Released in November of 2005, this was the successor to the original Xbox and cemented Microsoft as a real player in the console gaming scene. AnXbox 360 bundle will typically cost $200-$300 depending on the options, games, number of controllers, etc. The Xbox 360 is known for its FPS (First Person Shooter) offerings, Xbox Live service, and as a quality media streamer in conjunction with a computer running Windows Media Center. A powerful processor, supporting full HD gaming and a large stable of games including the wildly successful Halo franchise make this a popular pick for serious gamers.
Xbox Live is commonly regarded as the best network for cooperative and competitive gameplay.
Microsoft recently released the Kinect, a sort of wireless controller that uses cameras, microphones, infrared light, and distance sensors to offer full body motion capture.
A 4GB, flash storage based console is available now, but should probably be avoided, unless you are planning on strictly using it as a media extender, as this paltry amount of space won't hold much game data.
Playstation 3 (PS3)
The PS3 came out in November, 2006 poised to again be the top console of this generation. The Playstation 2 was far and away the choice for "real gamers" and the PS3 another strong contender. This console, along with the Xbox 360, is the other choice for hardcore FPS, racing and adventure games. The cell processor used is widely touted as the fastest processor in current gaming consoles and easily pushes full HD content at high framerates for the thousands of titles available. The Playstation network provides lots of added content and chances for competition over the internet.
While the PS3 may be an incredible gaming console, it is also a strong multimedia platform. It is one of the most upgradable and fastest loading Bluray players on the market to date with even the first released units capable of Bluray 3D playback (with a compatible TV). Netflix support is top-notch. With bundles starting at $300, it's not a bad price if you look at it as a gaming platform and bluray player in one unit.
Sony recently announced the Playstation Move line of accessories to compete with Microsoft and Nintendo in the motion control area, but reviews point to most uses being forced and awkward. I don't see this being a big seller for PS3 fans.
Nintendo's Wii gaming system has been a huge seller from day 1, evidenced by the fact that it was remained short supply for almost 2 years after release. Starting at $200 for a bundle including 1 motion controller and Wii Sports Resort, it is a bit cheaper than its competitors, and offers more family friendly titles than either of the other units. The Wii doesn't have the pixel power of either of the other two platforms and tops out at a measly 480p for resolution, so players interested in bleeding edge graphics and photo-realism will be sorely disappointed.
This platform is geared to the casual gamer and people who previously weren't included in the gaming demographic. It has found popularity not only in young family homes, but senior rest homes and everywhere in-between, due to its low cost and ease of use. Since launch day, the Wii's biggest selling point has been motion control, which the PS3 and Xbox have been recently trying to duplicate. Many people never buy another game apart from the included Sports Resort which includes tennis, bowling, Frisbee golf and many other mini games.
Media support is slim - the low resolution makes its Netflix support less than exciting on a screen larger than 30 inches.
All three of these consoles have their place in the market. Families with young children might be a good fit for the Wii, while seasoned gamers and 13-30 year olds will probably prefer an Xbox 360 or PS3. Bluray is another consideration if you want to limit the number of boxes in your living room and only the PS3 has it, but if you've got a Windows Media setup, the Xbox 360 is the way to go.