Decisions Decisions

Unlike most people BaM and I get every console gaming platform close to release, if not at release. We have EVERYTHING! We make a point of it. There's never a title we can't play, a feature we miss out on, or a platform we haven't experienced. It's a great way to go about things, but it's not for everyone.

Most people look at the console gaming situation with an eye to buying one console. This might be because gaming isn't the big life-style element for most people that it is for us, or due to budgetary constraint, or might simply be because those involved just want to keep it simple. This raises the issue of which console to buy.

I think that the discussion of which platform to choose is the most oft-repeated one on any games community bulletin board, and with reason. Reading someone else's thread doesn't necessarily help you, now does it? People responding to those trying to make this decision will possibly tailor their responses to suit the actual buyer, rather than as general responses, and when it's your turn to make a choice you'll want to be putting forward your priorities, preferences, and ideas for discussion amongst your sage companions, without reference to another buyer's requirements.

Through recent platform releases there have been divergent prices, feature-sets, time-frames, and libraries. You'd think this would make things easier, but apparently it doesn't. People want the added BR DVD thing that comes with PS3, they want the pricing of Wii, and they want Xbox Live, which is only available with the 360. Obviously they're not going to get this combination. So what's the drill?

You have to be realistic for a start. You need to realise that you will not get everything you want at the price you want, and you won't necessarily be able to get every game you want for the console you end up buying. This is very much a case of 'tough shit'. Suck it down and start looking at things rationally, or buy them all, like we do.

Those of you this applies to can stop reading now. For the rest of you:

Firstly you must know your budget. If you can afford the PS3 then you've got a full range of options displayed ahead of you, and that is great, but doesn't actually make it easier to choose. It just means you have more options. With budget comes scope. Can you afford any of The Three*, from Wii to PS3, or are you limited to the Wii and the 360? Got it? Good, that's step one nailed.

You also need to be very clear about what is really important and what would be merely 'nice'. Obviously a PS3 with live, all titles, and a Wii price tag would be ideal, but as we established that's not going to happen you have to prioritise.

The first place I'd start, theoretically, if I had to choose one console (never happen, but moving on...), is with the libraries. That is, the title list, both out now and coming soon. Looking at a platform's present and upcoming games is a very good place to start when populating priority columns. For example, if the 360 has twice as many titles you want a piece of, out now or coming soon, than the other consoles then that can be added as a major plus, along with Live if that floats your boat, and the fact that it costs less than the PS3.

After titles I'd look at features and technologies included. For example, wireless network, hard drive storage, connection ports, optical drives, teleporters, etc. These need to get ticks in 'w00t!', 'nice', and 'meh!' columns, according to your desires. Look really hard to whether adding these later (retrofitting) will be another case of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net bending you over and giving you a good spring clean, or a possibly good option down the line too. Sometimes upgrades are possible with minimal ouchies, such as in the case of PS3 hard drives, and at other times the story is very different (Google ' Xbox 360 HD DVD drive' for more on this).

Once you've covered the libraries and features it's down to a subjective evaluation of the relative values of these machines to you, versus the price to be paid. Look at your columns and add them up. This gives you numerical values for each console on a three-way array. Think, discuss with those sharing the purchase, if there are any, and you may find the decision is made that easily. Sorted!

Then again it may not be. If this is the case then you really need to back away and do some more research. It may also be that in six months an exclusive title will be announced that just takes care of the uming and ahing for you. I think Little Big Planet and Halo are those sorts of titles, and this kind of clincher shouldn't be underrated.

If I haven't helped you to choose, and you really need to choose right now (Christmas purchase?) then I'll refer you to any number of games community bulletin boards, Google, and your credit line, because I can't make this decision for you. I'm just here to write about it.

Best of luck.

* Handhelds not withstanding, there are three current-generation consoles available to you as a buyer, in case you didn't know already.

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