Back To School Guide: Video Game Hardware

By Paul Hunter

We all know that Back-to-School time can be a daunting and stressful time, especially when deciding what technology and gadgets to get that school-aged someone in your life. We've covered a lot of popular Back-to-School topics here already on the Tech Blog, ranging from picking the right smartphone to what specs you'd want in a laptop, but of course we can't forget what's going to be on every teenager and young kid's mind -- new video game hardware.

The fall season is going to bring a flood of hardware devices to choose from, and to help you navigate what's hot I've gone through the process of compiling what I feel is the best of the best:

PlayStation Vita
At this year's E3 Expo Sony announced that the true successor to their PlayStation Portable, the new PS Vita (which means "Life" in Latin) will be available "in the global market" this coming holiday season. While no release date has been given yet, there has been rumours speculating it could be out as early as this October. No matter the date, the PS Vita is sure to be many gamers wishlist with its gorgeous 5-inch multitouch OLED screen, dual analog joysticks, front and rear cameras, sixaxis motion sensing, and both front and rear touchpads. Two models are going to be available at launch, $249.99 for a wi-fi only model; $299.99 for 3G (prices in US dollars). Of course video game hardware is only as good as the software that powers it, and to that extent, there's a lot to look forward to. Already announced are sequels to Uncharted, Killzone, Wipeout, Resistance, LittleBigPlanet, Silent Hill, ModNation Racers, among others. Definitely plenty of reasons why this is going to be a must-have device when it finally comes out.

Nintendo 3DS
Sure Nintendo's had a rough start getting consumers to pick up their new glasses-free portable device, but it's certainly not for lack of capabilities or great games. Perhaps it was its $249.99 price tag, and to that end, the company recently announced that on August 12th they're dropping the price all the way down to $169.99. I've had a Nintendo 3DS since day one have reviewed several great games here on the Tech Blog such as Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Pilotwings Resort, and LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean 3D. Then there's of course The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which is my favourite game yet on the Nintendo 3DS (review coming shortly), and there are plenty of hot titles on the horizon such as a new Kid Icarus, Mario Kart, Super Mario, and StarFox.

Kinect for Xbox 360
It's been a pretty slow year for Kinect following it's high intensity launch last November, but just because software has been trickling in doesn't mean Microsoft isn't readying a whole slew of compatible games comes this fall. The controller-less motion device which uses your body to navigate menus and play games has been touted as the "fastest selling consumer electronic device ever" having pushed over 10 million units in less than five months, now that's impressive. At this year's E3 Expo Microsoft announced a barrage of Kinect compatible games in production, including voice control in Mass Effect 3, using voice commands for your pets in Sims 3: Pets, a hand gesture gun customization feature in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, using your arm as a lightsaber in the upcoming Kinect Star Wars, and casting spells with your body in Fable: The Journey. In addition, Microsoft also announced that they would be adding enhanced voice control to navigate the Xbox menus. To play music say "Xbox Music", games say "Xbox Games", and movies say "Xbox Video", then instantly you'll be taken to where you need to go. Microsoft has also launched Kinect Fun Labs, a new hub on the Xbox dashboard which showcases numerous new apps that utilize the Kinect sensor and are available for download. These apps (called Gadgets) enable you to perform actions such as scanning your body to create realistic avatars or use your hands to spray sparklers. While some of the games mentioned at E3 won't be out next year, there are some great games expected to drop this holiday season including Dance Central 2, Kinect Sports: Season Two, Forza Motorsport 4, Kinect Star Wars, a new Raving Rabbids, The Gunstringer, and The Sims 3.

Stay tuned for more Back-to-School guides including upcoming holiday video games and peripherals!