Getting back to Social Gaming
July 10, 2008 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Getting back to social gaming/console gaming, and other related considerations from an ex-hXc gamer.

I've been for the better part of the last 5 years, a solo gamer, dwelling in the realms of an mmorpg or just playing games like CivIV/Elder Scrolls/F.E.A.R./Puzzle Quest/Patapons alone.

In my youth, ever since the early 90s I'd been an avid gamer, buying up practically every console since NES, until the PS2 where I sort of dwindled off into the PC world, and then entered adult life where I try to save as much money as I can for tuition and rent and such.

I have a girlfriend who I've been slowly inducting into the game world by showing her some of the best games that aren't for serious gamers (like Patapons/Katamari Damacy/Loco Roco/Puzzle Quest/Baldur's Gate etc...). Considering the way that gaming has been going since the Wii and franchises like Guitar Hero (which we both LOVE, and bought GHII for my old PS2 only to have the console die in a matter of days - ugh!) I think we could both benefit from having a fun multiplayer game on the side.

The problem is, I still don't have the money to be a serious gamer, and frankly I don't have the time even if I could find the money with the work I do, and school for a better part of the year, so I'm considering my options here carefully since it would be more of a distraction than an all-out hobby.

I'm looking ahead towards an anniversary gift that would be to both of our pleasure for something like a PS3 (or Xbox or Wii) with GH: World Tour or Rock Band as an idea that I've been toying around with.

The problem is a money thing coupled with the knowledge that I lack at this moment considering that I don't follow gaming trends nearly enough to make this judgment call, I was wondering if anyone had a guesstimate about when prices might come down for any of the consoles, and if anyone could help me decide between them considering my investment would ideally be minimal, and while I have a background in hXc gaming, it's not so much my priority these days.

I guess I'm looking for constructive opinions, like "The Wii might be a good choice since it doesn't emphasize bleeding-edge visuals, which means it might have more years than the PS3/Xbox" or "The Xbox is probably going to fail in 6 months anyway", or dates of price trends since our anniversary is a few months away!

I realize fanboyism is at a prime with a topic like this, but I wouldn't be opposed to any discussion this thread might generate, so feel free to talk amongst yourselves if it remains constructive.

I also appreciate comments from persons who are recently discovering casual, social gaming and how you find it to be from a financial/time-investment perspective.
posted by anonymous to Technology (16 answers total)
For casual, social gaming, the Wii is almost certainly your best choice. It's much cheaper than the other two, which seems to be one of your primary concerns, and it has a good number of really fun, if slightly gimmicky, multiplayer games that non-gamers often enjoy as much as gamers.

That said, it suffers the problem all Nintendo consoles have since the N64, in that the only really good games for it are made by Nintendo themselves, with the exception of the Rock Band/Guitar Hero/DDR type games. But again, since you say you don't have a lot of time or money, that probably won't bother you that much.

Prices for consoles will drop shortly before Christmas. That's always when console price drops happen. The price of the Wii, being significantly lower already, will not drop as much.
posted by Caduceus at 3:21 PM on July 10, 2008

My wife hates hates HATES gaming, and even she has been caught enjoying Rock Band. I think the 360 is your best bet--it is the best compromise between the higher priced PS3 and the gimmicky Wii (mine is actually up for sale on ebay right now because there just aren't any good games for the darn thing).
posted by fusinski at 3:39 PM on July 10, 2008

I'd say it's between a Wii and a 360; unless you *really* care about the Blu-Ray player, PS3 isn't worth the money. If you really want to save money or like Nintendo titles (they really do make the best single-platform games), go for the Wii. If you only game a couple nights a week, there's more than enough to keep you busy. If you're interested in potentially playing some more "hardcore" titles and don't mind paying a little more, go for the 360.

As mentioned above, there's an upcoming 360 price drop that might influence your decision.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:45 PM on July 10, 2008

If you want to game with your girlfriend (especially one without strong gaming inclinations), get a Wii.
posted by gnutron at 3:55 PM on July 10, 2008

Do you have an HDTV? If not, strike the PS3 and 360 from the list. Their games are made for showing off in 720p or 1080p. The Wii has some great (and, speaking from experience, girlfriend-friendly) games and doesn't require a home theater setup to showcase its abilities.

Otherwise, the PS3 and 360 are largely the same thing. I've had both (sold the 360 to a roommate and bought the MGS4 PS3 bundle). In my opinion, anyone who tells you that one is clearly superior to the other is trying to trick you and you should run away. With all the fanboyism and dick-waving stripped away, the vast majority of multiplatform games turn out to look and feel the same on both platforms.

