For the video game industry, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
About half of all video game hardware, software and accessory sales take place during the holiday season starting with Black Friday, according to research firm NPD Group. Two years in, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One remain popular gifts. The Consumer Technology Association says video game consoles will be the top gifts to give this season.
“Many families are still upgrading to the latest generation consoles and it appears they will be using Black Friday and the surrounding shopping period to do so,” says Shawn DuBravac, Ph.D., the CTA’s chief economist and senior director of research.
This year might be the best time to jump off the fence and join the new generation of game consoles, as more bargain-priced bundles packaging games such as Halo 5: Guardians and Star Wars Battlefront with game systems can be found on store shelves this year.
“We’ve had bundles for year and years in video games but these are very, very stylized,” says Steve Koenig, CTA’s senior director of market research. “I think Star Wars is going to be a huge hook around gaming this holiday.”
Choosing a console will depend on the preferences of the users. Let’s break down the advantages of all three.
Price: Starts at $299
Four reasons to buy a PS4:
— Great controller. The PS4’s DualShock 4 controller remains the best — hands down. It’s the ideal size, features quick access to important features and includes a speaker to incorporate interesting uses of ambient sound or other effects.
— Easy sharing. With one press of the Share button on the PS4 controller, players can quickly broadcast their exploits on Twitch or YouTube, fire off a screenshot on Twitter or spread their digital adventures on other social networks. No need to navigate multiple menus and setting up social accounts is straightforward.
— A bright future. The first-party lineup looks a bit thin, but 2016 and beyond is really strong between a new chapter in the Uncharted series and the long-awaited action game The Last Guardian. Players will also finally get their hands on PlayStation VR, Sony’s upcoming virtual reality headset, while cloud TV service PlayStation Vue will likely continue its push to more national markets.
— Early access. If the gift recipient is into games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, PS4 owners will gain early access to expansions launched throughout the year. Sony also struck similar content deals for Destiny: The Taken King.
Price: Starts at $299
Four reasons to buy an Xbox One:
— Backward compatibility. Hang on to that Xbox 360 library. Many of those games will work on an Xbox One, either appearing among digital downloads or available by inserting the disc into the console. New buyers will have immediate access to their older games as they slowly build up their Xbox One library.
— Broad selection of apps. As an all-in-one entertainment device, Xbox One has an edge with a larger selection of apps as well as new accessories allowing the console to pick up over-the-air HD TV signals. It might be the closest we have to a cable box replacement.
— Strong first-party lineup. The library overall is strong between games from third-party publishers such as Fallout 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront, but its first-party lineup with titles including Forza Motorsport 6, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Halo 5: Guardians is really impressive.
— Elite upgrades. For consumers who want to splurge, there’s a $499 Elite bundle including a 1 TB Solid State Hybrid Drive — which is expected to improve performance — and Elite controller with interchangeable thumbsticks and directional pads.
Price: Starts at $249
Four reasons to buy a Wii U:
— Lower price. Nintendo’s home console enters with the best price for consumers looking to stay on a budget. With that cut in price comes drawbacks including less horsepower than PS4 or Xbox One, as well as missing features such as a game DVR.
— Family-friendly game selection. It’s tough to beat an ally like Mario. The company’s icon delivers some of the console’s best family fare, including Super Mario 3D World and the latest Mario Kart. Between that and new titles including Splatoon, Yoshi’s Woolly World and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, Wii U boasts a variety of quality family titles.
— Virtual Console. For consumers who want to go back to the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Virtual Console feature boasts several old-school video games including Donkey Kong and the original Super Mario Bros. Most games cost $5-$10.
— Access to Wii library. Holding on to all those video games from Nintendo’s lucrative Wii era? They’re accessible on the Wii U, too. Also, all those Wii controllers work on the Wii U.
Important note on Wii U. There is one huge caveat when considering the Wii U: Nintendo has started work on its successor. The company says it will reveal details on the Nintendo NX console at next June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
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