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Shopping for a Gamer
There is a lot to know about video games and the video game industry. Purchasing games, consoles and accessories for your friends and family can be daunting for first-time video game shoppers. Here are a few hints and tips to make holiday shopping faster and more effective.
Tip #1: Terminology
Holiday requests will come to you in two forms: verbally or as a list. You think you know what they want until you hit the store and find out there are many products of similar name.
Do not confuse the term “xbox” as a generic Microsoft gaming console. There are two xbox systems: Xbox and Xbox 360. If your loved one asks for a “360” it will be the Xbox 360. If they request an Xbox console in 2006, they’re probably looking for the Xbox 360 because it’s the new console. If you are unsure, ask. Getting the wrong games or the wrong system will lead to many incompatibilities and, likely, a return trip to the store.
The brands that will lead to confusion are:
Each brand has at least two variants:
- Xbox, Xbox 360
- PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3
- Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Wii
Sony and Nintendo have hand-held variants:
- Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite
- Sony PSP
Most confusion will arise when talking about last-generation and the current generation systems. Gamers looking for “the older system” will be talking about the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and/or Nintendo GameCube. Gamers asking for “the new system” will be looking for the Sony PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.
Many stores reference the newest console systems as “next-generation” which equates to “the new one.” Know which generation you’re looking for before buying games or systems. In a moment of desperation, simply remember the most expensive console will almost always be the newest console of the same brand. For example, the Xbox will be cheaper than the Xbox 360 (both Microsoft products) by a large degree. Many stores may push older products on you because it’s a better “deal.” Your gift may not hold the same surprise and enthusiasm if you purchase last generation’s model.
Hand-Held gaming is more clear-cut for brand selection. Sony will offer the PSP product line and it won’t be too confused with the Nintendo DS product line. The confusion will arise when you get to the store to find out that Nintendo is sporting two separate DS types: A standard DS and a DS “Lite.” The DS Lite is the newest product by Nintendo and will be the best product for the price. It is a smaller product with a longer battery life and a brighter screen, everything else is about the same between the two. You may also choose a few colors (White, Black and Pink for the DS Lite). Use your best judgment when picking colors.
Tip #2: Availability
The chances are your looking to buy the next-generation video game system. Do not become frustrated with “sold out” signs – this is typical for the holiday season in a year when new technology arrives for the holidays.
Sony PlayStation 3 has arrived in very limited quantities while the Nintendo Wii has shipped many more quantities. Both systems are extremely new and all the gamers want them. Regardless of quantities, the chances are you will find many stores sold out this year. Be prepared to find an alternative or a creative way of saying sorry.
Online shopping may be the easiest solution to limited quantities. You can find the Nintendo Wii online quicker than hitting every store in the city. The Sony PlayStation 3 may not be found at all but there is a great chance the person requesting the product knows of its limited launch figures.
Tip #3: Choosing The Best System
Some gamers want “a new console” but are not so fussy about which console it should be. If you’re gaming friend is between five and fifteen they may fall in love with the Nintendo Wii because the games are more “child friendly” and the system caters to casual gamers and first time video gamers.
If you are buying for a teenager or gamer over twenty years of age you may find they desire an Xbox 360 or the PlayStation product line. These consoles offer a large variety of games with varying maturity levels. A large number of popular Xbox 360 titles are targeted towards “mature audiences” in a genre known as a first-person-shooter (FPS) which involves the gamer killing lots of “enemies” with weapons.
Your gamer enthusiast may be requesting a Sony PlayStation 3 because they’re already proud owners of a Sony PlayStation 2. If you’re having difficulty finding the new console system you may want to abort that mission and pickup some great PlayStation 2 games to satisfy their demands. The PlayStation 2 product line has the largest selection of games on the market which means you will have a broad range of products for great gift ideas.
Tip #4: Figuring Out What They’ve Got
Before you can shop for a new game, you must know what the gamer already has in their possession. This can be difficult to obtain but the fastest, most effective method, is to ask them to write down the games they already own. You can ask them what they want, but what do you buy them if it’s sold out?
You may decide to go the black ops route and sneak into their archives using a digital camera (or notepad) and write down their current titles. This may work as well but requires a little more digital sleuth abilities and their list of game titles may be extensive.
Last resort? Ask them what “type” of games they like to play. Their answer may fit the following genres:
- FPS or “Shooters”: Games where the player runs around with various weapons and pulls off missions in world war scenarios or space alien battles.
- Simulations: Games that simulate real world scenarios or activities and are typically not too violent (unless it’s a war simulation of course).
- Family: Games you can play with the entire family, may include puzzle games.
- Racing: Competitive racing car games.
- Sports: College Football, College Basketball, Pro Football, Pro Basketball, Hockey, Golf, etc.
- Role Playing: Action/Adventure gaming which typically take place in a medieval setting with swords and dragons and such.
- Action: Fast past almost “arcade” style games. Nothing too involved or serious but contains hours of game play. Some games may be violent (i.e. Saints Row on the Xbox 360) while others are silly and fun (i.e. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy on all consoles).
A big gamer may be in love with many genres of gaming but will often select one or two when they have to give gift ideas. They know the broader the selection the more confusing it can be.
Tip #5: Games Are Not Compatible Across Brands
Do not assume that a Nintendo game will work with an Xbox video game console. This is never the case because each brand is competing for your sale. There are some cases where the same brand will work from generation to generation but there are exceptions.
Many Microsoft Xbox games will work on the Microsoft Xbox 360, but not all of them. Microsoft publishes and maintains their current compatibility list at: http://www.xbox.com
PlayStation 2 games will work with the Sony PlayStation 3 so compatibility should not be a problem if you manage to get your hands on a Sony PlayStation 3 in 2006. Some games are reported to have issues but Sony is working to resolve them. Any gamer that receives a Sony PlayStation 3 will surely not complain if a few of their older games are not working up to par.
