Gaming Consoles Gear up for the Holidays

The Holidays are just around the corner, and gaming console makers hope to make 2009 a record-setting year. The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii have all dropped their prices in recent weeks. There are also new motion-control innovations in the pipeline from Sony and Microsoft, and Nintendo hopes its Wii will hang on with the revival of its most popular video game hero.

Sony PlayStation 3

The first move came from Sony with an August launch of a trimmer PlayStation 3 -- called PS3 Slim -- with a bigger hard drive (120 GB) and a cheaper price. Sony pegged the PS3 Slim's price at $300 -- a $100 price drop compared to the PS3's non-Slim 80GB model.   Sony is also phasing out the 80GB and 160GB versions of the PS3, and cut those devices to $300 and $400 respectively.

Adding future value, Sony is planning on introducing a motion controller to the PS3 by next spring. The new device will let you control 3D objects on your screen like baseball bats, swords, and tennis rackets, but the controller is supposed to be more advanced than controllers for the Nintendo Wii. Rumors of a PS2 emulator for the PlayStation 3 have also been revived.

Around the same time as the motion controller release, Final Fantasy XIII -- exclusive to the PS3 -- will launch in the United States. A firm release date isn't set yet, but the game is being released in Japan on December 17, and it should land on American shores a few months after that.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Not to be outdone by Sony, Microsoft tuned up the Xbox 360 lineup a few weeks ago by seeing the PS3's price cut and raising the stakes in motion controllers. Microsoft discontinued the Xbox P360 Pro model and cut the price by $50 to $250. The Xbox 360 Elite was dropped by $100 to $300 (until October 5 you can get the Elite for $250), and the Xbox 360 Arcade stays the same at $200.

On Thursday, Microsoft revealed a laundry list of video game makers that are actively developing games for the Xbox 360's upcoming Project Natal -- a motion control system that is manipulated by your body instead of a peripheral controller. Gamemakers gearing up for Natal include Activision Blizzard, Bethesda Softworks, CAPCOM, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Konami, MTV Games, Namco Bandai, Sega, Square Enix, THQ Inc., and Ubisoft.

If that isn't enough to entice you to pick up an Xbox 360 this year, maybe the latest installment of the Xbox's most popular video game franchise will help. On Tuesday, Bungie released Halo 3:ODST , a prequel to the Xbox 360's Halo 3. ODST is coming out a little early to be considered a Holiday release, but it will likely boost the 360's popularity.

Nintendo Wii

Finally, we come to the console that started the motion controller craze: the Wii. On Thursday, Nintendo dropped the Wii's price to $200 -- a $50 discount. The new pricing brings the Wii into direct competition with the Xbox 360 Arcade, and makes Nintendo's console $100 cheaper than the new PS3. On November 15, Nintendo will drag its classic gaming hero back into the spotlight with the release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, an updated version of the Nintendo Entertainment System's classic game.

Nintendo also released an updated motion controller called the Wii Motion Plus earlier this year. The new controller is supposed to be more accurate than the original Wii Remote, but PC World's Matt Peckham says the Plus is not backward compatible with the Wii's older motion control games.

So the stage is set, and all three consoles are tuned up and ready for the looming Holiday season. With cheaper prices, popular games on the horizon, and a motion control war just months away, which console are you hoping to pick up this year?

This story, "Gaming Consoles Gear up for the Holidays" was originally published by PCWorld.

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