Now that Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s PlayStation Move have challenged Nintendo’s stranglehold on gesture-based video game controls, giving a game console as a holiday gift is a lot more complex. Here’s a quick look at how the Wii, PlayStation Move and Kinect for the Xbox 360 stack up against one another. On Friday, I’ll be posting a more game-focused gift guide that’s a longer version of my column running in that day’s paper.
Price: $200 will net a console, one controller and two games, one being “Wii Sports.” I recommend the red bundle featuring “New Super Mario Bros. Wii.” If you’re planning on gaming with other people, you’ll need to pick up extra remotes at $40 each and, for some games, nunchuk controllers at $20 each.
*Huge library. The Wii has been on the market for four years, and it’s sold more than any other console. There are a ton of games to play. Most of them are well-suited to gamers of every age and skill level, whereas the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 tend to cater to an older, more skilled demographic.
*The home of Mario. For many players, classic Nintendo characters such as Mario and Donkey Kong are synonymous with gaming. Obviously, if you buy another system, you’ll miss out on these guys.
*Cost-effective. A bundle that includes two great games plus the system to play them on is a fantastic deal at $200, even if you have to spend $40 on a separate remote.
*Technical specs. If you’ve got a high-definition TV and want to experience the latest cutting-edge visuals and gameplay, the Wii isn’t your system.
*Minimal online presence. The Xbox 360 offers a fantastic online environment, for a price, while the PS3 offers a serviceable free option. On the Wii, you’ll be entering difficult-to-remember, 12-digit “friend codes” to hook up with friends, and then chatting with them over Skype while you play.
PLAYSTATION 3 WITH MOVE
Price: Bundles that include the console but not Move start at $300. $400 will score you the console with a large hard drive, the Eye camera, one Move controller and the game “Sports Champions.” Extra Move controllers run $50, while a navigation controller, used in some games, is $30. If you already own a PS3, a bundle with “Sports Champions,” a Move controller and the Eye camera is $100.
*High definition. Think of the PlayStation Move as the Wii HD. The controls are more accurate and responsive, and the games look a lot better. If you have an HDTV, don’t have a Blu-ray player and don’t mind missing out on classic Nintendo characters, the PS3 is a great purchase.
*Two ways to play. Many PS3 games allow you to play using either Move or the standard controller. So in addition to playing Move-only titles, you’ll be able to use Move or the DualShock 3 controller for games like “Heavy Rain,” “NBA 2K11” and “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.”
*Because Move is a camera-based interface, you may occasionally have to move an obstructing piece of furniture. In our case, the ottoman/coffee table combo had to move for us to be able to play “EyePet.”
*Limited library of upcoming games. While many retail games, such as the recent “Sly Cooper Collection,” feature unexpected Move support, Sony hasn’t announced a ton of Move-only games, but they seem pretty serious about Move as a platform.
XBOX 360 WITH KINECT
Price: A $400 bundle includes a console, a large hard drive, one standard controller, one Kinect and the game “Kinect Adventures.” A $300 bundle with the same stuff, but only 4 GB of memory may be suitable for those who only want to play Kinect, but most gamers will want more memory. If you already have a 360, Kinect retails separately for $150 and includes “Kinect Adventures.”
*The Wii and PlayStation Move controllers are similar in feel. Kinect is a whole new experience.
*Ideally suited for exercise games. If you’re a workout nut who happens to be a gamer, Kinect is perfect. Ubisoft’s “Your Shape: Fitness Evolved” and Electronic Arts’ “Active Sports 2” allow players to track their workout information online, challenge friends and join peer-driven workout groups.
*New type of remote control. Having Kinect hooked up means you can control some of your Xbox 360’s functions with voice commands and gestures. It’s cool to play with what feels like leading-edge consumer technology, but the implementation could be better.
*Requires a large play space. You’ll need to position yourself at least 6 feet from the sensor, with 8 to 10 feet being about ideal for two-player sessions. We were able to make Kinect work in our crowded living room, but only after moving four pieces of furniture and a bunch of stuff that was behind our couch. My wife keeps asking when we can put the living room back the way it was, so Kinect likely won’t be an everyday thing for us. Before you buy, break out the tape measure and be sure you’ll have enough room. Measure from the edge of whatever Kinect will be sitting on, not from your TV.
*Unlike the bundles for the Wii and PlayStation Move, you’re not getting Kinect’s best game packed in with the sensor. I prefer “Kinect Sports” and “Your Shape: Fitness Evolved,” while most other critics think “Dance Central” is the superior title. “Kinectimals” is a good fit for younger gamers.