like in at least three of those by clicking here.

The Nintendo 3DS is also backwards compatible, which means that it can play 95 percent of the Nintendo DS games out there. Why can’t it play the others? There were a few games that had an extension slot that fit only the older Nintendo DS designs. This slot is unfortunately not available on the current Nintendo 3DS design.

Although the Nintendo DS might not be the newest handheld, there is still quite the library of games readily available. New game development has slowed a bit, but there are still some coming hot off the assembly line. There are also many deals for these older games and a large used selection for someone that is shopping on a budget. The kids will have games, enjoy some laughs, and everyone is happy, hopefully!

The Sony PlayStation Portable

PlayStation also has its own portable gaming unit. The screen on this one is not touch sensitive like Nintendo’s DS line, but it does have some other great benefits.

The standard PSP plays Universal Media Discs (UMD’s), but it can also play games from the PlayStation Network. There also is a way to download these to your PlayStation 3 and then to the device. The console itself has built in Wi-Fi, so if there is a close wireless network that allows connectivity. So, bring on the online games!

Between the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS, the PSP beats it in the graphics department. The graphics even rival those of the Nintendo 3DS, but is limited to only the standard 2D. There are two versions of the handheld, which are the PSP Go and the standard PSP. The console’s display is also one of the larger, more vivid out right now. The 4.3″ widescreen showcases movies and games nicely.

The PSP Go is a download only unit, so keep that in mind if you do end up purchasing this one. Save yourself the return hassle by getting the right one the first time around. The console itself has a MSRP of USD 199.99 and the PSP with a MSRP of 129.99. Instead of playing games from the UMD, they are stored on the hard drive. The 16 GB hard drive differs from the expandable space on the PSP, but it is also 1.22″ smaller and lighter than the original.

Click here to get more information from the official Sony PlayStation Portable site.

Now that we have run through quite the presentation, there are still a few things to consider now that you have played Santa and just might save your holiday in a single purchase. With all of the time and money spent, it is always worthwhile to get some sort of warranty for peace of mind and assurance that the gift will keep on giving.

Should I get a warranty?

There are two types of people that purchase warranties. It might be a little overwhelming not knowing what will be covered and the age old question of, “What is the price of security?” comes into play.

The first is the type of person that shrugs off the warranty offered in the store or online and hopes that nothing will go wrong with their new purchase for hundreds of dollars. This person is often very careful with their expensive items and keeps tender-loving care of the item purchased. Tech companies out will usually have some warranty for their product, but for a limited time. Make sure that this is one thing you do check in store, or online before you go and shoot your wad to make junior happy.

The second type is the one who likes the feeling of reassurance and will pay the extra money to safeguard their investment. Can’t afford it? Some places offer the ability to purchase this “safety” down the road. Be watchful of other stipulations and clauses upon returning or re-buying something. There is nothing worse than being left with a broken product that can’t be fixed because you didn’t safeguard yourself in the first place. Also, try and call the 1-800 help line most places offer. It could save you more than a trip, hassle or headache.

One thing you should also note is that companies usually must uphold a one year warranty for the console purchased. Granted, this might be voided if you decide to do any modifications or fix it yourself for a cheaper alternative. Sure that console on Craigslist with an included 250 games sounds enticing, just make sure it’s not going to get you into any sort of trouble down the road.

Final Truth:

If you have taken even the smallest amount of information away from this long winded sales pitch, then my work here is done. I come to you not as an expert, not as a salesperson, but as a gamer. I’ve had quite a few holidays/birthdays under my belt–some of those celebrations even landed me with an unwanted game or two. One thing is for sure, a lot of stress of making a big purchase can be relieved by just doing a little research.

Make sure you check out some of the links provided in the body of the article as they will take you to the official sites for each console and give you a little bit more information than what could have been crammed into this article.

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About the Author

I am Greg, aka LaWiiG. Thanks for coming to take a look around! Retro is the way to go! Do yourself a favor and show love by playing retro games.

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