2022 Gift Guide: Video Game Hardware and Accessories
Several years deep into the latest console releases, you’d think it would be easier to discuss the many options available at the hands of video game shoppers over the holidays. Heck, maybe there’s even a new inexpensive bundle box or two that’ll have items includes alongside the console, making for an attractive box and perhaps a free game or two to spark excitement. Alas, it’s the year 2022, where we’re stuck in the tidal shifts between supply-chain production issues and rising costs due to inflation (disproportionate as they might be). Instead, we’re left with a different sort of exciting aspect of shopping for video game systems over the holidays, one folks haven’t been able to enjoy for several years: if they shop early, they should be able to get a system this year without all the hoops.
Will this actually be the case this year? Who knows, but more and more retailers have been able to put stock of the ever-elusive PS5 on shelves over the past few months, and more online retailers have made pockets of stock available in one way or another. If you’d like a few hints on how to keep tabs on stock of the various systems through trackers, please check out Ben’s Bargains 2021 Video Game Hardware Guide about halfway down. Beyond, give this year’s guide a look and see what’s new in the landscape of consoles and accessories for the players in your life.
For Fans of Kratos, Comfy Controllers and 4K Horizons, Gift This.
PlayStation 5 Console – God of War: Rganarok Bundle
Pros: 4K Gaming, PS4 Compatibility, HDR Disc Playback, GAMES | MSRP: $559
But wait! Look! Is that a bundle I see before me? As someone who’s been covering the most unique, all-inclusive ways to give video game hardware as awesome gifts over the years, it’s admittedly been quite a bummer to see the snazzy All-In-One Bundle dry up and become such a scarce item. This year, however, despite the rampant demand and chip supply/production complications, Sony will be offering a brand-new bundle that coincides with the release of the hotly-anticipated God of War: Ragnarok. How easy this will be to find remains a mystery; however, the optimist in me seems to think that if they’re designing specific PS5 retail boxes to draw attention to the bundle and, of course, will be including the digital info in the paperwork included with the system … then they’re going to be reasonable available.
Opinions about the power of the PS5 over the Xbox Series X have largely become moot, as they’re quite similar under the hood and will play most of the games anyone’s wanting to play, so the topic once again gravitates towards other factors: exclusive titles and the strength of supplemental features. PlayStation added several noteworthy games to the PS5-only roster this year, notably the sequels to sprawling action franchises like God of War: Ragnarok and Horizon: Forbidden West, to which their execution of both gameplay and aesthetics result in not-to-be-missed adventures. There’s also the remake of PlayStation darling The Last of Us, and that’ll become relevant at the beginning of next year when people are wanting to replay the game before the HBO series gets started. Couple those things with an outstanding, comfy controller and continuously reliable 4K disc playback, and you’ve got the makings of a console that’s moved ahead of the pack in desirability.
For Fans of High-End HD Tech, Legacy Gaming, and Bethesda, Gift This.
Xbox Series X Console
Pros: 4K Gaming/Media, Multi-Gen Back Compatibility, Not THAT Big | MSRP: $499
Both primary systems have been a pain to buy over the past few years, and that conversation usually lumps the Xbox Series X and the PS5 together as simply “hard-to-find” without much need to emphasize which is more difficult. When it comes to power under the hood, the specs may give the Xbox Series X a slight processing advantage, but if they’re viewed side-by-side it’s about as close as you can get … and outside of exclusive titles and compatibility choices, there aren’t many factors giving the edge to either one. Truth be told, it’s been a quieter year on the Xbox side of things, without much in the way of attention-grabbing exclusives that might push this decision any further in their direction; heavy hitter games like Bethesda’s Starfield and Arkane’s Redfall were pushed to 2023.
Instead, the Xbox Series X continues to rely on the pillars from which it was built: rock-solid operation, stunningly up-to-date graphics, and a dedication to backwards compatibility. While it’s true that the Xbox team halted its efforts this year to add any further backwards compatible titles, this BC dedication resulted in the current generation of Xbox consoles being able to play close to 5,000 games across the platform’s history: 600+ of them being Xbox 360 titles and several dozen being original Xbox classics. It also shouldn’t go without saying that the process of unplugging the previous generation of Xbox peripherals from the One system and reconnecting/resynching them with the new Series console is a generally seamless process, all of which makes the choice of upgrading someone’s console as a gift pretty much a no-brainer. And it’s still a perfectly fine 4K disc player, too!
