Game Consoles:Sometimes, it's hard to believe the console market stays competitive with the computer-based game market at all. You mean people will write software for this box whose hardware hasn't changed since 2001? That's so quaint! Then again, what's not to like about a $150 device that plugs into your TV and just works, year after year, without help from graphics-card updates?
Most of the time, I've been able to limit my game-platform advice to one question: What games do you -- or the recipient of your gift -- play most often? Find out what console the games play on, and buy that.
This year, things are different. One console, the Nintendo GameCube, is clearly obsolete, with a diminishing supply of new titles. The other two -- PlayStation 2 and Xbox -- are far more competitive. After years of steady work by Microsoft to improve the Xbox's capabilities and the support from its developers -- getting Electronic Arts to write games for its Xbox Live online service this year was a huge coup for Redmond -- the Xbox is now the PS2's equal. Sony's console still offers far more titles, including plenty of PS2-only titles (like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), but the Xbox delivers better graphics and has quite a few exclusive games of its own these days, such as Halo 2.
Gaming-Configured PCs: As far as buying a computer primarily to play video games, some might say this is an economically foolish thing to do. The high-end hardware also has a steep price tag, thanks to higher costs and fatter profit margins, with the added risk of having to replace its graphics card a year later. Dell told me in September that while its XPS line of gamer desktops started around $1,800, buyers often custom-configure enough upgrades to push their final bills past $3,000.
However, you won't see better graphics or hear better sound than on a desktop Windows machine. (There are a few gaming-use laptops, but they tend to be even more expensive than the game-oriented desktops.)
-- Rob Pegoraro
2004 Post Coverage of Games and Game Consoles
Game and Software Reviews From The Post, Sorted by Title
Playing With TV: This Year's Hot Toys Take 'Interactive' to a New Level
Dual Screens Give Gamers New Options
Video Game Makers Rush To Cash In On Top Titles
Half-Life 2's Real Battle: Theft, Lawsuits Made Getting It to Market A Daunting Task
Halo 2 Ready to Run Rings Around Video Game Industry
Screen Sizzlers: Video Gaming Industry's Hottest New Titles Aim At Generation XXX
Problems You Can Shake a Joystick At: War Room to Sickroom, Video Games Are Red-Hot
He's Got Games: Bing Gordon Knows What Plays in the Interactive Video World
MTV, Gamers Hope Video Clicks With Young Voters
Addicted Gamers, Losing Their Way
Madden NFL Scores Again
A New Player at The Video Screen: Gaming Industry Discovers Girls
Play Fast And Loose: New Portable Game Systems Are Close at Hand
Virtual War, Among Friends: With Cyber Cafes, Games Are No Longer a Solitary Pursuit
GameSpy Sees Room to Play
Video Cards Are Big Players
Handheld Lets Kids Leap Into Learning
Redesigns Add Variety To Games
Games Go Boom: Electronic Entertainment Exposition Showcases A $10 Billion Industry
Game Firms Think Small: In a Recent First, No Hot New Console Is Part of E3
Welcome (Back?) to South Beach
Spawn of 'Van Helsing'
Same Is Name of the Game: With Sales Flat, Developers Look to Established Titles
Nice Presents, but Some Assembly Required
Hard Drive Is a Welcome PS2 Addition
Schools Proclaim Video Gaming An Art Form