Console systems' lower prices and bundles are in place to ring in the shopping season

Holiday Game Goodies

November 20, 2003|By Victor Godinez | Victor Godinez,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Parents shopping for the best deal on a video game console for Christmas have several options right now.

All three of the major consoles - Nintendo's GameCube, Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox - have dropped in price over the past year.

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are also offering official bundle deals, giving purchasers free games and hardware along with the console.

Here's a rundown on each system so that parents can decide which best suits their household.

GameCube

Right now, the GameCube is the cheapest of the systems, selling for $99.

It's also the system best suited for younger gamers, with such kid-friendly fare as the Mario titles, including the much-anticipated racing game Mario Kart: Double Dash.

(Note to parents: The official GameCube bundle and Double Dash both debuted Monday.)

Older gamers will likely be thrilled with either an Xbox or a PlayStation 2, which each have different selling points.

Xbox

The Xbox's big attraction this holiday season is the Xbox Live online service.

The service allows users to play games online against other real, live people, chat using a special headset and download tunes for Microsoft's new karaoke title, Xbox Music Mixer. But you have to pay to play online with Microsoft.

The system's base price is $179. For new gamers, an Xbox Live starter kit costs $69, including a one-year subscription, the Xbox Communicator headset and an online game, Mech Assault.

The Xbox also comes with an 8-gigabyte hard disk.

Another consideration is that Xbox Live is broadband only.

The Xbox can also double as a DVD movie player, providing you buy the separate DVD playback kit for $29.

PlayStation 2

The PS2, though not quite as technologically sophisticated as the 'Cube or the Xbox, has some great games and is backward-compatible, meaning that all the titles for the original PlayStation work with it. Its base price is $179.

The PS2 can play DVD movies right out of the box, but you'll probably want to buy a separate PS2 DVD remote control if you plan to watch a lot of movies.

The PS2 also has online play for some games.

To play online, you need the Network Adapter, which is included in Sony's current bundle.

Currently, there are no online subscription fees for the PS2.

Next March, Sony is expected to release a $99 40-gigabyte hard drive, which will come in handy for downloading and saving game content.

All three manufacturers have official bundles, but most retailers offer their own specialized bundles with extra games, controllers, cables and online components. So be sure to shop around.

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