For Those Who Want Available, Reliable, Family-Friendly Fun, Gift This.
Nintendo Switch OLED Edition
Pros: Improved, Larger OLED Screen, Metal Body, Available | Cons: $50 More | MSRP: $349
Rumors have circulated over the past 2-3 years that Nintendo might be working on a beefed-up version of their Switch console – a higher-end “Switch Plus”, if you will. Given the age of the console’s life cycle, one would expect for this to be coming in the not-so-distant future; the Switch launched in 2017, after all. Instead, what materialized is an OLED screen model of the console everyone’s come to know and love, providing a dose of disappointment to those who expected improved graphics or performance … but also a satisfying new version with improved hardware all-around.
Released last October, the Switch OLED model obviously boasts an improved screen, jumping from a 6-inch LCD to a 7-inch OLED for improved on-the-go play. A further adjustment to this comes in the widened stand for the screen that assists with Tabletop mode, further making this an appealing portable system even in comparison to their Switch Lite models. On top of that, the OLED model doubles up on the internal storage available, giving it 64GB of available space, and encases the system in a metal alloy body. Yes, these are upgrades to a system that’s 5 years into its product cycle – the Gamecube stuck around for 6 years and the Wii U lingered for 5 – and there’s a $50 upcharge, but there are a lot of great things still going for it. For instance, the Switch library has grown into an impressive range of both Nintendo franchises and third-party heavy hitters — Skyrim, The Witcher, Dark Souls and Minecraft are all options – and the upticks in material build quality suggest forward thinking for the Switch’s future.
For Those Who Light Up at Steam Sales And Want Their PC Library Mobile, Gift This.
Pros: Play Steam Game Library on Strong Mobile Device | Cons: Battery Life | MSRP: $399-649
A specific piece of equipment designed to play PC games from a user’s Steam account on-the-go isn’t the easiest sell, because you’ve got to explain why this isn’t essentially a laptop and what it does that, say, a Switch wouldn’t. Once you’ve worked yourself into the conversation and learned that the Steam Deck does exactly what’s being described, focusing on the nuts-‘n-bolts of gaming instead of other PC noise and making it straightforward to play computer games on a ready-to-go device, the question kind of answers itself. The mastermind at Steam/Valve, Gabe Newell, has stated that he’s always wanted this product as a gamer and further wanted it for PC developers, and it’s easy to see why. Broad questions like “When will this game come to consoles?” and “Why is it worth it to build a gaming PC?” could reach an end with a device like the Steam Deck that makes it all … easy.
With a processor named after one of the main characters from Final Fantasy VII, a Linux-based version of the Steam desktop client, and a team of people curating and ensuring that games are “verified” to run on the device, the Steam Deck has a lot of thought poured into its power and accessibility. Consoles have been priced relatively affordably — $399 for 64GB of storage; $520 for 128GB; $649 for 256GB – and the anticipated delivery dates have been trimmed down to just 1-2 weeks. There’s also a peripheral charging and connection dock now available, which makes it easier to plug-and-play the system into conventional TVs and hook up other devices via USB-C ports. If someone has ever seen a PC gamer get all googly-eyed over the prospect of the “Steam Sale” and its heaps of cheap games, and wanted to revel in the good times, the Steam Deck might just be the way they finally take the plunge.
For Those Into Getting Lots of Gaming For Their Buck, Gift This.
Xbox or PlayStation Branded Gift Cards – Pre-Paid Subscriptions
There has been lots of talk over the past few years about when and how the subscription services would ultimately change, moving into their next evolutionary step as the old, simple paradigm of “free downloads + online gaming” reaches its end. Sure enough, that finally happened this year as PlayStation Plus transformed into a 3-tier subscription service: the $9.99/month tier is the “free games + online” as it’s known; the $14.99 tier unlocks a gaming library similar to Xbox’s Game Pass; and the $17.99 tier unlocks an extensive retro gaming backlog. The change isn’t as drastic, but the team at Xbox also did a bit of restructuring by scrapping any further 360 and original Xbox freebies – and backwards compatibility – while keeping the number of free titles each month to 2, doing a heavy number of the perceived value of the Gold-only tier. The two lowest $10 sub tiers are looking … old, and obsolete.
