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 Best Budget Buys

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Join date : 2007-11-10
Location : Honolulu, Hawaii

PostSubject: Best Budget Buys   Mon Dec 10, 2007 8:13 pm




With triple-A console games now priced as high as $59.99, the holiday
season is sure to see shoppers on limited budgets -- which, let's face
it, is all of us -- struggling to find affordable options for
game-crazy folks. Maybe you've already spent all your holiday cash on
gin. Perhaps you have fourteen nieces and nephews to shop for. Perhaps
you just don't like other people all that much. Whatever the reason,
here's a handful of leads for wallet-friendly presents for the gamer in
your life.



Gift cards


All three next-gen consoles offer online stores where players can
download an impressive selection of complete games 0at low prices.
Buying them as gifts can be tricky for inexperienced purchasers, but
there's an easier way, at least for Xbox 360 and Wii owners. Breeze
into any game store and you'll find gift cards for these services in a
variety of denominations. All the lucky recipient needs to do is enter
the special code from the card into the online store, then pick out
their own game from the comfort of their couch. Microsoft's service
even offers downloadable "movie rentals" for a few bucks a go.


Extra controllers


Fact: you can never have too many controllers. All systems benefit from
another pad or two, especially Nintendo's multiplayer-friendly Wii
console. If the official offerings prove too pricey for you, check out
"third-party" controllers made by companies like Mad Catz. These often
prove less reliable than the genuine article, but that may not matter
too much if they're only pulled out for occasional multiplayer
sessions.



Budget games


Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are in the habit of re-releasing
best-selling games a year or two after their initial debut at budget
prices. Look for the characteristic packaging, and you can often find
past Game of the Year contenders for half the price of the latest and
greatest releases. All the major consoles except the Wii have a budget
range: Sony's is called the "Greatest Hits," Microsoft's goes for class
with the moniker "Platinum Hits," while Nintendo's, which currently
doesn't include Wii or DS games, is known as "Player's Choice."


Subscription to a games rental service


Give the gift that keeps on giving: a subscription to a game rental
service. Gamefly is a popular rental service that sends out games with
pre-paid return mailers, similar to Netflix. They carry just about
every game available on all gaming platforms except the PC, and plans
start at an affordable $15.95/month.

If the object of your game-giving attentions is of the PC persuasion,
our other favorite subscription-based service is Gametap: pay just
$9.95 a month and get access to an absolutely stellar lineup of top
downloadable games, old and new, from Tetris to Hitman. You can even
share accounts with other family members, so you'll be able to spread
the love around a bit.


PlayStation 2


Sony's PlayStation 2, despite being a bit long in the tooth, is still a
superb choice for any gamer. Redesigned to fit into a case about the
size of a hardcover book, it now retails around $130 -- a fraction of
the price of more modern systems, and it has what's probably the best
back-catalog of superb games on the planet.

Doesn't that mean they'll miss out on all the popular new games? Some
of them, sure, but brand-new hits like Madden 08, Guitar Hero III, Rock
Band, Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 and Need for Speed: Pro Street all appear
on the PS2. Thanks to the huge popularity of the machine, the pre-owned
game market is red-hot with oversupply, so a recipient of a PS2 can
count on finding great games at pocket-change prices for the
foreseeable future.


Shop around, and you should be able to find a new system together
with a handful of games for around $200 -- less if you're prepared to
go used. Our review archives are jam-packed with fantastic PS2 games,
but our favorites include Gran Turismo 3, God of War and its sequel,
Okami, Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy X.


Game Boy Advance


Is someone in your life clamoring for a Nintendo DS handheld? If the
$130 price tag of Nintendo's latest portable leaves you cold, hunt
around for its predecessor, the Game Boy Advance, which goes for about
$70-80. The flip-screen design still looks cool, and the price is
right. If and when they graduate to a DS system, their new handheld
will still be able to play their old GBA games. It's especially good
for a pre-schooler: the GBA has a wide library of educational and
kid-friendly licensed games, and if they flush it down the john, you're
not out a huge amount of money.


Tune-up your gaming PC


If you're shopping for a PC gamer in need of a new machine, here's a
cheaper way to do it: shop smartly and you can refit a gaming PC for
less than $500, assuming they already have basic essentials like a
case, a monitor and a hard drive. Go for the latest,
critically-acclaimed Geforce 8800GT video card, an AMD Athlon 64 X2
processor (the 4600+ model should fit that budget) with a compatible
motherboard, and at least 2 GB of memory - more if you want to run
Vista and DirectX 10. For a pittance (comparatively speaking), you'll
end up rockin' a gaming powerhouse that should be hot to trot well into
2009. Plus all those boxes will look mighty impressive under the tree.

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