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The ultimate 2020 parents guide to gaming consoles this holiday season.

 The pre-orders are over, and now you realize you need to find one of the hottest items on everyone’s holiday list.

The only thing worse is making the mistake of buying your family the wrong one that didn’t have the features and compatibility they needed. What do you do? This year has so many options that if you’re not game savvy can be a nightmare, but we’re going to help make this easy. Our advice from the top, if you have one brand of system stay with it. If you can wait a year it’s not a bad idea as this year’s launch titles are underwhelming with not too many new titles. It’s not as easy as back when we were kids, let us help you with our ultimate guide to video game consoles.

art nintendo controller

Usually, you get better deals and bundles the second year of a new console life cycle as well. Let’s be real though, your kid wants it and won’t accept anything less. As parents on a budget and time crunch, we feel the strain but we are going to get them what they want because the holidays are about joy right? If you are going to wait and don’t have a Nintendo Switch these may be a great alternative option. If you want to learn how we came to this conclusion, dig in below, and while lengthy, by the end you will be the educated shopper that makes your children proud. You won’t be the cringy mom or dad like we are often accused of when we aren’t hip with the times. Read our whole article below to be the real hero this year.

Friendly warnings!!

The vultures are out, and we have been made aware of several misleading ads. For this reason, stick to a known trusted retailer. While most are limited or out of stock on preorders, they have said more will be released for the holidays.

The New Systems

The new systems you want to look for are the Xbox Series X or S, or the  Playstation 5 aka PS5. Don’t get tricked by online retailers selling the Xbox One X, that’s the last generation, and your kids might be a little upset, though if you don’t currently have the last make and model yet you can score some great deals now.

Everyone is a gamer now.

Your kids are gamers, it’s more likely to be true now than ever before. Once gamers were outcast or a niche audience but now, gaming is mainstream. This holiday whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or are just festive these systems are likely on the top of the list. Those nice big televisions that have become affordable are now just begging for us to be pumping new high-resolution pixels to them. We ourselves, do some gaming, and maybe even once we would have understood all the hype of the new arrivals in the 2020 holiday season. The holidays this year snuck up on us but it’s ok we needed to answer the same questions you have on your mind. 

pink controller

Who are the major contenders?

This year’s big ring kings are Microsoft, and Sony, but let’s not forget Nintendo is still huge, and a kid and adult favorite with our family. The console war is a little confusing this year, as it seems these systems are ever-changing. This year you can count on two major consoles per company, with some things staying consistent, and others changing. The main things to consider outside of just your budget is where this system is going to be used or hooked up to. These are among the important decisions you are left making as the parent.  On top of all that each system has its own optional but usually recommended paid monthly access, as well as other linked third party services and subscriptions.  Let’s get into pricing and the specs first, then we will move into games and options, so we can decide on the best system for your home.

MICROSOFT  is labeling their next-gen the Xbox Series X, and the Xbox Series S.

Still Image Console Family 2 Back to Back Consoles Controllers

Xbox Series X is the big boy with a hefty price tag, to get this top of the line next-gen system in the US you are looking at. $499.99, for the console, and all the things you need for one person including an HDMI cable. It doesn’t come with a second controller or any game pass. However the Series X does work with the Xbox one accessories, so that’s a bonus if you already have some Xbox One gear. The backward compatibility seems to go to any game Microsoft has deemed available all the way back to the 360, even allowing some remakes and original Xbox games such as Halo. This could change as sometimes Holliday promotions start to include free games or limited-time service subscription freebies.

Still Image Xbox Series S 6 Exploded View

The Series S is the little brother, it’s smaller and more budget-friendly. This comes in at a price point we are more accustomed to at $299.99. While it’s still not cheap, it still delivers at least on paper the best overall bang for your buck from straight hardware to price comparison. However, you will lose a few things such as the Blu-ray player, and some storage. If you were trying to make a gaming computer to rival this, you would easily be spending at least double if not triple to get in the same ballpark.

SONY goes into this season’s console race with the two new Playstations 5’s unsurprisingly also coming in two variants and price points.

all ps5 in row

The first is the Playstation 5 coming in at 499.99, Sony’s flagship console. Then there is the slightly smaller PS5 digital edition that will drop not only the price to $399.99 but also the 4K UHD Blu Ray player. These each come with one controller, and some backward compatibility is available, but it’s limited. You can use your old controller for the backward compatible PS4 games, but you cannot use them for newer PS5 games. The backward compatibility information is currently vague but what we do know is that it will be PS4 compatible but no other generations have been confirmed as of yet.

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NINTENDO Sadly, this year we don’t get a new console.

