How's this for finding a silver lining in a bad economy? Family bonding is the big winner in the race to cut costs on holiday gifts this year. The group gift is king! And that means the big video game systems that Mom and Dad shied away from before are topping the holiday shopping lists for 2011.
Now the question: which to choose? The Nintendo Wii has reigned supreme as the kid-friendly game console. But the addition of the Kinect to the Xbox 360 set-up has shot Microsoft's console to the top of a host of hot holiday toy lists this year. And then there's the PlayStation 3 with Move ... another attempt to get your kids off their butts. You only need one, so how do you know which one is the better bet? Let's break this down:
For the Bargain Hunter:
Introduced back in 2008, the Wii has topped family lists ever since because it offers the whole package: fitness options to get on top of that New Year's resolution, multiple player games to get the whole family involved, and a set-up that's so user-friendly, you can park a 4-year-old in front of the TV and they'll figure it out (although I found my super energetic kid has a hard time with the sensitivity of the controllers -- she moves way too fast). There are so many games out there these days that you can cover every kid in the family with this console.
Parents who are especially cost-conscious might want to stick with this. The suggested retail price of the three-year-old system was reduced earlier this year to $149, although you'll also have to shell out for more Wii-motes and other accessories depending on your game preferences.
For the Trend Setter:
The Xbox itself has been out on the market for quite awhile, but the plethora of shoot-em-up games has kept this largely in the teen and adult market. Not anymore. The addition of the Kinect means gamemakers are slowly beginning to add games for the kids and the family unit. From the perspective of a "get the kids moving" console, friends who work in physical therapy noted this beats the Wii hands down as your body "is" the controller. I couldn't agree more. Put my kid in front of her two favorites -- Kinect Sports Two (thanks to a review copy sent to The Stir) or Kinectimals With Bears -- and she can actually work up a sweat because she has to do everything herself. And she can do the whole thing alone, from start to finish -- the definition of "family friendly."
A 360 packaged with a Kinect will set you back $300, although the Kinect itself is just $150. If you'll be using the console online, plan to add more money for an Xbox live membership to play against other gamers and/or access Netflix, Facebook, and more. An unlimited Gold membership costs $50 a year.
For the Family With Teens:
Another system popular with the older set, the Move component is an attempt to bridge the divide between teen/adult gamers and the whole family. Like the Wii, it's controller-based, which means the kids (and you) have a wand to hold onto to play. But unlike the Wii, this is gaming in high definition, and it shows. Now for the problem: this is a system that's still relatively new in the "little kid" market; so game choice is still pretty limited on the family-friendly end of things.
With Move, the system will cost about $350, although you may have to dish out $30 apiece for additional controllers (depending on family size). The Move by itself is around $150 for families who already have a PS3, and most online options (access to Netflix, playing your friends online, etc.) is free.
Are you going for a video game console this year? Why?
Images via Rebecca Pollard/Flickr; Amazon