By John Harvey
GONE are the days when an action figure or Barbie doll topped a child’s Christmas wish list; today, if it isn’t plugged into a socket, its graphics and surround sound don’t shake you to your core and you can’t interact with it by jumping around, it’s simply not worth having.
Welcome to the age of the gaming console – a device in such high demand that St Nick might consider taking a second mortgage on the North Pole this year.
Be it Playstation 3, Xbox or, to a lesser extent, the Nintendo Wii, parents will know the feeling of being hounded throughout the year by young ones insisting their lives will not be complete without them.
According to Bradley Millar, home consumer tech support expert from futureTECH, for most parents, the hardest choice facing them is what to buy their children this Christmas.
“Life is not nearly the same as it was when they were young. With a proliferation of new gadgets and technologies reaching critical mass, parents can only hang their heads in despair as they sift through a multitude of merry-making options that would leave most people in a dire state of pre-Christmas blues,” Millar said.
Incredible Connection spokesman Shaun Sonjica said the Playstation 3 and Xbox continued to dominate the Christmas sales, as was the case in the past few years.
“People began buying the consoles at the beginning of November, and these two products have been flying off the shelves,” Sonjica said.
“One of the best things about these products is that everyone in the family can make use of them. The PS3 Slimline is again our best seller, and is retailing for R2 899.95. Our Xbox special has proved really popular though. For R3 999.95 you get the hi-net sensors, a spare remote and three games.”
Although very popular when it first came out a few years ago, Nintendo Wii sales have tailed off as the PS3 and Xbox have gained momentum.
While the Wii is still the cheapest option, at R600, customers are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be more advanced products.
“One of the reasons is that these consoles can do the same thing now, and in truth are a lot better in terms of their graphics and motion sensors.”
But while people are clearly open to spending a few thousand rand on the consoles, there remains the small matter of buying new games and the cost incursion that awaits parents at this time of year.
“A new game costs about R599, but usually these are targeted by the serious gamer. The normal guy will pay about R249 for an older game. The R149 PS3 games are also pretty popular around Christmas time. You will find parents will look at cheaper bundle options as well.”
Millar said Microsoft’s Xbox entered the gaming market a bit late but had made up for it by consistently publishing some of the most award-winning titles exclusive to its platform.
“With major franchises like ‘Gears of War’, ‘Halo’, ‘Forza Racing’ and ‘Mass Effect’ making their debuts on Microsoft’s gaming powerhouse, there has been no shortage of fun for discerning gamers,” he said.
“There are a multitude of accessories you can add to the consoles but the one most likely to get you the coveted ‘parents of the year award’ is the Kinect Sensor. The Kinect Sensor plugs into the back of the Xbox and allows greater interaction in games as it picks up user input via gestures and motion. There is a plethora of Kinect-enabled games, some of which ship with the device.”
“If you have a fast internet connection you would do well to consider setting your child up on Xbox Live, which allows the installation of apps and game demos, interaction with friends and browsing the web on the television screen.
“An Xbox Live subscription can be taken out monthly, quarterly or annually, and an annual subscription will set you back approximately R300 a year.”
With regard to the Playstation 3, Millar said the console “is definitely the most equipped to handle anything you throw at it”.
“With support for most video and audio file types, Blu-Ray playback functionality built in, free access to online gaming and its own Kinect-esque motion-controlled experience, called the Playstation Move, Sony has come out all guns blazing in an effort to take over your living room.
“Both the Xbox and PlayStation consoles have the ability to act as home media hubs that can stream your home movies, music and photos from all your computers in the house to the television.”
Although he has no children, Port Elizabeth resident Dalton Harrald admitted to being a “big kid” and loving his Xbox.
“It’s great. Xbox has a better picture, it is 1 080, which is also high definition,” he said.
Parent Gavin Daubermann said his two boys, aged 13 and 16, had the Playstation 2.
“[But] my 16-year-old reckons the Xbox is far superior.Game has this on special for R2 999, with three games,” he said.
“We live in a small town; there is not much for the boys to do.”
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, December 1, 2012.