The switch has had some interaction upgrades since launch. They do still exist and still sell a ton of new systems. They have some of the most unique games on the market, as they have a whole family of exclusive characters. Regrettably, Nintendo also killed off the DS this year and is moving fully to the Switch and Switch Lite. The difference here is the regular switch comes in at $299.99 and is used as a regular gaming system. Its little brother, the Nintendo Lite is the portable option and costs $199.99. This puts Nintendo with really the only portable system that we would consider mainstream. If you’re not gaming on your phone or tablet, then your gaming on this if you are an on the go family. 

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The 2020 holiday released consoles are amazing tech

It is amazing this year’s new consoles really are a good bang for your buck if you compare them to equivalent “gaming computers” which at this point, they really are computers. They just run software that is proprietary and don’t have the same apps. They are streamlined and made to get the most efficiency to accomplish their goals. 

Why do my kids want a new system, and what am I really getting?

While the options are becoming more complicated they are now advancing past many computer systems. Both top of the line systems are claiming 120hz 4K gaming with ray tracing like you have not seen on your tv before. The truth is at this point we don’t have real-world results. We can make some guesses and compare what was said about the systems. Nintendo is the same as previously, so we are going to focus on tech specs for the new systems. The new PS5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X are running on brand new technology with enhanced multi-core processors. They also have new faster SSD storage and next-gen graphics. When it comes down to it they both have small advantages over each other. The Xbox technically has more raw processing power, this helps grind out all those textures and images faster than the PS5, but to such a small degree of 8-10%, this may be overcome with other Sony Playstation advantages. 

Both systems offer SSD performance that rivals modern computers and in most cases surpass them in capabilities. This is because both consoles have focused on fast delivery of data from the storage, it’s all deep level integration. They are taking the fast SSD you already have and juicing its abilities up. While they are both going to take a huge leap past last gen’s slower physical discs, Sony has put even more emphasis on how fast they are going to be able to push data. This is the part that looks to be faster than Microsoft. Otherwise, the systems are fairly comparable. 

The Technical breakdown, that you can understand.

You can see the best breakdown of specs if you’re into that kind of thing at Ign, they have a breakdown that is being updated as new info comes out. Check that out then come back, or wait until the end to go get a spec side by side comparison, We will cover them more down below. 

https://www.ign.com/wikis/playstation-5/PS5_vs._Xbox_Series_X_Comparison_Chart

They both come with similar AMD (advanced micro devices) next-generation architecture with 8 cores making the series run slightly faster. Both have ray tracking, 16gb (10gb for the series s) of ram, and the high end have 4K UHD blu ray players. The series X has 1tb of SSD storage while the PS5 has 825gb, a slight difference, but an acceptable close comparison to not favor the Xbox too much here. The PS5’s only difference is the 4K UHD blu ray player going absent for the digital edition. The Xbox Series S  is a little more complicated, it scales down more on the lower-priced console, you do drop in storage, down to 500 GB, and some of the graphics capabilities. This system is built for 1440p rather than 4K. As a result of the lower resolution and storage, Microsoft has said new games will have an optimization that will make them 30% smaller as they won’t need to download all the higher resolution data. Don’t Forget the lack of disc drive in either of the lower-cost editions. For now, if you want VR support sounds like Playstation is the best bet. Microsoft has been vague about when and if ever they will support VR going forward on this generation of console.

Here is a good video from Linus Tech tips. It’s a little older but speaks a lot about the power of the new systems compared to the price of a gaming pc.

I know that was a lot of information to process. In the end what you want to take away from this is that the fastest is the Xbox Series X but you may see slightly faster load times, and possibly more seamless transitions between areas in the Playstation 5. The Xbox Series falls into its own special bracket here, it’s fast, but it’s not contending with the other three systems if you have a large 4K tv, and want the best. While the Series S converts to 4K it’s just not the same so you may want to purchase one of the other models. If you do have a smaller tv or tv that is not 4K, then the Xbox Series will look just as good to you as its counterpart. This makes this a great bedroom console, second system, or console for a family that doesn’t plan to upgrade to a bigger 4K tv anytime soon. The pricing is also attractive as you really do get the most from the budget-friendly  Series S. If you do have a bigger 4K tv or plan to upgrade to one, we do recommend trying to stretch to the PS5 or Series X. The extra fidelity you would get on screens about 50 inches or bigger would be worth it. 

Storage is important, especially as we have more digital-only systems.

Storage is a tough one because we want the super-fast SSD that we get with this new generation but it can come at a hefty price that we’re not used to seeing from the physically spinning disc drives. The great thing is that your storage in the systems can be expanded but it’s not cheap. We are talking about proprietary special built SSD that you won’t find in a typical computer. These are like super fast expensive versions of the memory cards we had in our systems growing up. We don’t know if they will have more sizes but the one thing we do know is the announced Seagate drive for the Xbox Series will be 1tb for $220, ouch. That’s the price we pay for buttery smooth gameplay, fast load screens, and environment change. 