Nintendo’s older GameCube games will work on the next-generation Nintendo Wii, including their older game controllers. A gamer with the older version of Nintendo’s video game console will find more value with the Wii because their old games will still work.
Tip #6: The Picture (HDTV/SDTV)
If you are choosing a new video game console this year please consider the quality of your current television set. You do not have to hit the stores in search for a new High Definition TV if this is not in your budget because all console systems will work on a standard definition TV (STDTV).
If you want the best possible picture for this new system, please research your current televisions input possibilities. The Microsoft Xbox 360 comes with component cables that will work with a standard TV and most HDTVs. You may also purchase S-Video AV cables for older style TV’s or VGA HD AV Cables for computer monitors or some HDTVs.
You will find that Sony’s PlayStation 3 also arrives with component cables capable of both HTDV and SDTV. You may opt to purchase an HDMI cable if you plan on watching BluRay movies, have TV HDMI inputs and want to “future proof” your system (where the future is at least a year). An HDMI cable has the added benefit of including both audio and video into one small cable and will reduce clutter along with other technical advantages which would fill an entire article itself.
The Nintendo products all rely on standard television sets so no additional cable accessories will be required.
Tip #7: The Prices
The prices of the game console systems and games vary by brand but will be consistent in most stores and shopping areas. If you plan to buy the new Xbox 360 game Gears of War you’ll find yourself paying USD $59.99 in almost any store you find. If you find a game that is cheaper in one store than another you should ask if it’s on sale or pre-owned.
Some retailers will push “pre-owned” (used) games on you because they bring in a larger profit for the company. These games, typically, are as good as new and most professional game retailers will validate the game works or contains a scratch free surface for CD/DVD game media. Please be aware that some retailers will try to sneak you a pre-owned copy of a game over the new copy if you simply request the title by name.
Older generation consoles, Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, will have cheaper prices on the console system and the games. Many older games may vary in price because retailers have a huge supply and must get rid of them.
Just like old model cars, older games and game consoles will have lower prices and usually be a better deal than a new model. You must understand, if buying the product as a gift, you will want to make sure your gift receiver wants an older generation game or game console. Many avid gamers keep up on console technology aggressively and may be looking for the next greatest product, not the older models.
Tip #8: Purchasing Used Products
Used products, known as “pre-owned” by many retailers (it sounds better), have cheaper prices and are, usually, a better value. Most consoles utilize a CD-ROM/DVD-ROM media type so it is fairly easy to check the quality of the media by looking at the surface. This is not true, however, of console systems.
Purchasing a console as a pre-owned product can be dangerous if the retailer has not done proper and extensive testing. Many retailers will power on the system and put a game in the drive, if it boots then its ready to sell. This does not uncover overheating problems or system freezing that can occur over a long duration of play.
If you are buying a console system as a gift you may want to choose to purchase a product new over pre-owned to avoid passing on the hassle to the receiver of your lovable gift. Used games are much less risk then a used console.
Most retail outlets refuse to sell used PC video games because many games require license keys to play. Buying back a PC video game can lead to licensing issues and complications in the future and it’s usually not a typical practice.
Tip #9: Extended Service Agreements
There are two service agreements you may run into while purchasing a console system: retail extended service agreement and manufacturer extended warranty. A retail outlet may offer an agreement they have supplied and when a product must be returned you bring it back to the store or chain you purchased the agreement with. A manufacturer extended warranty is issued by the company which created the product (i.e. Microsoft). If the product breaks, you ship it back to the manufacturer.
Most people believe service agreements are “free money” to the retail outlet and manufacturer. In many cases this will be true, with a special exception: early adopters. If you want to cover your product for an additional two years or more you may opt to purchase the agreement. If you are buying a product that is new to the market, such as the Sony PlayStation 3 or Nintendo Wii, it may be in your best interest to buy an extended agreement.
Unfortunately, it is common for manufacturers to produce products that have flaws in their initial designs. Many of these flaws do not rear their ugly head until after the 90-day express warranty or manufacturer’s limited 1-year warranty. While newer products have fixed many of the flaws that are found by the early adopters, you might be the early adopter that was hit by the problem and it can become costly.
Tip #10: Understand Return Policies
Returning policies for video game products vary from retailer to retailer. One important thing to keep in mind: opening a video game seal limits your return choices. Most retail outlets will allow you to return a product if it is defective and it may be returned for the same product.
Most return policies do not tolerate the “I don’t like it” reason for returning a product. Some retail outlets which are not 100% focused on gaming may allow you to return products after the seal has been opened but this isn’t typical for a game store. Do not open a product if you are unsure you want to keep it.
Always keep your receipts handy, especially for gifts. Many online stores allow you to return games without a physical receipt because the records of the order are on hand. A walk-in store will require you to have a receipt or gift receipt for exchanges for different products. You may be able to return a product for the same product if you do not have a receipt but it is always advised to keep those receipts for roughly 30 days.
After 15 to 30 days, most company’s in-store return policy will expire. You will be forced to talk with the publisher of the game or manufacturer of the console system to get further assistance.
Remember your implied limited warranty on products if you are living within the United States. Almost every state has a “limited” warranty on products that covers 1-year. This does not, however, cover acts of god or user error resulting in a broken product.
Electronic devices are sensitive and should be handled with care. Always use a surge protector to front-end any sensitive electronic equipment to avoid any “acts of god” from striking your neighborhood and causing electric shocks.
Hopefully these tips will make your holiday shopping a bit less stressful.
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