Although major video game releases have slowed somewhat over the past couple of years due to the pandemic forcing most development teams to abruptly shift to working from home, 2021 has been a great year for gaming, and 2022 surely will be, too.
With that and the holiday season being in full swing, I thought now would be a good time to write a quick buyer’s guide for game hardware. And if you’re wondering why I’m penning this piece after Black Friday, game consoles rarely go on sale even then.
The newest hotness is the Nintendo Switch OLED, which was released in October at a $350 price point. With the only perks over the base model being a slightly bigger, higher-contrast screen, an ethernet port and improved dock, it’s frankly a terrible deal for existing Switch owners. But for people who don’t own one already, an extra $50 over the base model is more than reasonable.
After the Wii abruptly fizzled, out and its successor the Wii U flopped on arrival, I wasn’t overly optimistic about Nintendo’s future, but the Switch has been a terrific success for the company, and it’s not difficult to see why – it’s a hybrid TV-or-handheld machine with a massive and diverse library of games.
With the Switch initially hitting shelves in 2017, it’s likely to have a couple of years left before becoming obsolete. Its biggest advantages are portability, accessibility and a great mix of notable third-party games, tons of indie hits and of course first-party Nintendo titles like Metroid Dread and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The main drawbacks are its inferior graphical capabilities and the higher cost of games relative to its competitors.
The PlayStation 5 released late last year, but you’ll still be hard-pressed to find one due to the global chip shortage that’s still plaguing the computer hardware industry. With scalpers aggressively upselling PS5s, your best bet is downloading an app like HotStock and getting notifications the moment a few are up for grabs online.
It’s a bit surprising because there aren’t a lot of PS5 titles just yet, but people are understandably loyal to Sony – they have yet to fall short of first place in hardware sales in any console generation, and that’s largely because they always come through with quality exclusive titles. Ratchet & Clank, God of War, the Last of Us, Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet, Bloodborne – the list goes on.
Sony also receives loads of third-party games. The bottom line is that PlayStation has the largest variety and quantity of games every time, and PS5 is likely to be the same.
Then there’s Xbox. Microsoft flubbed the Xbox One’s 2013 release, and they’re still picking up the pieces. Ironically, that’s great news for consumers, who get to reap the benefits of their “nice guy” act.
Microsoft has been rigorously supporting backwards compatibility. While the PS5 runs “most” PS4 games, the Xbox Series X|S will run all Xbox One games, most Xbox 360 titles and even a handful of original Xbox games. Some older releases have even received patches to look better than ever with framerate and resolution boosts.
There’s also Game Pass, which is a Netflix-like subscription for Xbox owners. A cost of $15/month gets you unlimited access to more than 100 quality titles, with new additions flooding in every few days. I was initially skeptical of the service, but it’s allowed me to try a lot of great games I never would’ve played otherwise. It’s also spared me from some potential buyer’s remorse – looking at you, Back 4 Blood.
The Xbox Series X is being scalped the same as the PS5, but a Series S is easy to come by. It’s not quite as powerful and lacks a disc drive, but it’s an incredible console for $300.
It comes down to personal preference. If you want couch co-op and iconic Nintendo games, go for a Switch. If you want as many games as possible, buy a PlayStation. And if you value backwards compatibility or want to try Game Pass, go with Xbox. Each console has its own set of strengths, which is why there are still three main competitors all these years after the inception of the video game industry.
Riordan Zentler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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