Some new demos showing off the storage systems on the new Xbox from The Verge, very neat stuff.

What about the games and services? This year is all about the monthly services.

With some shopping around almost all of them have discounts. The trick is if you pay for more months upfront, you can at times get service for as little as $1 month. There are a variety of services but basically, if you want to play online you’re paying for a monthly service. If you want free games or access to advanced features like streaming, you’re going to pay a little more but if utilized is well worth the investment. If you have solo games, then you luck out and probably don’t even need to read the next part, but it is good to know when they come asking for services down the road. 

This is where Microsoft differs from Sony in its ideals moving forward. They are selling a next-gen console, yes, but the service is the future for Microsoft. The idea is if you have a smartphone, tablet, or pc, you can play the same games that way. You don’t even really need the new console if your primary place to play is a PC. You just need the service and you can play just like on the console as long as you have a fast enough connection that is. The streaming services are getting better but still have some obstacles to overcome in regards to latency and lag. It’s no doubt with the release of new streaming platforms all around they will get the tech where it needs to be in no time.   

Normally the full services for Gamepass Ultimate and Xbox Live would be $14.99.

xbox eco system

With this launch, Microsoft is pushing hard with a monthly price to purchase the console and to have the full Xbox experience. This would include their service called all-access,  and console at $34.99 a month for 24 months totaling $839.76  for the Series X and $24.99 a month totaling $599.76 for the Series S. This may seem expensive but it’s saving you $19.99  if you were to buy all the services each month. These services prices may change in the future or have promotions as we have seen in the past. The Gamepass has a lot of great games and the bundle includes EA games as well. If you have the kind of gamers in your family that wants to play a ton of different games or multiple children with different tastes, this is a great pick. It’s cheaper than buying a new game every month or two. If you qualify for the financing this will let you spread those payments out, just don’t forget its 24 months so you’re paying next Christmas too. If you have gamers that stick to one game forever (cough cough *Skyrim) then I wouldn’t bother with the game pass. 

playstation plus image

Sony’s service is called Playstation Plus and has ideals more in line with what we are used to. If you get the new console Playstation PLus offers a variety of games including some older generation games. They offer a service that rivals Microsoft yet lacks many of its features and ideals, such as the streaming service, or anywhere game pass ideas. You get the ability to play online with friends, you get a few free games and essentially you need it if you want to play multiplayer games. Right now it’s 9.99 a month with pricing subject to change. It is a more budget-friendly option but you get what you pay for and doesn’t offer quite as much.  Of course, with Sony, you never know what they may do differently in the future. Right now they are using the classic approach we are used to and are focusing on gamers using the system in front of them. They still have an extensive library of games and many of the most popular exclusives. Whether they will be able to hold the crown without adapting to a new strategy only time will tell. 

gameboy old school scaled

What about Nintendo? If you want a portable it’s really your only way to go unless you’re content with a phone or tablet. If you want to play online, you can do so starting at $3.99 a month for Nintendo Switch Online pricing plans. The nice thing is if you’re a Nintendo family you can get up to 8 Nintendo account holders access for $34.99 for 12 months. This isn’t needed for living room play, and that’s one of the things Nintendo does best is specialize in multiplayer, something that is only found in a few games on the new consoles. This ability for the switch to be a great family bonding system makes it one of our favorites. Nintendo has classically been the most accessible for older and younger generations alike. 

The games are what really matters right?

Still Image Xbox Wireless Controller 1 Multi Angle

This generation will have fewer exclusives for each system then our generation, although we will still see plenty over the course of the console’s lives. A big reason for this change is and will continue to be the streaming services. Many of the games once only available in one spot are now available on any platform you could imagine.  We have Microsoft going all in with streaming as we mentioned above, but we also have Google with Stadia, and Amazon with offerings, as well as several other companies. From our experience, these are neat and are very close to being able to take on major consoles, with the benefit of gaming anywhere as a huge plus. These systems are still a little hard to consider reliable without a really good connection. Then there are the latency and lag issues that are being addressed with clever ideas like Amazon’s new Luna, a system that has yet to be tested but connects the controller directly to the streaming service to eliminate bottlenecks. It’s too early for us to recommend ditching a next-gen system and going with the streaming option. That being said if you normally wait till after the first year the new consoles are released you may see, by next year the streaming service options are much better and something for you to consider. Right now it is more of an awesome convenience that lets you play anywhere with the expectation you might have a few small hiccups, we are ok with that. 

