The barrier to play

Video gaming can be a daunting and expensive hobby to reignite. Can be.

It’s hard to know where to begin. Xbox? PlayStation? Nintendo? What’s the difference between an Xbox One S and and Xbox One X? What’s the Nintendo Switch? What does the PlayStation 4 Pro do?

These are all reasonable questions if you’ve been out of the game for a few years. And I won’t get started on PC or mobile gaming – that’s for another day.

Important questions to ask yourself before you get started…

What do my friends play?

It’s important you stay in the same ‘ecosphere‘ as your buds. This means you can play online together, share highlights and achievements, and swap games without issue. Xbox and PlayStation don’t play nice unfortunately…

Do I care about 4K?

If you haven’t invested in a 4K television with HDR*, and don’t intend to anytime soon, then you can save yourself $/£100’s right from the off. If you have a beastly TV then you probably won’t mind splurging on a high end console. Between you and me, it’s totally worth it.

Do I still like Nintendo games?

It’s easy to get nostalgic about Nintendo. But while you’ve aged, Nintendo hasn’t. They are still the family friendly game maker with the most colourful titles in the business. They’re currently firing on all cylinders, producing some of my favourite games of all time – but they’re not for everybody.

Virtual reality…?

Only the PlayStation 4 has a compatible VR headset currently (ignoring PC gaming for now). So if you’re interested in trying it out, keep in mind that only one console manufacturer is doing it – Sony PlayStation.

What’s my budget?

You can get going with the latest games on a tight budget. Most stores have regular sales on hardware, and if that doesn’t cut it, used consoles are a safer bet then you may think. Stay away from eBay though, as stores will provide you with an extended warranty. If budget isn’t an issue, then don’t skimp.

Now for the advice…

Not fussed on 4K gaming or VR and wouldn’t mind saving a few pennies? The Xbox One S is the console for you. Xbox One’s have great cost-effective features, too, like Game Pass – it’s essentially Netflix for Games.

xbox one s

You want the biggest catalogue of games and to be part of the biggest community of gamers, eh? And maybe you have an old affinity with Japanese games from the early days of Nintendo and PlayStation? Well the PlayStation 4 is the clear winner here. You have the option of the Pro version, too, if you’re feeling fancy and have a 4K TV.


Want the most powerful and high spec console on the market, and cost isn’t an issue? The Xbox One X is a no brainer. The performance is only slightly better than the PS4 Pro but it’s also whisper quiet, small, and has a 4K blu-ray player.

Xbox-One x

You like Nintendo, huh? And you don’t mind missing out on 4K and HDR? And you don’t like money? Go for the Nintendo Switch. It’s early days for the Switch but it’s already got a great library of games and is one of the fastest selling consoles of all time, so it’s going to be well supported for years to come. But don’t expect it to come cheap. Hardware, accessories and games all come at a premium. Oh, and you can pick it up and take it on the go like a Game Boy!

nintendo switch

As someone who owns all of the above, I would value one question above all others… where are my friends? I play games solo 90% of the time, but my time playing with friends is just the best.

I’ll leave it there for now, and will come back with further pointers on getting started next time.

Best wishes y’all.


*4K is ultra-HD and will be the norm in a couple of years but Xbox and PlayStation are targeting it now and most big games support it. HDR (high dynamic range) is a feature that makes blacks and whites even blacker and whiter – it’s all about luminosity.

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