July 26, 2006

Game Dork

What Game System Should you Buy for $130 - $600?

It's getting closer to the witching hour. Sony's PlayStation 3 comes out near the end of the year. And guess what. That's right, it's so expensive at $600 that if you really want to reserve your PS 3, you better start saving up your money right about . . . now.

Of course, Nintendo is also coming out with its new game system, the Wii (pronounced "we") in late 2006 for a paltry $250. And the Microsoft Xbox 360, which came out last holiday season, will likely drop its price from $400 to $300, or add a free game or two to the $400 bundle. That's the rumor, anyway.

So here's your confusing question: Should I save up for the high-definition PS 3, the Wii or the Xbox 360? Here's the answer, based on who you are:

You're a Masochist of Pixels: Like me, you're a video game fanatic, and you already own the Xbox 360. You don't need my advice. Buy both the PS 3 and the Wii. Get ready to spend $60 or more on new games. Reevaluate your priorities in life.

You're a Weekend Warrior: As a frequent gamer, you probably play an Xbox or a PS 2. If I were you, and I had an extra $300 rattling around in my pocket, I'd upgrade to the Xbox 360. It will have the most games available among high-end systems. And the technology behind the 360 isn't far behind the PS 3. You can always buy the PS 3 in a year, when the price drops and more games are out.

But keep your Xbox for original Xbox games. I've found that the 360 doesn't truly play many old Xbox games, which is super frustrating. And if you're poor, you can buy used and classic Xbox games for $2 to $20. What a bargain.

You're a Worried Parent: Get your kid the Nintendo Wii or a handheld Nintendo DS Lite. Wii games will continue Nintendo's appeal to blood-squeamish moms and dads. That's not to say there won't be "M"-rated games for adults. But Wii will host the kid-friendly world of Mario.

To tell the truth, I'm looking forward to the Wii more than the PS 3. Why Wii? Because it has built-in interactivity. It comes with a remote-control wand that will read your physical motions. If you're playing some baseball games, for instance, you'll be able to swing the wand, and the game will read your swing.

This will be good for game newbies and inexperienced girls and boys who don't want to tinker much with hand controller buttons. Wii is such a creative toy it beat out PS 3 for "Best of Show" at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.

You're a Rare Gamer: You play games only every now and then, say, once or twice a month. Forget these fancy systems, unless you just want to brag that you own one, and keep your Xbox. Or, if you're loyal to your PS 2, dump your loyalty and upgrade to an Xbox. They retail now for $130.

Or, you could go with Sony's PSP for $200. It looks as good as a PS 2, which is remarkable for a handheld system, and you can play it in the tub like I do. You can also surf the Web on it, though it's a slow Internet choice.

No matter what, I can't stress how important it is for any gamer to consider dropping their PS 2, which is still popular in the way McDonald's is. But the quickness and graphics of Xbox and PSP alone make the PS 2 look like a relic from the year Britney Spears was still a, um, girl, and that's too innocent.

New and Coming Soon

"The Ant Bully" is based on the animated movie, where a 10-year-old ant torturer gets shrunk down to ant size and turns into a champion of ants. The July 25 release retails for $30 for Xbox, PS 2 and GCube. It's rated "E 10+" for cartoon violence.

"World Racing 2" puts more than 40 cars on 100 tracks around the world. The July 25 release retails for $30 for Xbox and PS 2. It's rated "E."

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")

Doug Elfman is an award-winning columnist who is also the TV critic at the Chicago Sun-Times.

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