Getting up to date on gaming

Dear PropellerHeads: It’s happened… My 8-bit Nintendo finally crashed so it’s time for an upgrade. Any suggestions?

A: Wait, did you try blowing in the game cartridges first? No luck? Okay, I think we can help you out. Gaming consoles have come a long way since the Magnavox Odyssey and do some really impressive things. Gaming companies worked hard to make the next generation of consoles about more than just smashing buttons while taking out noobs with well-placed frag grenades. They now entertain in a variety of fashions. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have new machines out this year that you should consider.

Nintendo’s Wii U ( is already available for purchase. As always, Nintendo’s focus is on fun and innovation. While sports and first-person shooters are available on this console, it’s really geared toward proprietary titles like Mario Brothers, Zelda, etc. Those alone comprise much of the fun factor, but the new controllers are the innovative part. The Wii U’s controllers are actually large portable gaming systems on their own. When playing a game on a TV, the touch screen display provides additional controls and views of the game. However, if the TV is needed for other purposes, many of the games let you transfer play to the controller itself, continuing with other gamers whether they’re in the same house or online.

The Wii U has its own app store with a nice suite of videos, music, and additional gaming purchase options. You can stream services like Netflix, or download classic Nintendo games like Super Mario Brothers. However, the Wii U does not support DVD or Blu-Ray playback, so it won’t replace a traditional home theater system. Starting at $300, it is the cheapest Next Gen console to be available at Christmas, and I’m betting you’ll see price reductions once Nintendo’s competitors release their updated consoles. The Wii U is best for households where kids will be the main gamers. (Got that Granny Gramps?)

Sony’s new console is the PS4 (, scheduled for a holiday release. Sony is trying to win over hardcore gamers by making their new console as powerful as gaming PCs. The PS4 plays DVD and Blu-Ray discs and sports 1080p output. USB 3.0, Bluetooth 2.1, and IEEE 802.11 b/g/n are all supported, as well as high-speed wired connections for gamers who want to avoid lag during their 24-hour marathon sessions of Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Sony also offers an online marketplace with multimedia apps like the staples mentioned above. The controller features a sensitive motion control system and a touchscreen (which is not a display). Sony is marketing to the social media-savvy, but those online functions will likely take a back seat to all things gaming. This system is best for serious gamers who are reading this from mom’s basement in between vigorous message board trolling sessions. The $400 price tag won’t deter any of their loyal fans.

Lastly, Microsoft’s Xbox One ( is also due for a holiday release and is trying to capture a different audience. While still making competitive hardware upgrades, Microsoft put a lot of work into the software and improving its innovative Kinect peripheral. The Kinect allows you to play games using gestures and communicate with others via video chat. The console lets you play games, use multimedia apps, watch DVD and Blu-Ray discs, and connect to other Windows devices within your network, making it a strong contender to replace your home media center.

The Xbox One can even act as a stand-alone Windows computer when paired with a keyboard and mouse. You can use Microsoft Office, browse the web, and handle most routine functions that any laptop would fill. Throw in the high-quality videoconferencing provided by the Kinect, and you may even see it showing up in corporate conference rooms. This additional versatility accounts for its $500 starting price. This console falls in between the kid-friendly Wii U and the hardcore gamer PS4. It’s also the best option for replacing an all-in-one entertainment unit.

All the new consoles are impressive and a lot of fun to play around with. Hopefully this can help you pick the right one for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, Mom’s calling me out of the basement for my weekly bath…

When the PropellerHeads at Data Directions aren’t busy with their IT projects, they love to answer questions on business or consumer technology. Email them to or contact us at Data Directions Inc., 8510 Bell Creek Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23116. Visit our website at

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