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Gaming Systems – Everything you need to know! (Posted On: Thursday, December 07, 2006)

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Don’t you find that every year around the holidays, you as parents hear the same thing? Kids always want the newest video game, or trinket related to them, and often times you have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about!

Well, if you’re rather clueless you’ll be dreading this year’s holiday season, as you’ll be hearing certain words you’ve never heard before. Playstation 3? They have that now? And what on EARTH is a Wii? Well don’t fret or get gray hairs when your child talks about these seemingly fabled objects; this article will offer a little bit of insight on these new video game consoles, the hardware built in, the games available, and most importantly the affect they will have on your wallet – or even your checkbook!

This year, two new systems launched just in time for everyone to want one for Christmas - a very convenient time for gaming companies. What are these new systems you ask? Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock for this long, you would have at least heard about the Sony Playstation 3®, and the Nintendo Wii®. These two systems are revolutionary in the way they operate, and seem to be catching up to the Microsoft Xbox 360®. For example, the new Playstation 3 (PS3) is a very sleek-looking console approximately 325mm (W) x 98mm (H) x 274mm (D), weighing in at approximately 5kg. The system features technology such as a Cell Broadband Engine said to be 40 times faster than the chip that ran the Sony Playstation 2® (PS2), Blu-ray Disk compatibility that expands games to an astonishing 50 gigabyte size, free online gaming and net browsing, high definition capabilities, a memory space of either 20 or 60 gigabytes for game saving and storage and backwards compatibility to allow gamers to play their favorite PS2 games on the PS3 system.

If all that wasn’t enough technological gibberish, the PS3 uses SIXAXIS™ wireless controllers that have a wide variety of features all their own, such as a motion sensing system (not available for all PS3 titles), Bluetooth to allow up to seven controllers at one time, the ability to change from wireless to wired and USB charging that allows gamers to charge their controllers through the system itself! When you step back and compare the PS3 to other gaming consoles, it is a beautiful piece of technology that not only plays games, but CDs and DVDs as well. The possibilities with this system are nearly endless, and millions around the globe have been looking forward to getting one.

The Nintendo Wii is something entirely different, however. It comes in a very compact size at about 8.5 inches long, 6 inches wide and less than 2 inches thick (roughly the size of 3 DVD cases stacked on top of each other) and can be displayed either horizontally or vertically. It contains a PowerPC CPU (code-named "Broadway"), made with a 90nm SOI CMOS process, jointly developed with and manufactured by IBM; GPU developed with ATI and has a single self-loading media bay plays single- or double-layered 12-cm optical discs for the Wii console, as well as 8-cm Nintendo GameCube® discs.

The Wii is backward-compatible to all Nintendo GameCube games and includes four ports for controllers and two slots for memory cards and communicates wirelessly with the Internet via wireless or a Wii LAN adaptor for free online gaming and other features. It also can connect wirelessly with Nintendo DS® handheld system. It has “WiiConnect24,” allowing the system to communicate with the Internet, and download updates and surprises while the system is idle, and has a “Wii Shop Channel”, letting you purchase special games (classics!), trailers and more with “Wii Points” (purchased separately). The main focus of the Wii, however, is not so much in the console’s technical specifications, but the controllers it uses.

Nintendo wanted to create a controller that was as inviting as it was sophisticated. The outcome is the Wii Remote. Sporting the size of a traditional remote control, the wireless Wii Remote is a multifunctional device that uses the sophistication of motion-sensing technology to come up with an input device for the ages! The functions is can fulfill seem endless. In a tennis game, it serves as your racket you swing with your arm. In a driving game, it serves as your steering wheel. It truly is a revolutionary piece of technology, includes a speaker, rumble feature, and extension port for devices such as the Nunchuk. The Nunchuk contains the same motion-sensing technology enabled in the Wii Remote but also includes an analog stick to assist in character movement. This wireless technology also uses Bluetooth, connecting four remotes from as far as 15 feet away. You may also buy a Classic Controller that allows gamers to play classic games available through the Wii Shop Channel with ease. This controller is sold separately. In comparison, some things come below the PS3, such as the number of controllers able to be ‘plugged in’ at one time. Nonetheless, the Nintendo Wii promises to be a system to entertain the masses!

Comparing the two new systems with the Xbox 360, which came out earlier, the differences are slight. The system is 83mm high, 309mm long, and 258mm thick and weighs in at about 7.7 lbs (wow!). It runs on the custom-designed Xbox 360 central processing unit (CPU) that runs at a breakneck speed, thanks to its three separate core processors that clock in at 3.2 GHz each. It also boasts a custom ATI graphics processor that clocks in at 500 MHz, taking advantage of more than four times as many polygons as the original Xbox® console, and more than four times (seeing a pattern here?) the number of pixels per second. At 512 MB of RAM in Xbox 360 is also eight times more powerful than the original Xbox, in terms of simple arithmetic. Features also include high definition support, 20-gigabyte detachable hard drive, online gaming (for a monthly, half-year, or annual fee) and three multi-purpose USB ports. Much like the systems above, the controllers are wireless. Right out of the box, the lightweight wireless controller—in fact, up to four lightweight wireless controllers—connect instantly to the console with no other peripherals needed and thanks to a cycling signal that avoids other wireless hardware in your house (such as telephones), there is never any delay between your thumb and the game. The newest systems seem nearly based off of Microsoft’s next-generation system, but even so, the 360 is a beautiful console, and holds many favorites for gamers, and often highlights its online play – Xbox Live®.

But which is the most popular of them all?

“The PS3 is what everyone asks for.” Says one sales associate at the EB Games store, located in the Collingwood area. “Even with its price of six-hundred plus dollars, it’s flying off the shelves! It’s been like that in ever store in every town. But since there were barely systems in stock on the launch date, more people have been buying the Wii. We have a lot more units for that, and it costs less. Compared to those two, the Xbox 360 doesn’t stand much of a competing chance right now – lots of people already have one.”

These systems are offered at a wide variety of places in the Georgian Triangle area. Practically any video game retailer will have at least had one, as well as stores such as Wal-Mart and Zellers. Though many places have been sold completely out, and have been waiting to be re-stocked. These new systems are hot, that’s for certain. However, they can put a little bit of a dent in your spare change if you’re not careful. With the Playstation 3 sitting in the price range of around $600, the Xbox 360 pricing at for the Core System $299 (without internal hard drive) and $399 for the Premium System (with hard drive), and the Nintendo Wii at $250, it’s probably a good idea to think things through carefully before purchasing one of these fine, revolutionary gaming consoles. For example, Nintendo has been known to cater to the younger audiences, while Microsoft has been known to offer more intense games for older audiences. Nintendo has also been known to focus greatly on multi-player games, while Sony has several different single-player games that have been age-old classics. Believe it or not, it takes a great deal of thought to adequately decide which system to purchase as the perfect gift… But a good hint would usually be to buy the system the receiver is asking for.

Yes, it’s a lot of technical jargon to try and sort through, and a real task to balance your budget accordingly. But come this holiday season, there is going to be, without a doubt, at least one of these systems waiting under the tree for the gamers of the world. Millions by Christmas day will either already have, or will just be beginning to explore the new options available to them, trying to master the new controls and building their skill in their favorite game. Any of the three would be a gift that would last quite a while – and honestly, when put into comparison with socks and sweaters, they definitely win hands down! So read carefully everything you see about the Playstation 3, the Nintendo Wii, or the Xbox 360, and listen to what your child, brother or even your spouse have to say about them. It’s a hard decision, but you can make it!

Written by Scott A. Vandergroef, CCI Co-op Student

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