Here's what you need to consider:
1) Exclusives: Both platforms have a couple. 360 "exclusives" have so far been more likely to resurface on other platforms (like Bioshock and Gears of War).
2) Online competitive gaming is noticeably smoother on Xbox Live, but you'll be paying $15/mo for it. The little online gaming I've done with the PS3 has been satisfactory.
3) The PS3 plays Blu-ray.
4) All Xbox games support Achievements. Sony just came out with a copycat system, but only one game currently supports them, and not all development houses are going to retrofit Trophies onto their games.
5) You can use the PS3 do neat stuff with your PSP, like download games and demos.

If none of the above matter very much to you, go with whatever's cheaper. A wireless adapter for the 360 will run you an extra $80, so factor that into your budget if you'll need it.

If you have the opportunity, try both in person before buying one or the other just to see how different the intangibles feel to you. For example, I personally like the PS3's menus and navigation much more than the 360's.
posted by svolix at 4:04 PM on July 10, 2008

Thought of a couple more things:
- You'll be able to play your PS2 games on the PS3.
- You can save a LOT of money on a game-trading site like Goozex. I went through my DS and PS2 collection and traded in all of the games I didn't want to play anymore, and used the points to buy most of the PS3 games I have now. The community is really friendly and I've had nothing but good experiences with the other traders.
posted by svolix at 4:08 PM on July 10, 2008

for simply fun/casual gaming, I would say the Wii is where it's at.

BoomBlox, Mario Cart, or SSBB are all game that can be (and do get) brought out at just about every party we host, and everybody has a ton of fun regardless of previous gaming experience.

Although If you're looking for something a bit more technical that you could learn together, but is still fun while button-mashing, DOA4 on the 360 is one of my favorite competitive console games.
posted by meowN at 4:28 PM on July 10, 2008

In addition to the 360's price drop coming on Sunday (all but confirmed), I'd expect a PS3 price drop either immediately in response or (more likely, in my mind) in October/early November for the holiday season. It may also be redesigned and slimmer by then. I know you had mentioned that your anniversary is in "a few months", so that may or may not be long enough to try to wait.

Either way, I doubt either the 360 or the PS3 will be sold out by then. No guarantees about the Wii's availability (two years later, my goodness), especially if you're in the US. So that might influence your decision to buy as soon as you can if you decide to get the Wii - I highly doubt that it would drop below the current $249 price point.
posted by sachinag at 4:35 PM on July 10, 2008

I had never owned a gaming system or had any interest at all in gaming period until I saw a friend's Wii this winter. I bought one immediately and have used it almost every day since. It is really a gaming system made for casual gamers (and, let's be honest, girls) and I am pretty confident that it would be of the most interest for your girlfriend.

From a financial perspective, the Wii was about $350 (Canadian). I bought an extra Wii mote and Wii Play for $50 and picked up two games secondhand for $20 each. That is absolutely everything I need to enjoy the Wii (although we did recently get Wii Fit at my husband's urging, it's certainly not a critical piece of gaming equipment in my opinion).

If you're in the US you can use Wii Tracker to alert you to good deals and price drops.
posted by kate blank at 5:02 PM on July 10, 2008

Another vote for you getting a Wii. I doubt the price will drop any time soon, though.

Consider buying Wii Fit--I'm pretty sure there are some games in development that use the balance board, but haven't been following closely.

As I'm sure I've said in an earlier post, the idea that the Wii is an exclusively casual console isn't really valid. For example, I play a lot of games like Civ 4, Paradox strategy games, and other TBSs, and right now Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is punishing me.
posted by Prospero at 5:42 PM on July 10, 2008

From a financial perspective, the Wii was about $350 (Canadian).

I think you got ripped off, friend. The Wii is supposed to retail for about $270, and that's how much I paid when I bought mine last February. (Of course, I did line up in the freezing cold for it. Possibly the worst game-related mistake of my life, now that I own a PS3.)

The 360 Pro/Premium/whatever it's called nowadays will drop in price to $299, so now's a good time to buy a 360. It may also be a good time to buy Rock Band, as lately prices have dropped from $170 to about $140-150 when it's on sale. Amazon's selling the 360 version for $150 right now.

