The intense buzz surrounding two next-generation video game consoles has led to an avalanche of preorders for the holiday season.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4, unveiled earlier this year, have been so sought after that some retailers, such as Game Trader on North Silverbell Road, have reached their order limits.
"The units that we were guaranteed at launch have already been reserved," said David Yordan, Game Trader's manager.
Gamers are pumped, but the technology and software going into these state-of-the-art consoles are designed to appeal to wider audiences.
People who have never played a video game may find themselves swayed by the home-entertainment and social-networking features offered within these systems.
Both make it easier for users to use their televisions to talk with friends and family via Skype, Facebook and Twitter.
Xbox One takes the next step and lets you chat while watching television and listening to music.
The TV remote becomes nearly obsolete with the Xbox One thanks to a feature that allows users the ability to change cable channels and adjust certain settings using only voice commands.
Both consoles have updated Web browsers.
Here is what you need to know about the next generation of gaming.
Expectations are high that the new models will go fast once they hit the market. The Xbox One will start at $499 and the PlayStation 4 at $399.
Stores that will carry them, and take online preorders, include Walmart, Target, GameStop, Amazon and BestBuy.
Some locations offer deals that may include extra controllers or a game with purchase.
"Back in the days of the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360 they overestimated what they could actually produce at launch, and it led to negative consumer views, because people had a hard time finding systems," Yordan said.
While Sony and Microsoft are getting better about supplying consoles to retailers in time for holiday buying, Yordan said it may be best to lock down a preorder to ensure a system for your household.
Xbox One Kinect 2.0
One of the key aspects of Xbox One is Kinect 2.0, a motion-sensing device that lets users control and interact with the Xbox without having to touch a controller.
Imagine saying, "Watch ESPN," and seeing your favorite sports team pop on the screen.
Command your Xbox to walk you through a level of "Call of Duty: Ghosts" and the information appears.
Xbox One will let users connect cable or satellite to their system for universal control over their TV and Xbox simultaneously. Kinect is similar in some ways to Siri on the iPhone. Just say a command and the Kinect does its thing. Microsoft even gave the Kinect a "Snap" command that will allow users to split the screen so they can Skype a friend while watching TV, playing a video game or listening to music.
Other interesting features include identity recognition and controller recognition. Kinect will remember your face and log you in automatically when you turn your console on. Kinect also keeps track of who is using which controls.
Unlike its predecessor on the Xbox 360, Kinect 2.0 will be included in the Xbox One package when purchased at the store.
PlayStation 4 Eye
Sony announced earlier this year that the PlayStation 4 Eye would be sold separately in stores for $59.
The downside: you'll have to fight for this accessory and, if shipments get behind, it might be awhile before it makes its way into your living room.
In many ways, the PlayStation 4 Eye mirrors the same features of the Kinect 2.0. A press release from Sony indicates that the Eye Cam will use face recognition, body-movement motion control and voice commands. The Eye will be able to sense multiple players by the light bars on the Dualshock 4 controllers.
The new PlayStation Eye also incorporates two highly sensitive cameras with wide-angle lenses and diagonal angle views, which can recognize depth of space. It will be way more sensitive to motion precision than its predecessor.
The PlayStation 4 Eye will also be compatible with the PlayStation Move controllers for the PS3 and will increase their precision and accuracy.
A gamer's controller is like a writer's pen. It is a tool of the trade and a gateway to the game.
• PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 wireless controller has incorporated new dynamic ways to play games on the PS4. The controller still maintains much of its original design, but with improved dual analog sticks that conform to the shape of your thumbs. The four trigger buttons have been reshaped for greater control. The D-pad and the square, X, triangle and circle buttons have stayed relatively the same.
The DualShock 4 controller was also designed with a touch pad at the top of the controller for new ways to play and interact with your PS4. The PlayStation Home button has been pushed to the bottom of the controller next to a built-in mono speaker and headset jack.
Other cool features only found on the PS4 controller include a Light Bar for identifying players with four colors of LEDs. The bar will also be used in games to show that a character is low on health or has taken major damage. Also, a Share button has been added to the controller. The Share button allows players the chance to share their gameplay footage by streaming it live to Ustream or uploading to Facebook.
• The Xbox One controller shares the same slick look as its Xbox 360 counterpart but holds to a different handle contour with offset analog sticks. The controller also has an A, B, X and Y face button, left and right triggers and bumpers, a directional pad, and Menu and View buttons.
The "Impulse Trigger" is considered one of the most exciting features on the new Xbox controller.
It is fitted with a built-in rumble system, which produces a pulse when pressing on the triggers.
The Xbox One will still take batteries like the Xbox 360 does, but a rechargeable Xbox controller will be available for $74.99. Charging the controller will now be done through a micro-USB cable. A low-power-state feature will help conserve battery life.
Xbox One and PS4 are almost identical in terms of console hardware, but that might not be a bad thing.
Users can expect both consoles to run faster and smoother.
The biggest difference in tech standards from a PS4 to an Xbox One is the system memory. Sony opted for a faster GPU (graphics processing unit), whereas Microsoft sided with the lower power option.
Both systems will ship with a whopping 500GB storage, 8GB of RAM and Blu-ray disk support.
When it comes down to it, gaming consoles run off computations. It takes millions of computations to run multiple images on your television or computer screen.
"If you look into Call of Duty, the new releases don't add a lot of gameplay that is computationally different than the first generations, but their graphics are largely improved," said Brian Johannesmeyer, an undergraduate in computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Arizona. "Developers want to take advantage of that fully, and they could draw images with better quality on the PS4 than on the Xbox (One)."
