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If you consider yourself a gamer, there's a pretty good chance that you've already purchased either an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4 (or both, if you're hardcore). Two years removed from the launch of next-gen gaming consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 have seen significant price drops and are now offered in a variety of different bundles. If you don't already have one, you can see your chances of receiving or buying one go up dramatically during the holiday season (depending on how nice you've been to friends and family). Whether you're waiting to get a next-gen gaming console or already own one, here is a list of accessories you should get to enhance your gaming experience.
The Xbox One comes standard with one Xbox One wireless controller—which is great if you're playing a single-player game, but can get awkward when you invite a friend over for some local multiplayer. Instead of fighting over the controller, you can pick up an extra controller to ensure you keep your friendships and families intact. If you think having two standard black Xbox One controllers will be too confusing or if you just prefer a custom design, you can get one in a different color or even game-specific branded controllers, like these for the upcoming Halo 5 game.
If you’d rather have customization that goes beyond the look of the controller, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller might be more suited for your needs. Designed for hardcore and competitive gamers, the Xbox Elite controller allows you to swap out the thumb sticks and paddles, as well as utilize special features, such as Impulse Triggers and Hair Trigger Lock. While you'll have to pay a premium for the Xbox Elite controller, the amount of customization it allows will enhance the performance, control, and flexibility of your game-playing abilities. It might not make you a better gamer right off the bat, but it'll definitely help you achieve your lofty goals of being the highest scorer or carrying your team to victory in a first-person shooter.
Unfortunately, just buying the controllers is not enough. They require two AA batteries... each. You can avoid the trip to the store to purchase batteries and settle for a wired experience by tethering them to the USB ports on your Xbox One, but sitting closer to the TV and rubbing elbows with your friends might not be the most comfortable experience. With the Xbox One Play & Charge Kit, you'll get the convenience of a rechargeable battery and a USB cable. Just charge via the USB port and then play wirelessly until the battery gets low. When you see the light on your controller start blinking and telling you to go on without it, just plug it in to the Xbox One's USB port and keep playing while it charges.
While it's enjoyable and fun to play with friends in the same room, the nice thing about gaming consoles is that you can also play with them from a distance—sometimes across the country or on the other side of the world. You can play online with an Xbox Live Gold membership. Included with Xbox Live Gold is Games with Gold. Twice a month, Xbox Live Gold members get access to a hand-selected collection of free games that they can download to their Xbox One internal hard drive or an external drive (click here for more info).
If you're going to play online, communication is the key. Grab an Xbox One Chat Headset and let your teammates know where the enemies are coming from. If you have your own third-party headset, you have to use an Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter on an older, launch-day version of the Xbox One controller, which has a proprietary port instead of the 3.5mm headset jack found on the newer Xbox One controller. You may also want to pick up a more deluxe third-party headset like the Sennheiser G4ME ZERO, in black or white. These closed-design stereo headphones offer more premium options, like noise-cancellation technology, volume controls on the ear cup, and microphone muting.
While the Xbox One came with the Kinect on launch day, Microsoft introduced discounted bundles later that were cheaper because it didn't include the Kinect. If you bought one of those bundles, but now want to experience what the Kinect can offer, you can purchase it separately. The one listed here comes with Dance Central Spotlight so you can put the motion tracking technology to the test right away.
Like the Xbox One, the PS4 usually only comes with one DualShock 4 Wireless Controller. You should pick up an extra one, or more, to ensure you have enough when friends come over. They are available in a variety of colors and designs so you're not stuck with only the standard black version. There’s even a 20th Anniversary Edition controller that mimics the design of the classic PlayStation launch controller. PlayStation controllers have a clickable two-point capacitive touch pad, built-in rechargeable battery and six-axis motion system. They also utilize Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR technology for connectivity.
The PS4 also has a camera of its own. The PlayStation 4 Camera allows you to play, challenge, and share your gaming moments. Online multiplayer is enhanced through clear audio and picture-in-picture video sharing. Other features include facial recognition, voice commands, walkthroughs in HD video, and voice chat through four built-in microphones.
If you want to play online multiplayer, you'll need a PlayStation Plus Subscription. As a member, you'll be able to play cooperative and competitive online multiplayer, as well as gain access to the Instant Game Collection, which features a variety of games chosen by Sony. New games are added every month for even more options. You can also try games before you buy, as well as get exclusive and early access to select betas and demos, discounts, and sometimes even games themselves. Your PlayStation Plus membership also extends to your PS3 and PS Vita systems if you have those, too.
If you do play online, you’ll definitely want to keep a clear and open line of communication with your opponents. A good headset can enhance your gaming experience dramatically. With the PlayStation Gold Wireless Headset from Sony, you can experience the game you're playing in 7.1 virtual surround sound, and even enjoy optimized noise-cancellation technology and compatibility with other mobile devices. The Pulse Elite Edition also offers BassImpact technology and optimized preset sound modes. A Wired PlayStation Silver headset is available from Sony, as well.
Gaming has evolved drastically since the paddles of the Atari 2600 or the sharp rectangular controllers of the NES. If you're looking to elevate your gaming abilities and compete at a high level against other players, these next-gen peripherals should help you along the way. Good luck and good gaming.