If your family hasn't made the jump to the current console generation yet, there are plenty of incentives to do so this holiday season. Prices on all of the major gaming systems are low and you don't have to look too far to find them.
Showing up late to the game might save you cash, but it comes with a number of disadvantages, too. The peripheral market is so crowded these days that it's hard to figure out what's essential and what's the retail equivalent of setting your wallet on fire. Here are a few add-ons and extras you can safely bypass.
It's a truth as old as video game systems themselves: the best controllers are the ones made by the companies who make the consoles. While there have been a number of decent third-party controllers over the years, they typically don't stack up.
So why would you think there might be some sort of breakthrough this time around? The comfort and stability of a controller can go a long way towards improving a gaming session. That alone is worth the extra $10 at retail. Despite their cheaper prices, skip the gimmicky third-party pads and stick with the official first-party pieces of hardware.
This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but seeing as the market for blow-up video game accessories persists, let's make it clear: Don't buy these pieces of junk!
Sure, the Game Boat (for Kinect Adventures addicts who really like the river sequence) can be used in the water, but would you trust it? And how silly will you feel in an inflatable racing kart while playing Mario Kart? If the answer is anything other than "totally mortified," this list might not be for you.
No one will blame you if you want to add some resistance to the exercises in Wii Fit or EA Sports Active. They might actually be impressed with your dedication -- that is, until they see you've bought a set of specialized gloves that have pockets for the Wiimote and nunchuck.
Is holding a controller that hard? Paying a premium for a sports-game branded product is a good way to turn the admiration into awkward silence - or guffaws.
Xbox Live Vision Web camera
This purchase could actually be an honest mistake by someone who hasn't kept up with the fast-paced evolution of game hardware.
Before Kinect became the must-have video peripheral for the Xbox 360, Microsoft offered a more compact video camera about the size of a standard webcam. It worked fine, but it has been largely abandoned. That hasn't stopped the company from offering it for sale, though, which could lead to some confusion among bargain hunters. Skip it and opt for Kinect.
Wii remote Weapons/Sports/Music packs
It's easy to pretend that the Wii remote is a baseball bat, or a tennis racquet, or a broadsword, or a saxophone. And pretending is just fine.
What's isn't just fine is wasting money on hordes of plastic doodads designed to make you think the remote really is a baseball bat, or a tennis racquet, etc. Often sold in bundles of 15 or 20, these sorts of Wii remote attachments add nothing to the games, are cheaply made and will only wind up cluttering the living room. They might entertain your kids for a few days, but once they grow tired of the game, they'll grow tired of this bucket of junk, too.
Nintendo Licensed 3DS Core Starter Kit
Just because a product is officially licensed isn't a guarantee that it's worth your money.
This "starter kit" for the 3DS seems harmless enough, with a pair of replacement styluses, a cleaning cloth, ear buds, two screen protectors and two game cases capable of holding up to four games each.
But scratch the surface and you'll find you probably don't need any of it. Unlike the somewhat slippery DS stylus holder, the 3DS holds its telescoping stylus snugly. Any soft cloth will safely clean the screen. You likely have a set of headphones lying around already. And the games can easily fit in your pocket. It's not evil or embarrassing, just unnecessary.