Buying Guide - Games Console Accessories

Total immersion

With such detailed and graphically beautiful games continually designed for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, it makes sense to take steps to immerse yourself fully in the gaming experience. There's no better way to get stuck in to gaming series like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and the long-running FIFA games than to get a head-set and microphone. Whether it's the sounds of shells and grenades exploding all around you, or crowd chants at Old Trafford, Anfield, or Stamford Bridge, there's nothing that sucks you into the game like wearing headphones. You'll be able to get special headphones which block out external noises, meaning you can play without distraction, and give 100% of your focus, becoming a better gamer.

Head-sets are also great for team games. You can use the microphone and head-set to communicate effectively with your teammates, no matter the game you're playing, or whether it's on Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. Some advanced head-sets even link into the game, displaying their battery level, connection status and more on the screen, at your command. Different head-sets for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 have different connection options; some are connected via USB and Infrared, while others use Bluetooth.

Another way of fully immersing yourself into the gaming world of racing games is by purchasing a steering wheel. You can get wheels for the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and the Playstation 3, and they give you a more realistic driving experience. The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 wheels increase realism in games like Grand Turismo  5 greatly, while the Nintendo Wii wheel will make playing Mario Kart more fun.

The Nintendo Wii differs a little from the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 platforms in its nature, being designed primarily for more casual gamers, but there are also some technological developments which can give you a more immersive experience. You can buy a Wii blaster gun, which can be used when playing shooting and zombie games, and it will give you more accuracy than the standard Wii remote, as well as creating a more involving atmosphere.

Motion Detection

The Kinect for Xbox 360 has proved to be extremely popular, selling over 10 million units. It uses a webcam style camera to allow the user to interact with the Xbox 360. The Kinect tracks your movements; you can use gestures to control the Xbox 360, and it even works with vocal commands. The Kinect is another way that people who aren't regular console users can enjoy the Xbox 360 experience. Its unobtrusive, stylish bar-design is made to be placed above the screen you are using to play on, so it won't look out of place in your lounge. It uses infrared to detect the players' presence, and accounts for the users' environment, so your furniture won't disturb its tracking. It's also a way of taking some mild exercise while you play, so there's no longer any need to feel guilty about enjoying a long Xbox 360 session.

The Playstation 3 has a comparable system, using the Playstation Move and Playstation Eye to similar effect. The Playstation Move is a controller which uses motion sensing technology in tandem with the Playstation Eye, which tracks the players' actions. The Playstation Move has received rave reviews, and been noted for its astounding accuracy, winning the 2010 ‘Most Immersive Game Controller' award, from Popular Science. Another impressive aspect of the Playstation Move system is its responsiveness, impressing more than the Nintendo Wii controller, despite the Wii system being designed for motion detection.

The Nintendo Wii, determined not to be outdone, has released the Wii MotionPlus, which also accurately captures movement. The Official Nintendo Magazine labelled the Wii MotionPlus '100% accurate', and it has since been incorporated into the Wii Remote Plus. The Wii Remote Plus can be used instead of the normal Wii controller, and takes advantage of the newer technology. You can use Wii Motion Plus to get more out of games like Wii Sports Resort and James Cameron's Avatar. The Wii Fit Balance Board is another great way to work out whilst gaming, and you'll not even realise you're burning off the calories whilst hitting new high scores.

More useful tools

There are also some Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 accessories which aren't as instantly attractive to the casual gamer, but will drastically improve your gaming experience. For instance, the memory card adaptor for Playstation 3 will allow you to import data from Playstation and Playstation 2 memory cards onto your newer machine.

Charging kits for Playstation 3 controllers are available. The AC adapter charging kit means you can charge controllers using a wall plug, so you don't need to have the console running. There are also various Xbox 360 options for improving on the original controllers. Instead of using battery after battery, you can get an Xbox 360 rechargeable battery pack. The Xbox 360 Play and Charge Kit contains a USB connector cable, to charge a battery pack whilst engaging in gameplay, causing you minimum disruption. Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 Quick Charge kit rapidly charges two battery packs at once, so you have plenty of options to ensure you can always keep your controllers in play.

The Playstation 3 Bluetooth remote and the Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote are useful for playing DVDs, and are distinct improvements on the standard controllers, which many people find fiddly to use to control movie playback. It can transform your Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 into a media centre, rather than remaining solely a gamers' preserve. This means family members who aren't accustomed to using the gaming controllers will be able to easily use the machines to watch DVDs, browse the internet or listen to music on.

A keyboard and mouse accessory for the Playstation 3 can be used to play certain games, but also to access the internet and navigate the Playstation 3 XMB. The Xbox 360 has a comparable device too, called the 'chatpad'. There are also various accessories you can buy for your Xbox 360 which make it look great, including different style 'faceplates'. These replace the normal 'face' of the machine with different graphic design patterns to make your equipment stand out. Other Xbox 360 accessories which may come in handy are related to the cooling of the device. These coolers and fans are intended to increase your Xbox 360's lifespan by stopping overheating. You can also purchase cooling products for the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii, although it is the Xbox 360 range of coolers which have been used the most widely.

In essence, whichever console you have, there are various ways of improving it. Whether you want to move it in a direction more orientated towards hardcore gaming, or making it more accessible for family and friends to use, you have lots of good options. With such a vast range of cooling products available too, we can be sure our consoles will be kept in prime condition for a long time to come.