The real exclusives are still there and important to consider when making your next purchase for the family, child or yourself. 

nintendo switch mariocard
Nintendo

They just win exclusives in our opinion,  they may not be all the same games you would play on the new next-gen consoles, but Mario and his friends are still a family favorite from old to new. Games like Animal Crossing have caught on like fire and rival the player base of games that have been growing since release. It’s hard to pass up fun family favorites like Mario Kart, and Smash Brothers. We play a lot of online games, but these are still some of the best gaming experiences I have had with our family, from young to old. We would love to see Nintendo bring the power to the level of the new guys. With the portability and adaptability of the Switch, they have the portable market and the Nintendo following to still be a major contender if you don’t already have a Switch in your life.

Sony

They really have been the kings of exclusives and have their work cut out for them with Microsoft buying up studios all the time. What they do have going for them is some amazing exclusives that have their own following, things you just can’t get anywhere else. If you have a hardcore teenage kid you have probably heard of games like God of War. Good luck finding that anywhere other than on Sony and the Playstation family. The other big name is Spiderman, even when games with Spiderman show up somewhere else, Sony will give extra bits on the Playstation you wouldn’t get anywhere else. Racing games will be on both consoles but hardcore fans of games like Gran Turismo will want the new 7 as it looks amazing with all its ray tracing.   In other situations, you’re only going to be playing a Spiderman game on Playstation, so unless something changes you have several reasons like this to want to stay with Sony. If you have invested in Playstation 4 games, you are going to want to keep playing the sequels and have access to them for backward compatibility. That’s why once you’re a fan you’re a fan for life. So if your child is already loving the Sony only exclusives then you don’t want to disappoint by changing it up, just stick with what you know. They sold more consoles historically then Microsoft so they have fans….lots of fans. Either way, you can’t go wrong. It’s just sad you may lose some things either way, or you can buy all of them. 

racing games play scaled
Microsoft

This is a little harder. Just recently Microsoft made a huge power move in the acquisition of Bethesda, the makers of games like Skyrim, Fallout, Doom, and Wolfenstein, not to mention several others. They have exclusives like Halo Infinite, and Everwild, and a few others. We won’t know how Microsoft plans to handle exclusives or third-party titles in the future, but we aren’t as worried. The exclusives Microsoft has are not so exclusive to just the console anymore. These games can and most if not all will be part of Microsoft game pass and X Cloud. This means you will have the ability to play them on your computer as well, or in many cases streaming onto your phone or laptop. Who knows maybe even your Playstation, or Switch at some point (we can only wish). This means that if you love these games and you have any way to get the streaming service you won’t necessarily need that new console, that is unless you want the best experience you can have. With the new acquisition of streaming services if they decide to hold those games as exclusives this would give the win to Microsoft in our opinion. 

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In conclusion, it’s a hard pick with a budget, multiple consoles, streaming, and monthly services. 

Based on the knowledge that we have provided here is what we recommend. If you’re heavily invested in one or the other brand of system stay with them. You just have too many old games that will still be playable and you don’t want to lose the initial investment you had in all of those games. If you think your old system is stale switch it up.  Both consoles are major players and Sony has outsold Microsoft in the past but will this be the generation that changes that? If you have the budget, and the 4K tv, go for the big guys. The power of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X is in our opinion going to last for a good few years and will serve anyone in your family, especially the older kids. Skip the Blue-ray player on the Playstation if you don’t need it and save the $100. Physical discs are going away and it makes us sad, but really how often do you put in a blu ray, same thing is happening with game systems. If you have a large library of previous console discs or think the 500gb won’t be enough spring for the higher end Series X now. The extra expansion of 1tb will run $220 as of this post.  If you’re on a budget and or you have a smaller TV, and don’t plan to upgrade, go with the Xbox Series S. It’s a good price for a powerhouse of a system. I might even pick one up for my desk since my monitor is only 1440p anyway. Last but definitely not least is a Switch. If you want something portable, travel a lot, or have younger kids, get a switch. It’s fun and anyone can play it. It’s our top recommendation for anyone with younger kids or a nostalgic heart. That being said at the rate Microsoft is going with acquisitions such as the latest Bethesda acquisition, they now have so many of the best game studios, you’re probably going to be playing some Xbox games anyway, time will tell where you will ultimately be able to play them.  

game over sign color

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Microsoft Xbox

https://www.xbox.com/en-US/

Sony Playstation

https://www.playstation.com/en-us/

Nintendo

https://www.nintendo.com/

Amazon Luna

https://www.amazon.com/luna/landing-page

Google Stadia

https://stadia.google.com/