As with past incarnations, Microsoft will require Xbox users to pay a subscription fee for online access.
Gamers can gain access to all online features for $24.99 for three months or $59.99 for a yearlong Xbox Live Gold account.
Those who already have Live Gold Memberships will be able to transfer them over to the Xbox One.
With the PS3, Sony gave gamers a choice of a paid premium online subscription, PlayStation Plus, or a free, no-strings-attached online network. That is no longer the case.
The PS4 will now require a PlayStation Plus subscription, but it will still remain cheaper than Xbox.
PlayStation Plus subscriptions will cost $17.99 for three months or $49.99 for a full year. Sony is also offering a one-month subscription for $9.99. Subscribers to the PS3 will also be extended to the PS4.
• Tablet Integration
Game developers are starting to take advantage of the more popular devices, and tablets are definitely one of them. Tablet integration will allow people to control their consoles in ways never before seen.
Xbox's SmartGlass is not a new feature to many. It was released in 2012 and gave gamers the ability to play around with their Xbox 360 home screen. The program was limited and mainly allowed players to send messages to friends and use the tablet as a second controller for the Xbox screen (not for playing games).
For the Xbox One, SmartGlass will support in-game DLC purchases, game play assists and a DVR-like replay.
This year Sony plans to introduce tablet and mobile integration into the gaming experience in similar fashion to the SmartGlass.
Sony has been a big supporter of remote play, playing your console games through the Sony handheld device PlayStation Vita, which was released in the United States in 2012.
The PlayStation Vita currently allows remote play for a select number of games on the PS3.
The PS3 transmits the audio and video to the handheld device allowing the user to use the PlayStation Vita screen and controls instead of a TV screen.
With the PS4, Sony has said that most games will support Remote Play, except for games that rely heavily on the PS Eye or Move, such as Just Dance.
PlayStation 4 separates itself a bit from Xbox One when it comes to community connectivity.
While both consoles have an online community for users to share, chat and game, Sony made it a priority to make reaching your friends effortless.
The PS4's DualShock 4 controller features a new button designed to let players share whatever they want. The button allows the player to pause a game, select a section of video and upload it instantly to a social service.
The video will even continue to upload when you return to the game. However, the share function has its restrictions in certain games to prevent the sharing of spoilers.
The Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 will let gamers install new games straight from the PlayStation or Xbox store.
These consoles will also learn what kinds of games you buy and play, and they will give you suggestions for other games that may interest you.
One of the coolest features in the game installs may be the "play as you download" feature. Both consoles let users play the video games they bought the second the game begins to download.
It is important to note that PS3 or Xbox 360 game disks will not work on the new consoles. Instead, Microsoft and Sony will offer previous titles as digital copies through their respective online stores.
Sometimes one exclusive game is enough to persuade a gamer to buy a specific console. The first PlayStation and Xbox consoles had hundreds of games that were exclusive to each console, but exclusives are drying up in the game market.
Big titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Final Fantasy XV, Destiny, Battlefield 4 and others like them are available on both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. However, there are a few exclusives that may make the difference.
• Halo (title unknown): A new Halo game was announced at the first reveal of the Xbox One, but the developers by 343 Industries never revealed an official title and neglected to give any specifics on the game. Halo is one of the most favored sci-fi first-person shooter exclusives on the Xbox.
• Quantum Break: This time-traveling story by Remedy Entertainment, best known for the Max Payne series and the Alan Wake series, follows three protagonists after a university experiment goes wrong.
• Titanfall: This multiplayer-only game caught some eyes during this year's E3 show. This first-person shooter video game developed by Respawn Entertainment, throws gamers into mech-style walkers called "Titans" to help your team complete objectives.
• Forza Motor Sport 5: Forza Motor Sport has been a faithful racing simulator in the Microsoft realm since 2005. This next racing video game installment by Turn 10 Studios features some of the finest, detail-oriented graphical nuances to date in the series.
• Infamous: Second Son: As the third installment in the Infamous series, this open world action-adventure video game, developed by Sucker Punch brings a new flair to the superhuman fight.
• Killzone: Shadow Fall: It looks like a movie, but it's actual gameplay footage. This sci-fi first-person shooter by Guerrilla Games takes place 30 years after the events in Killzone 3. Two factions live in a city divided by a large security wall very much like the Berlin Wall in Germany.
• Knack: Mankind and Goblins are at war. A doctor studying an ancient civilization used long-lost relics to create a creature named Knack in this action-adventure video game by Japan Studio.
• Drive Club: A new intellectual property by Evolution Studios, this team-based racing game breathes new life and meaning to racing. Focusing on community driving and racing, this game lets players drive cool cars in some of the best places on Earth.
On StarNet: Read about more features online at azstarnet.com/entertainment
1. PlayStation 4 home screen shares what's hot online and what game you have ready to play.
2. PlayStation 4 social feed lets you keep up with what games your friends are playing and share your accomplishments.
3. Kinect 2.0 is the Xbox One motion control device that lets you use your body and voice as a controller.
4. Xbox One is Microsoft's third gaming console and will start at $499.
5. Xbox One Controller includes significant changes to the design such as the new "Impulse Triggers" to bring the play closer to the action.
6. Using the "Snap" command will split the screen so the user can watch football and Skype a friend, all at the same time with Xbox One.
7. PlayStation 4 is Sony's fourth gaming console and will start at $399.
8. PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 controller was designed with a touchpad to give gamers new interactive game play.
Isaac Cox is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org