The problem is, when you actually turn on the TV, you'll be seeing shiny adverts for games like Mass Effect, Motor Storm and Metroid Prime: Corruption. An Xbox 360, PS3 and a Wii will set you back around £900 altogether once you've added in extra leads and stuff like that. You'll probably be wanting a large HDTV to really get the most out of the first two as well (or at least a decent computer monitor). A good surround-sound system is nice too.
That's a lot of birthdays and pocket money.
After all that, the games still cost £40 each for the latest releases. You can hunt around for bargains and trade-ins but that takes time and, if you have children, that's time you don't have. At the very least, it's time that would be better spent playing games rather than sifting through clearance racks full of rubbish. There's no point having a shiny new console, though, if you've got no games. You want games. You need games... Games... Want games... Games...
Anyway... If you're happy playing whatever's in the bargain bucket, then stick to the PS2/Xbox/GameCube generation of consoles and save yourself some cash. If you hanker after hi-res shininess or can't resist a Wii, then you might as well play the decent (expensive) stuff. However you look at it, though, if you want to buy the latest and best, then you're going to need a well-paid and understanding partner.
Shh... She can hear you thinking.
Alternatively, you could rent rather than buy. If you live right next to Blockbuster then check them out but for most of us the simplest and cheapest way is online rental.
How does it work?
- You pay a monthly subscription based on the number of games you can have on loan at a time (roughly £15 for two games).
- Via the rental company's website, you create a list of games you'd like to rent. You look through the online catalogue, click on the ones you want and put them in order according to how desperate you are to play them. You can choose any game from any console that they stock.
- The company sends the game or games nearest to the top of your list that they have available.
- You play the game(s) and send them back in individual, pre-paid envelopes when you're done. You can keep games as long as you like.
- When the company gets a game back, they send another game from your list.
AdvantagesYou can play the latest games for a relatively small monthly subscription. It's a bargain if you play lots of games. It also allows you to try different styles of games at no risk - if you don't like a game you can send it straight back and get another one.
DisadvantagesUnfortunately, online rental is not for everyone. There are a few things you're going to have to be able to put up with:
- No instruction book. You get sent just the disc in a clam case. To be honest, this can be liberating. Nearly all games have some form of tutorial to get you up to speed and without an instruction book you can just get on with playing. If you get stuck, you can always check out GameFAQs.
- You don't have much control over what you get next. It just depends what everyone else has returned at the same time as you. If you really can't face another first-person shooter for awhile then your only option is to remove all of them from your list. Sometimes you're lucky and get a game you really want on day of release. Sometimes you won't get it for months. You'll get it eventually, though.
- You are at the mercy of the Royal Mail. First-class post is supposed to arrive the next day but that doesn't always happen. If you finish a game early on a Thursday evening, post it on the Friday and it doesn't make it for Saturday, then it's going to be at least Tuesday before you get another game. That's a while. Also, post sometimes goes missing. If you don't have proof of postage (which is realistically too much like hassle to get every time) then the the rental company might hold you liable. They probably won't but it's still stress and you'll have one game less than you should for nearly a fortnight. I'd say I've had about one rental in fifty be eaten by the postie in one direction or the other.
- Loss of retail therapy. There's no point going into games shops once you're renting. You'll need to own a game or two to tide you over if you fall foul of a string of unwise rentals. You might want to have a couple of multi-player titles as well. But that's it. If you want to play a game, add it to your rental queue - don't buy it. Particularly avoid buying games that you can't be bothered to rent. No matter how much of a bargain they are, that's just madness.
- You need to like playing through one game at a time. If you like dipping in and out of a selection of games then renting isn't for you.
- No PC games. There are registration, piracy and installation issues involved with PC games which mean no one rents out discs. There is at least one PC download rental service, though. You pay for access to a library of games. You can download as many as you like, when you like, but they only work as long as your subscription is still valid. This obviously does away with many of the problems of a disc-based systems. You'll need a good broadband connection, however, and the selection of games is limited.
RecommendationsSwapgame.com - PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, GBA, DS, PSP
Swapgame has a wide selection of games. It's the only place to rent GBA games and back-catalogue DS games but they don't have many copies of these games in stock. You can rent one, two or three games at a time. It can take them a while to answer emails and deal with problems.
A solid choice if you want three games at a time or own a Nintendo handheld.
Gamesfrenzy.co.uk - PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, DS, PSP
Again, a wide selection of games. DS games are a recent addition, though, with a limited catalogue. You can rent one or two games at a time. Slightly cheaper than Swapgame if you subscribe quarterly. Customer service is excellent.
The best choice if you don't own a Nintendo handheld.
Lovefilm.com - Xbox 360, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP, Wii, PS3
The main focus of this site is DVD rental but, for a little extra each month, you can rent games as well. They haven't added any new games to stock since October 2006 which makes the additional charge seem a little cheeky. Useless if you mainly want to rent games but worth a look if you mostly want to watch movies (particularly if you've just bought an Xbox 360 and want to try out some of the older games). You can rent one, two or three discs at a time. Customer service is generally good until you try and find out when they're getting more games.
UPDATE 20/2/07: Hurrah! They've finally added an absolute stack of new games including all the latest 360 titles. This makes for a much better gaming prospect. (Still no Canis Canem Edit (Bully), though).
UPDATE 5/07: They're stocking Wii games now! (And Canis Canem Edit). Now very enticing.
A good choice if you're up half the night comforting a baby. Catching up on Battlestar Galactica with the subtitles enabled beats watching baseball on Channel 5.