The $15 tiers, on the other hand, have risen more and more in value, and that’s where our gift recommendation comes from this year. Instead of the year-long Gold or bottom-tier PlayStation Plus subscription cards that we’ve generally recommended here, it’s probably best to go ahead and splurge on the more expensive $15 subscription programs for either the Xbox or the PlayStation to better maximize the dollar value. The Xbox has previously made Game Pass Ultimate prepaid subs available in up to 3-month increments; PlayStation hasn’t done the same yet, but they have a clearly labeled “PlayStation Plus” digital gift card / “wallet funds”. Best bet? Find a way of wrapping up a printed Sony or Microsoft gift card for them to apply to their accounts, or just hook them up with an Amazon gift card with a specific purpose in mind (hint: they may not use it for that).
For the Gamer That’ll Appreciate a Touch of Personality and Usefulness, Gift This.
Exquisite Games “Cable Guy” Character Device Holders
Pros: Holds Controllers, Holds Cellphones, Adds Personality to Game Space | MSRP: $20-40
There are 2 aspects to these statues that’ll appeal to gamers. The first should be obvious: these are awesome ways to represent one’s fandom in a functional way. Unlike, say, Funko Pop figures that merely sit there for the sole purpose of proclaiming one’s appreciation for a franchise, these will actually hold your favorite controller and wait patiently until it’s picked up again. The designers of these products – represented here by Exquisite Gaming’s Cable Guy brand – have figured out the right height and character arm distance to comfortably hold most modern controllers, at the perfect level for maximum stability and character recognition. Keeping controllers safe from fluids or Cheeto dust? Let Sonic or Vault Boy hold ‘em above such hazards.
The other fun aspect of these “device holders” for gamers is, perhaps oddly enough, how they also function as mobile phone stands. If the player’s trying to pull off a certain combo of skills in a fighting game (or looking at a map or tutorial), they can have Claptrap hold up their phone with the button connection loaded up on the phone screen while brawling it out on the primary one. Or, maybe there’s a sports event on and they’d like to flip it on while in the middle of a gaming session. Just fork it over to Spyro or Ryu to hold for a while. Yes, it’s a simple concept with other, simpler solutions, but if there’s someone in your life who even mildly appreciates one of the available popular characters – which extend beyond gaming; Wolverine, Spider-man, and they’ll get a charge out of these device holders. Not a literal charge, mind you: a charge cable may be included, but actual cables aren’t looped through the statue itself.
For Those Nostalgic For the Retro Arcade Glow But With Limited Space, Gift This.
Arcade1UP’s CounterCade and PartyCade Models
Pros: Retro Gaming That Occupies Small Spaces | Cons: Tight Control Spaces | MSRP: Varies ($150-300)
By now, even the significant others and family members of starry-eyed gamers have probably seen a photo or video of someone who’s transformed their basement or spare room into an arcade, thanks in large part to the affordable, fit-to-scale cabinets from Arcade 1Up. They’ve made it pretty easy to replicate the lovely neon radiance in any dedicated space, but they’ve also made it possible to just slide one near full-sized arcade machine into a corner for a splash of functional enjoyment, as the Arcade 1UP machines are also significantly above-average quality than one might expect for a pint-sized replication. Thing is, even that might occupy too much for space for some, but why should they be left out of the nostalgia?
Recently, Arcade 1UP introduced something new for that crowd: their PartyCade and CounterCade line. The Countercade is somewhat self-explanatory, compacting the scale of an arcade cabinet into a structure that both fits on a countertop and captures the retro feel of old-school machines. PartyCades are slightly different but essentially go in the other direction, condensing the cabinet into a long, slim profile that can be mounted to the wall (or, with the stabilizer feet attached, also placed on a tabletop surface). Sure, these smaller retro cabinets may be getting a little brave with what they’re doing – after all, the actual games can be bought and saved on most game consoles and any PC for a fraction of the price – but these scaled-down cabinets still capture enough of that vintage magic to be worth it.