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Which home console system is right for you?

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Three consoles, three experiences

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals might make headlines, but chances are still you've got all sorts of holiday shopping left on your to-do list. And if you're shopping for a gamer, that means you could very well be in the market for a new game system.

But which to get? Choosing the right console is stressful. Exclusive releases, competing features (all three home consoles can stream Netflix movies now, for instance), varying prices — it's enough to drive a gamer back into the comfy arms of their battered PS2.  That's no fun. Instead, check out this quick rundown of the current crop of systems — one of them is bound to be right for the gamer in your life.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Who's it for?
Fans of online multiplayer gaming, serious gamers

At a glance:

  • Good balance between core video games and lighter casual fare
  • Offers the best online gaming network in Xbox Live
  • Supports downloadable games, movies and TV shows
  • The only place you'll find Kinect
  • Can play CDs and DVDs, but not Blu-Ray

The Xbox 360 might lack the Blu-Ray capabilities of the PS3, but when it comes to a broad software catalog, it's the champ. The system's Xbox Live Arcade service is home to a smorgasbord of downloadable games, from critically-acclaimed hits like Bastion to classics like Joust and Uno. It's also the home of Kinect, and while the hands-free motion system has struggled a bit due to a lack of must-have games, it's proven to be a big hit with the under-10 crowd thanks to kid-friendly exclusive Kinect titles like Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster.

But really the biggest reason to grab a 360 is to play games online, as the system's Xbox Live network offers the best experience for console gamers. You'll need to fork over an extra $50 annually for an Xbox Live Gold account in order to play most games online, however.

Top exclusives of 2011: Gears of War 3, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Forza Motorsport 4

Search Amazon for Xbox 360 Holiday Bundles

Sony PlayStation 3

Who's it for?
Serious gamers, hi-def cinephiles, 3D buffs

At a glance:

  • Technically superior to Wii or 360
  • Wireless controllers recharge using USB cable instead of batteries
  • Supports downloadable games, movies and TV shows
  • Plays CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray disc formats
  • Newer models do not offer backward compatibility with older Playstation games

Despite a rocky start, Sony's powerful machine has found its stride and competes well with the Xbox 360. It not only delivers potent video game experiences, but it's also the only console equipped with technology to play hi-definition Blu-Ray discs right out of the box. While its online network still lags behind Microsoft's, you'll find all sorts of great games, movies and shows to download.  Playstation Move, Sony's answer to the Wii motion controls, hasn't exactly caught fire, but it provides a nice gateway to some solid kids and party games.  And if you're diving into the home 3D market, you'll want a PS3 in the house, as many games for the system are built specifically to take advantage of 3D tech.

Top exclusives of 2011: Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, infamous 2, The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection

Search Amazon for PS3 Holiday Bundles

Nintendo Wii

Who's it for?
Casual gamers, families, the three people who don't already own one

At a glance:

  • Cheapest of the current consoles
  • Built-in motion sensing control
  • Emphasizes family-friendly software
  • Offers classic older games through Virtual Console service
  • Home to franchises like Mario and Zelda
  • Does not play DVDs and does not support HD

It's been a tough 2011 for Nintendo, due in part to the fact that they just didn't release many exciting new games for the Wii. But the best-selling console of its time still offers some cool experiences you won't find anywhere else, such as the Game of the Year contender The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and an army of other family-friendly titles. While the system doesn't match the Xbox 360 and PS3's ability to play movies, gamers can purchase and download games and applications via the system's Virtual Console and Wiiware services.

One big caveat: it's about to become outdated, as Nintendo plans to release the Wii U — the direct successor to the Wii — sometime next year.

Top exclusives of 2011: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Kirby's Return to Dreamland

Search Amazon for Wii Holiday Bundles

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