The Wii is essentially unchanged since its debut, relying heavily on it’s simplistic wand-like controller and family-friendly games, lifestyle titles and accessories such as the Wii Fit and Wii Balance Board to attract players who avoid the two-handed complexity of traditional games controllers. Competition from the updated Xbox and PS3 units is putting more pressure on Wii sales, but Nintendo's modest little box is still well ahead of both its rivals.
The console is just under $300, including a Wii Remote controller and games pack. Extra Wii Remotes are $70 and the Wii MotionPlus add-on (which boosts accuracy in supported titles) is $35. The new Wii Remote Plus controller that now ships with all new Wii consoles has this built-in. The optional Nunchuck controller, which is needed for some games, is $30. The Wii includes Wi-Fi and a memory card (SD) slot but has no hard drive. It supports up to four players at the same time.
It's interesting to note that compared to its rivals, the so-called limitations of the Wii in some cases can actually be seen as advantages. For example, unlike it’s new motion-sensing rivals, the Wii can be controlled with full-range movements or a simple flick of the wrist. This can be an advantage where you don't have much room, particularly for multiple player games. It also gives you the option of not having to stand, jump, run on the spot, and use large full-body movements to control a game - you can just as easily take it easy and play while sitting on the lounge, which can be nice when you get tired of the energetic full-on interaction. Also, because it doesn't use a camera, the Wii doesn't require very good lighting conditions. You can even play it in the dark if you like.
The new slimmer version of the Xbox 360 released this year is faster, leaner and, thankfully, a tad quieter than its predecessor. It has five USB ports, wireless controller and built-in Wi-Fi (802.11n). The standard model has a 250GB hard drive ($450), but there’s an entry-level version with only 4GB to come out with the Kinect. The Xbox 360 has two big action blockbusters exclusively (for consoles): the Halo series and Gears of War. The Xbox Live service is still arguably the most popular, and now provides access to Twitter and Facebook.
Kinect controller: lets users control Xbox 360 titles by simply using gestures, spoken commands, or presented objects and images. It can mirror your body motions using in-game characters and tell players apart using facial recognition. It supports up to four players, which makes its $199 price tag not so forbidding, compared to the cost of equipping four PS3 Move players or Wii players. Of course, then there’s the cost of compatible games on top.
Sony PlayStation 3
Sony’s latest version of the PS3 is smaller, slimmer and lighter than previous models. Still the only console to include a Blu-ray player for high-definition movies, the PS3 currently ships in two models: with 160GB hard drive for $500 or a 320GB model with extra game at $600. Both have built-in Wi-Fi and two USB ports and include a DualShock 3 wireless controller that includes motion-sensing. The optional PlayTV accessory ($170) turns the PS3 into a twin-tuner DVR. You can also upgrade the hard drive easily using a standard 2.5-inch SATA drive.
Move controller: the Move uses the PlayStation Eye camera to track the wand’s position using the glowing ball on the tip, while inertial sensors in the wand detect its motion. There’s also the secondary Navigation Controller (NC) for the other hand. You can also buy an optional charging station for $48, which is handy because the current PlayStation 3 console only has two USB ports. The charging station will charge two controllers without having to connect them to the PS3. Depending on the game, you can use just the Move controller, both the Move and the NC, or two Move controllers.
The $99 Move starter kit includes the Eye camera, Move controller and a disc with demos of several titles. The optional NC is $50. Sports Champions includes includes six games: archery, bocce, disc golf, gladiator sword fighting, table tennis and volleyball. Some games, such as archery and the gladiator duel use two controllers. Start the Party is a collection of 20 mini-games in a virtual environment. To equip two players for full Move action – Move starter kit, plus extra Move controller $70) and two NCs – will set you back almost $270 plus Move-compatible games.
A broadband internet connection is vital for getting the most out of all three consoles. Each have online connectivity for downloading music, video and games and for social networking – the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Most retail games also need online support for patches, updates and extra features. The Wii and Xbox have in-game characters, called avatars, to represent the user, while the PS3 has the PlayStation Home virtual world. Both Xbox and PlayStation have free and paid online services.
PlayStation Plus costs $70 for 12 months and $21 for 90 days. Xbox LIVE Gold is $80 for 12 months and $40 for three months. Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is free, but has paid content such as downloadable games.
The Xbox offers Zune Movies on Demand and will introduce internet-based Foxtel live-streaming TV and on-demand movies for an extra subscription cost.
Sony also has movies on demand as part of the PlayStation Network with titles available for rental or purchase.