There are three main contenders you should be looking at Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.
Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 offers wireless as an option out of the box, if you want to make the Microsoft Xbox 360 wireless you have to buy an extra component. If you don’t want to use wireless or don’t have wireless at home then Ethernet is the way to go. You set the console up pretty much like any network device, you can use DHCP or manually enter IP, DNS etc…
The Sony PlayStation 3 all has the ability to act as a media server, if you not going to use this facility remember to switch it off as it will hog your network bandwidth at home. I didn’t realise this and had my Sony PlayStation 3 connected wirelessly and couldn’t understand why no one else in the household could use wireless while my Sony PlayStation 3 was switched on. After switching off the Network Media Server all was fine.
Broadband is a must for online gaming but it doesn’t have to be the fastest broadband, a basic package is fine. Online gaming is all about the upload speed not really the download. Most UK broadband supplies only offer a 256k upload speed, so if you can find one that beats that it will be better for online gaming.
Nearly all new games offer some kind of online play, some games are purchased just to be played online. Checking the back of the game box should tell you what that game offers. If a game comes out on all 3 systems then it’s nearly identical and sometimes is 100% identical. Each system will have exclusive titles, this means that game will only be on that system.
The most played game online (to date) is Halo 3 on the Microsoft Xbox 360, although it’s a good few years old it is still played a lot. Most games offer ad-dons via downloadable content, this gives the game a whole new lease of life. Things to download could be new levels or new characters. These add-ons are usually charged for.
The Microsoft Xbox 360 has what it called royal GamerScore, this is your overall score for playing games in the system. You get different awards and points for completing certain levels in a game. Although the score means nothing and it’s just to show your friends how good you are, it is very addictive trying to get the highest GamerScore. The Sony PlayStation 3 has Trophies instead of GamerScore and they work in exactly the same way.
You can buy certain titles while online and also download demos of games for FREE. You can also download videos, music videos and movie trailers. On the Microsoft Xbox 360 you can also rent movies online.
The Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 both offer HDMI output for connecting to a HDTV. In the box with the Microsoft Xbox 360 you get a component cable and in the box with the Sony PlayStation 3 you get a standard scart cable. So remember to buy a HDMI cable if you want to go that route. All games that are written for Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 have to be HD compatible to at least 720p in resolution. The Nintendo Wii does not offer any kind of HDMI connection but you can get a resolution of 480p out of it if you buy the correct cable.
Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3 are FREE to play online and the Microsoft Xbox 360 you have to pay for. You can get a monthly, 3 monthly or 12 month subscription. In the UK the official price off Microsoft for a 12 month subscription costs 39.99 but shop around as there are some good discounts to be had.
Although you have to pay to play on the Microsoft network, you do get what you pay for and out of all 3 consoles the Microsoft Xbox 360 is miles better than the other 2 for online games. The interface is better, the way you communicate with friends is better and it just feels more solid and rounded than the other 2 offerings.