Is that special someone in your life is a gamer, but you’re not sure what to buy them this holiday season because you’re not a gamer? Let us help you out. This guide is meant to provide you with a glimpse into what’s popular in gaming at the moment so that you can be sure to get the perfect gift for the person you love, as well as explain to you the different aspects of gaming, so that you can understand what it is that you’re purchasing. I know there are a lot of parents out there that just ask their kid what gifts they want, and buy them, but maybe you can surprise them this year by dropping some knowledge on them!
In addition to products, we also wanted to offer some helpful tips in terms of what to do to ensure that your son, daughter, father, mother, friend, or whatever, can open their gifts and immediately jump right in.
Video Game Consoles
There are three main companies producing video game consoles right now, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.
Nintendo’s latest console is the Wii-U, which is a little dated at this point and they will be releasing a new console next year (the Switch), so I would avoid buying a Wii-U if you can help it. Nintendo also recently released the NES Classic, which is a small version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System that contains 30 games. It’s incredibly hard to find right now and will only appeal to those gamers that were around to experience that console in it’s original form in the mid-80’s. And finally there is a Nintendo 3DS XL, which is their premiere handheld console. Unless someone specifically asked for this, I would steer clear. With the Switch coming out next year and being portable, and mobile gaming on phones being what it is, the 3DS might not be the best option for someone that didn’t ask for it.
Sony’s current consoles are the Playstation 4 (PS4) and the Playstation 4 Pro. The pro model is a faster, smaller model that was just recently released. If you’re going to purchase a PS4 I would suggest trying to find the Pro if you can afford it. There is nothing wrong with the Playstation 4, but the speed increase will add a few years to its lifespan. Sony also recently released the Playstation VR, which is their entry into virtual reality. At this point in time we still believe that VR isn’t quite where it needs to be for mainstream consumption. The games are more like tech demos and it’s expensive. You’re better off sticking to just the consoles for now and waiting to see what happens with virtual reality in terms of console gaming.
Microsoft’s current consoles are Xbox One and the Xbox One S. Just like Sony, the “S” model is faster and slimmer, and can do a few more things (like 4K and HDR video) that the original Xbox One can’t. I can say with confidence that there is no reason to buy an original Xbox One, just buy the Xbox One S. There are plenty of bundles out there that you can find for a decent price that will come with one of the latest and greatest games, and possibly more. I, myself, lean heavily towards the Xbox side of gaming only because the friends that I play with all have Xbox’s.
If you’re going in blind and aren’t sure what console to get a family member, try and reach out to their friends, or people you know they might play games with online and find out what console they have. Obviously you can just ask the person you’re buying for, what system they want, but if you want it to be a surprise, do a little bit of research. Nobody wants to be stuck with a console that none of their friends have if their goal is to play online. Unfortunately (even though Microsoft has said they’ll allow it), you cannot play the same game online across different consoles. Xbox users can only play with Xbox users and the same goes for the other consoles.
PC Gaming Hardware
If you are trying to buy hardware for a PC gamer, things are going to be a bit more difficult. There are pre-built gaming PC’s out there, but chances are, if the person you’re buying a gift for is a true PC gamer, then they already have a PC and are just looking to upgrade parts, and without asking them what they need, it’s hard to figure out. The one thing for certain though is that most PC gaming is done on a Windows PC, not an Apple/Mac computer. So if you’re going to buy a pre-built machine specifically for gaming, I would avoid an Apple/Mac.
Games, Games, Games
We will provide links to some of the more popular games out there right now, below, but there are two things you need to know when purchasing a game for a loved one.
What platform will this person be playing the game on?
If they are playing on a console, like the Wii, Playstation or Xbox, which console are they playing on. You need to make sure that you purchase the game for the correct system. If you do happen to buy a physical game for the wrong system, as long as it’s unopened, you can always exchange it for the correct version. Just be aware of the store’s return policies.
If they are playing on the computer (PC), make sure you know if they are playing on a Windows PC or an Apple/Mac. Even though the majority of PC gamers are on a Windows machine, doesn’t mean that people do not play games on the Mac. Also make sure that the computer that they will be playing this game on is powerful enough to run the game. There’s nothing worse than opening a game only to find out that it won’t run on your machine.
Knowing what platform your gift recipient is playing games on is the first step, and it’s especially important to know if you plan to buy the game digitally, which brings me to my next point.
Does this person want the game physically or digitally?
PC gaming has been dabbling in digital distribution for a while now, but consoles are starting to catch up. Buying a game digitally means that there is no physical copy of the game that you can hold in your hands. You would present the person with a download code, which they would then enter into their system and the game would download on to the hard drive within the console. Not everyone is on board with the digital revolution, so if someone didn’t specifically tell you a digital copy, then they most likely would prefer a physical one.
If you plan on purchasing a digital game for the PC, then buying a code from the Steam Platform is a safe bet. If the game is not available through Steam, you can check Origin.