The el cheapo method, though, is to buy the PS2 version of Rock Band, retailing for an amazing $100. A tip: the PS2 instruments are exactly the same as the PS3 instruments, so if you do end up buying a PS3 down the road, all you need to do is buy the Rock Band (or Rock Band 2) game disc, and keep the instruments you already have. This may be a good strategy for stretching a big spend out over a couple of months or more while playing Rock Band now. Note, however, that the PS2 (and Wii) versions of Rock Band will not let you download new songs nor play online. No word on whether Rock Band 2 will allow these things for either platform (though the answer is almost certainly no for the PS2). Guitar Hero: World Tour should allow downloadable songs for the Wii, though I'll believe that when I see it.

As for the usual PS3 vs. 360 showdown, it's pretty much a tossup, and what will sell either system depends on your priorities. If you're going to play a lot of multiplayer and you have lots of friends with 360s, the choice is obviously the 360. Similarly, if you want the cheapest next-gen experience, 360. If there are games you want on either system, look at those too. (Even if you only buy one or two other games for your console, if those games aren't available on the 360 or PS3, then obviously you'd buy the other one.) If you think you might want a Blu-Ray player, the PS3 is one of the best ones on the market, and if you plan to only dabble in multiplayer, PSN is free versus Xbox Live's small monthly fee.

And the Wii? Well, I'm biased so I'd tell you not to get one, but realistically, it's great for Wii Sports. There are plenty of people who buy a Wii and never bother to get another game because they treat it as a Wii Sports arcade machine, which tells you something about the longevity of the game. Boom Blox and Mario Kart Wii are supposed to be very good for living-room multiplayer as well. For my money, though, Rock Band beats all of them hands down.

(extra note about PS2 compatibility on the PS3: you only get it if you buy the 80GB version, not the 40GB version. Obviously the 80GB version costs more, though you'll get Metal Gear Solid 4 thrown in. This may, of course, change after E3, but don't count on it.)
posted by chrominance at 9:43 PM on July 10, 2008

I didn't get ripped off, friend. You're forgetting about (or ignoring) the 15% tax charged on goods in Canada. The Wii + Metroid 3 Bundle was $299 (i.e not a ripoff) and after $40 in taxes it came to $338. In my world that is "about $350."
posted by kate blank at 5:57 AM on July 11, 2008

My tastes in games seem to match your girlfriend's almost exactly, based on the titles you mentioned. Thanks to my boyfriend's interest in gaming, I've had a chance to play around with the 360 and the Wii. Actually, I borrowed both consoles and all of his games for the past six weeks while he was in Europe, and it turns out that I'm just really intimidated by almost all of the games for the 360 except Rock Band. The 360 price drop and Rock Band 2 coming out might be enough to make it worthwhile though.

As others have mentioned, there aren't a ton of good games for the Wii. I think your girlfriend would like (meaning, I like) Zach & Wiki, Boom Blox, MarioKart, Super Mario Galaxies, and some others, so that's probably enough to make it worthwhile right there. However! Have you thought about the DS? You could get a DS for yourself and for her if you guys don't have them, and most of the DS games have multiplayer modes that only require one game cartridge. The DS has way more great games available for casual gamers than the Wii or the 360, and you guys can play in bed or take them on trips with you too. I love to play Tetris on the DS against my boyfriend (mainly because as a gamer, he's great at all the games, but I can still beat him at Tetris), and MarioKart, Elite Beat Agents, PuzzleQuest, and a lot of other games have good multiplayer modes too.
posted by booknerd at 10:03 AM on July 11, 2008

booknerd makes a good point. My girlfriend has definitely gotten a lot more use out of her DS than her Wii. For whatever reason, the DS is the place to be for casual, shiny, fun games, especially 2D games.
posted by svolix at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2008

If your budget is really low, you could get another PS2 (should be pretty cheap), and enjoy your Guitar Hero II again. You can also pick up the Guitar Hero 80s version and Guitar Hero III. (The original Guitar Hero was underwhelming and I wish I had not bought it - the hammer-ons and pull-offs are infuriating since they don't work like the later games.)

If you like singing you don't have to go whole-hog with Rock Band. You could get Singstar. It's got the real songs & videos from the actual artists. My boyfriend and I play Singstar Amped as well as their 80s and 90s versions. You have to buy a bundle with the speial Singstar microphones but it's not that expensive and then you have two of them for doing duets, which are lots of fun. I don't think Rock Band lets you do that. If you are a shy singer like we are, be sure to turn the mic volume down as soon as you start your first song!

I want to get a PS3 eventually but it's just not in my budget for the foreseeable future. The downloadable songs for Guitar Hero and Rock Band would be what really sold it for me. Anyway you can get a lot of enjoyment out of the PS2 if you pick up another one, if that is something you want to consider.
posted by marble at 10:42 PM on July 11, 2008

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