Christmas will be here before you know it and it's probably a safe bet to say that not all of us have our holiday shopping done at this point.
With the popularity of video game consoles still on the rise each year in this eighth generation of consoles, it's important to know which one might be best for you or someone on your shopping list. So we took a look at the big three to give you a better idea of what to expect with Nintendo's Wii U, Microsoft's Xbox One, and Sony's PlayStation 4.
Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo is known for its unique approach to console gaming, and the Wii U continues that tradition with a GamePad controller that features a touchscreen. You can use this primary controller as a supplement to the main screen, or as an independant device in itself, much like Nintendo's portable 3DS. The GamePad controller can also be used as a motion sensor bar, something Nintendo revolutionized with the Nintendo Wii. The Japanese company rounds out its selection of unique gameplay options with the Wii Remote, the Wii Nunchuck, the Wii Balance Board, and the classic Wii U Pro Controller.
It's Nintendo's first system to feature high definition graphics, and all games from the previous Nintendo Wii are compatible with this new system.
As for technical specs, the Wii U is not as impressive under the hood as its competition with a 1.24GHz Tri-Core IBM PowerPC processor, 2 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage (in the standard set). It features a 1.3 megapixel camera on the GamePad and weighs only 3.3 lbs.
But the main reason people buy a Nintendo product over the Xbox or PlayStation consoles is the games and game characters. The best-selling Super Smash Bros. features 49 iconic Nintendo characters battling it out arena-style, and the wildly successul Mario Kart series lets you race against all the most popular Nintendo characters.
The Wii U launched on November 18, 2012 and has so far sold over 7.3 million units worldwide. After a price drop in 2013, the Wii U is now listed at $299 in various game bundles.
Microsoft Xbox One
The Xbox One is Microsoft's third console in the Xbox series that places a large emphasis on what they call "entertainment integration." The biggest part of this is the Kinect sensor, which features built-in Skype integration for video conferencing, user recognition and tracking, and the ability to use voice commands and gestures to navigate through the user interface.
The Xbox One's hardware includes a 1.75 GHz AMD eight-core processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 500 GB of internal storage standard. When compared to the Nintendo console, you can really see the difference here as the focus on the Xbox (and PlayStation) is more about graphical muscle and processing power.
In addition to its main operating system, several third-party apps are allowed through Xbox's Live service allowing you to watch Netflix movies, surf the web (through a modified version of Internet Explorer), go on social media, and much more. Xbox Live also features a cloud storage service, and livestreaming built in. But if your internet is down, you can still watch Blu-Ray movies for the first time on an Xbox console.
While the Xbox One doesn't have native support for backwards compatitibility of Xbox 360 games, it is possible to plug a 360 into the rear HDMI port and play the older games that way.
The Xbox One launched on November 22, 2013 and has so far sold almost 10 million units worldwide. It retails for $349 as a special Assassin's Creed bundle, and $449 with the Kinect sensor thrown in.
Sony PlayStation 4
Sony has billed the PlayStation 4 as "the world's most powerful console" and for good reason. Moving in a direction more towards social gameplay than previous consoles, the PS4 has a heavy focus on livestreaming to share and show off gameplay with friends, especially through the console's Remote Play feature.
The PS4 features a similar eight-core Jaguar CPU to the Xbox One, but it has been customized to allow a secondary processor for background tasks. It also boasts 8 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive, but that's upgradeable, thanks to SSD support.
The PS4's DualShock 4 controller is an impressive piece of hardware in itself, featuring a two-point clickable touchpad on the front, a motion detector, Bluetooth connectivity, a light bar, and official support for Windows. A new "Share" button allows users to cycle through the last 15 minutes of gameplay to select a screenshot or video clip to share with friends via most major social networking sites.
The PS4 also has no native support for backwards compatibility, but the PlayStation Now cloud service will allow streaming games from many other PlayStation devices.
The PS4 launched on November 15, 2013 and has sold close to 14 million units wordwide. The console's retail price is $399 with several bundle deals available, especially for the holidays).
While the PS4 and Xbox One are very similar consoles, the preference here lies mostly with the online services and familiarity with the controllers. You won't go wrong with either one, though, if you're looking for a powerful console to play the latest graphical-intense games. Just do your research on exclusive titles for each console to see if the game you want to play most is available for your console of choice.
And as far as the Wii U, it really is in a land of its own, but it's a happy, shiny, and colorful land. The Nintendo line of family-friendly games and characters are what make the Wii U what it is, and many of the product's best games are only available on the Wii or Wii U.