If you plan on purchasing a digital game for the Xbox One or Playstation 4, your best bet is to buy a redeemable code from somewhere like Amazon, Best Buy or GameStop. The majority of the time, when you purchase a digital code from an online retailer, they will email you the code. However, sometimes they will ship a physical card with the code on it (these can also be found at some brick and mortar stores). The codes will be redeemable directly on the console that the game corresponds to.
Take note that digital games do require an internet connection to download, and they can be quite large. So if you have a data cap from your internet provider, you may want to ensure that you don’t exceed that limit. Since the games are so large, they also can take a long time to download depending on your internet speed. It could be over an hour before you get to actually play the game, so keep that in mind. Physical discs will still have to install onto the console, but they normally don’t take as long as digitally downloading a game.
There are a ton of different accessories out there for every gamer, it’s just a matter of figuring out what your gamer needs. There are some accessories we’ve come across over the years that we would dub as “must have” accessories and some that we could probably live without, but are nice to have.
For PC gamers, a nice keyboard and mouse would fall into the “must have” category. A nice headset would be something that would fall into the nice to have area. If you go with a wireless mouse, then a set of rechargeable batteries (with charger) would be something that we would consider “must have” as you can chew through batteries extremely quickly if you play a lot.
For console gamers the number one thing we would recommend is some sort of play and charge kit or rechargeable batteries for the controllers. We chew through batteries like no other when playing Xbox, and it’s always nice to just be able to throw the controller on the charger when it’s not being used. Which brings me to my next item, an extra controller. Even though a lot of people aren’t playing games together in the same room anymore, it’s always nice to have an extra controller in case something happens to your original one. And do not skimp on a knock off brand, be sure to purchase an officially branded controller. In addition to those items, depending on how much online gaming this person plans on doing, a nice headset is always a welcome accessory. There are plenty of decent headsets out there for less than $100 that will do the trick. We are currently using the Polk Audio 4 Shot and have had no issues with them whatsoever.
In addition to the above, if you’re recipient is an Xbox One users, we highly recommend an external hard drive if they plan to take advantage of digital games. The internal hard drive in the Xbox One can fill up very quickly, so having the ability to use an external drive is key. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite Xbox One external hard drives here.
I’ve Made My Purchases, Now What?
So now you’ve bought whatever you’re going to buy for that special someone in your life, and you want to know what you can do ahead of time to ensure that they can start playing as soon as possible.
Setup the Console (if possible)
If you purchased an Xbox One (S) or Playstation 4 (Pro), and your recipient has never owned one of these consoles, you’ll probably want to carefully open the package, hook it up, and set everything up before they open it. I recently purchased an Xbox One S, that came with the digital version of Battlefield 1, and it took hours to setup and install the game so that the recipient could just turn it on and play as soon as they opened it. The actual setup of the console itself wasn’t terribly long, there was an operating system update that took about 30 minutes, but downloading and installing the digital game took hours (and I have a decent internet connection).
So if you have the ability to, and are comfortable doing so, I would open the package, set up the console, download the updates, and redeem any digital games that may have come in the bundle, or that you may have purchased to go along with the console. At the same time, if you bought any physical games, you can open those as well and install them, so that your loved one just has to pop the disc in and they can start playing, they don’t need to wait for the installation.
If you are purchasing a new console for someone who already owns one of that same type, I would probably just leave everything in the package as is. They will probably already have their own account that they will want to log in with and their own setup process, so you’re better off just leaving it alone in this case.
One thing to note in this, is that you will have to set up an account for this person on the console in order to start the setup process. You can always change this information after the fact if you need to.
This is the number one rule of holiday gift buying. If you buy something that uses batteries, you better have batteries on hand when you deliver the gift. There’s nothing worse than opening a gift and wanting to use it and not having the proper batteries on hand.
The consoles themselves don’t need batteries, but things like controllers, headsets, a wireless mouse or keyboard, things like that, will definitely require batteries, so be sure to have some.
Whether you purchased digital game or physical games for PC, Xbox One, or PS4, there will either be a digital download time or an install time, both of which can take a while. If you have access to the console for an extended period of time, without the game recipient being around, most likely the night before Christmas, or whichever holiday you celebrate, you can install the games ahead of time so the person can just pick up and play without having to wait.
This will really only work if you have access to the console/PC without the gift recipient knowing, and it’s the night before you are giving them the game. If you do it too far in advance there’s a good chance the person will notice the new game is installed and question it. So really only do this if the circumstances allow (like in the case of a new console for someone who hasn’t had one before).
I hope this holiday gaming guide gave you some insight into gift buying for that gamer in your life. Obviously if you’re already a gamer, most of this is common knowledge, but to those parents out there that don’t game, but have children that do, or to those spouses out there that don’t game, hopefully this made the gift buying process a little easier for you this holiday season.
Happy holidays everyone!