If I would have to recommend a gaming console to someone at this time and in Hong Kong, I would have a hard time to come up with anything. Actually, my problems are not limited to Hong Kong but some problems exist in particular in that market. Let’s see if Santa Claus could deliver anything at all.
- Xbox 360 (Microsoft)
In two words: "top troublemaker". Well-known technical problems, (same) game prices rise and fall like trading stocks, total lack of public acknowlegement or any response whatsoever by Microsoft to even the most serious problems, replacing a dead console unit can take weeks, confusion over console version (combination of which release or replacement unit has what hard drive and/or HDMI output), Chinese-only Hong Kong official Web Site despite English being an official language requiring anyone interested to browse the Singapore Web Site, permanent customer confusion ove events/promotions/pre-orders/releases, and a lot more…
It’s not all bad though: assuming your console is cooled enough and doesn’t get any technical problems, you find the games you like to play and you signed up with Xbox Live perhaps, it’s a pleasure to play the high-quality games. Even more so on a high-definition flatscreen or projector and an appropriate surround-sound system.
- PlayStation 3 (Sony)
Overprized despite recent price cuts, most people just buying it for its build-in Blu-ray player in the hope of using it one day with quality games, not making full use of hardware capabilities so games lack in quality and scientists have started turning their consoles into supercomputers. Lack of games and a high price are other problems. More the product for gaming enthusiasts than the casual player.
- Wii (Nintendo)
The most gaming fun of them all thanks to its innovative controller not requiring button action so much as motion detection (simulate sword fights, bowling or tennis matches, keep fit…). Disadvantages: lack of consoles and thus over-priced, no Asian regional console released yet, which leaves gamers with either the US or Japanese (no English interface). To make matters worse, both regions cannot mix game titles due to their encoding so once bought, you’re stuck with it. Waiting for a future Asian version comes close to playing the lottery. Wii has the only "low-quality" (read "normal") video output, which means it can be played with any video display and won’t look terrible on low-end screens. Thus it’s an advantage.
Handheld game consoles are easier to summarize.
- Nintendo DS (Nintendo)
Also known as NDS or DS, this portable console has come a long way since the early days of the GameBoy. In line with the interactivity features of the Wii console, NDS features games requiring touchscreen and sound input besides the usual buttons. Examples of such inputs include shouting, blowing, scratching, writing… NDS is always in short supply due to high demand and based on region and model (limited color edition), prices can go up to Wii or even Xbox levels. It features Wireless LAN allowing to go online either with a limited browser or play with gamers from around the world. Chatting is also possible. Older game cartridges can be loaded as well as memory cards.
- PlayStation Portable (Sony)
PlayStation Portable (aka PSP), or more recently its successor PSP Slim & Lite (PSP-2000), is basically a PlayStation 2 made portable. The new release fixes many problems and complaints about the earlier one, such as dark display, bad control buttons, lack of internal memory, too heavy and too thick. Games look good and you can watch videos and play with fellow gamers around you thorugh Wireless LAN. Video outpout in progressive scan for games and other features in both progressive and interlaced mode to a TV is also available.
For general fun and family friendliness, I recommend the Nintendo line. Especially Wii enjoys great success as it doesn’t require game and controller knowledge. Increasingly popular with the eldery, playing a round of tennis or bowling can be achieved no matter where and by who or what age. And what more fun than sitting in a public transport and blowing or shouting at the NDS to save some little onscreen guy’s life?
For game quality and availability, I’d go for the Xbox. If the console isn’t enough, sign up for Live. Besides plenty of game levels, previews, movies, arcade games and first-generation Xbox games downloads, it’s also a medium to talk (audio/video) with others, send messages and more.
I’m not so sure about the PlayStation line. The big console doesn’t convince me and a portable console with button-only input is so yesterday.
On a first thought, people usually go for the best image quality but once playing for a while, it becomes clear that game quality usually wins over image quality. However, if both game and image are lacking, it’s a dead end.