With the arrival of fall comes the arrival of expensive shopping decisions. You can shell out for games, but what about game hardware? Do you need the Kinect? The Move? One of the new video game guitars? Or even a new console?
This companion to our Guide To Fall Video Games highlights the big hardware and controller options you have for the fall. We're focusing on new, significant purchases, but pardon us if we don't include every new third-party light gun, controller and so on.
What It Is: The motion-sensitive controller for Sony's video game console is essentially an advanced Wii Remote. It's shaped like a wand and precisely tracks all of your gestures just as well as — if not better than — a Wii Remote plugged into a MotionPlus peripheral. The Move requires a PlayStation Eye camera to be mounted near your TV and can be used with an optional Navigation Controller in your other hand if the game you're playing demands an analog stick.
Should You Get It: We've reviewed the Move launch games and provided numerous written and video impressions of the best and worst features of a controller that feels brimming with potential, though it lacks any must-own games.
Price: Move controllers start at $50, though there are many bundle options, including a $99 that includes the Eye camera and a game.
Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock Guitar (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
What It Is: The newest Guitar Hero guitar doesn't deviate significantly from the functionality of previous music game guitars. There is no more slide pad, but there are now wings.
Should You Get It: The guitar is not so different from previous Guitar Hero guitars that it demands a purchase.
Price: The new Guitar Hero guitar is sold bundled with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, which starts at $99.99
Power Gig: Rise of the Six String Guitar (PS3, Xbox 360)
What It Is: The Power Gig guitar is a real, working six-string electric guitar that can also be used to control Power Gig or most other music games. A user can treat the neck of the guitar as if it has the buttons of a Rock Band or Guitar Hero guitar, playing a music game in a traditional way. Or, in more advanced modes in Power Gig, can use the guitar more like the real thing and respond to prompts that require specific strings to be pressed with one hand and strummed with the other.
Should You Get It: The guitar alone is an interesting technological advance from the button-based controllers used for years with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but competition from Rock Band 3's Pro Guitar controllers prevents this from being an automatic buy. It is compatible with most music games, according to Power Gig's website.
Price: The Power Gig guitar is sold standalone or bundled with the Power Gig game. (The bundle is $179.99)
Power Gig: Rise of the Six String Drums (PS3, Xbox 360)
What It Is: The four-pad drum-set supports a distinct air-drumming style, in which the gamer doesn't actually bang their drumsticks on the drum peripheral.
Should You Get It: Air-drumming is very different than what other music games offer. You'd want to try this first.
Price: The drums, when bundled with the Power Gig game, guitar and a mic run a total of $229.99
Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard Controller (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
What It Is: This simplified two-octave keyboard is made to work with the series-first keyboard mode in Rock Band 3. (This is a video of how it works.)
Should You Get It: If you want to play keyboard in Rock Band 3, yes.
Kinect (Xbox 360)
What It Is: This no-touch control system for video games and TV is being marketed as the next big thing for home entertainment, though that's only marketing speak until it launches. The Kinect is a sensor array that can detect body movement and voice, swiftly identifying about 19 joints in a user's body and letting them using movements of their hands, arms, head, legs and feet — or their voice — to play games, watch movies and more.
Should You Get It: Kinect feels like magical technology, a system that can somehow detect you body movements and match them instantly to that of an avatar on your TV, even though you're just standing and gesturing in front of it. But only confirmation that it works in the average living room and is fun will make this a worthwhile investment.
Price: Kinect starts at $150 bundled with a game, though it will also be sold in specially-priced packages with versions of the Xbox 360 console.
New Xbox 360 Controller With Transforming D-Pad
What It Is: The new Xbox 360 controller comes in silver, bundled with a Play & Charge kit (meaning it is rechargeable), but, most importantly, features a D-pad that becomes raised and easier to use with a swivel. See it in action.
Should You Get It: The design of this specialty controller hasn't been confirmed as the new default model for 360 controllers, so those who want an improved d-pad for fighting games are encouraged to pick this up. Of course, you could wait and see if Microsoft does turn this design into the controller default. If they do, perhaps people won't have to pay a premium for a bundle.
Rock Band 3 Wireless Fender Mustang Pro Guitar (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
What It Is: This guitar is a hybrid of real electric guitar and traditional Rock Band guitar. The neck is all buttons — more than a hundred of them, one for each section of "string" on each fret. Real strings are stretched over the body of the guitar, where the user will strum. This guitar is intended to be used with the Rock Band 3 Pro Guitar mode, which asks players to press and strum the proper buttons and strings for a more authentic guitar-playing experience. This one also functions as a MIDI guitar.
Should You Get It: Going for Fender here depends on whether you don't mind holding off for the undated Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster, which is a fully-stringed guitar compatible with the Pro Guitar mode of Rock Band 3. That guitar lacks a release date or price, making it less than a sure thing for the fall.
uDraw Game Tablet (Wii)
What It Is: Adding to the Wii Remote bowling ball, light gun and other wacky add-ons is the console's version of a Wacom drawing tablet. The tablet, which connects to the Wii Remote and is attached to a special stylus, comes packed with a painting program but also supports standalone games such as Pictionary.
Should You Get It: This is a sturdier and more useful Wii peripheral than most, which you can see from our preview coverage, but a consumer should check out the compatible games and be sure a real Wacom tablet wouldn't be the superior alternative.
Price: $70, bundled with the uDraw Studio painting and coloring program.
Undated, But Possibly For Fall
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, which will support a lot of mobile games and integrate with Xbox Live (Achievements, Gamerscore, etc.) is rumored to be coming out in November, but has no date or price. The Wii Remote Plus, a Remote that includes MotionPlus in the device, is officially coming from Nintendo at some point, but the company still won't confirm if the November video game box-art that showed it as a bundle is the real thing.
And, Of Course, The Consoles
Check out our buyer's guides for the PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, PSP, iPhone and iPad to get our latest recommendations of whether to buy these gaming machines and — if you do — which version and which games to get.