How to Maximize Your Gaming Experience with the PS4 and Xbox One

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In the decade spanning 1990 to 2000, when video games were just beginning to enter the phase of legitimacy they now enjoy, I was a contender in the gaming industry. I wrote for the now defunct GamePro Magazine, at the time the world’s largest video-game magazine, under the nom de plume of “Scary Larry.” If you knew anything about video games back then, you knew GamePro, and if you knew GamePro, you knew me.

But as time marched forward, I moved across the aisle into video-game marketing and branding, where I landed a gig as Editorial Director for The Pokémon Company. I got to see video games from a whole new perspective, and appreciated the skill and dedication that went into creating them. I also got to interact with the developers, marketing, advertising, and sales divisions from various gaming companies, and saw firsthand what it was like to build a product from the ground up.

During that time, I also had two kids, and my perspective on gaming changed. Video games and game consoles became much more personal to me. I had to watch what I played—twenty hours of Little Big Planet now, as opposed to twenty hours of Resident Evil 4 a few years ago—and I felt obligated to view games as functional and educational, and not pure entertainment.

And then the whole geo-political landscape of gaming changed. The Xbox evolved into the Xbox 360, the Super NES into the Nintendo 64 into the Wii and now the Wii U, the PlayStation into the PlayStation 2, 3, and now, 4. We won’t even talk about dead next-gen systems like the Dreamcast or 3DO. Portable systems? That’s a whole other hog, boss. With these regime changes came new and improved graphics, more powerful features, integrated technology (that is already becoming outdated) that all added up to a fantastic new landscape for gamers, a Utopia of pure entertainment. Whereas my old school NES was capable of 8-bit Ice Hockey, my Xbox 360 plays hockey, lets you check scores, lets you create your own players, and lets you determine your own soundtrack. You can use hand gestures and voice recognition to control your experience, or even download and stream games instead of buying physical copies. Gaming grew up—but did it get better? Did console gaming change us, or did our needs change console gaming?

This speculatory ramble brings us today to the exciting news that B&H is now selling video game consoles. That’s right—the retail giant and NYC landmark is now getting into next-generation video gaming with the inclusion of the biggest, most popular consoles and the peripheral accessories that serve them, so let’s take a look at some of the major contenders.

The Sony PlayStation 4

Long before the PlayStation 4 game console, Sony had always been a contender in the market, rivaling the Microsoft Xbox for home entertainment dominance. Starting with the original U.S. PlayStation in 1995, Sony used CD-ROM/XA technology to deliver games in the brand-new disc format. Previous gaming consoles relied on cartridge-based games, which were expensive to produce. In 1991, Sega tried a CD add-on to its popular Genesis game console, with mixed results. On one hand, it introduced full-motion video and superior graphics to the gaming world; on the other hand, it produced the controversial video game Night Trap and the ESRB rating system.

Sony saw the market and jumped at the chance to produce a disc-based game system. The company moved on to the PlayStation One (a mini version of the PlayStation), the PlayStation 2 in 2000, the PlayStation 3 in 2006 and, now, the PlayStation 4 (announced in 2013). With each iteration of the console, the games have become more and more eye-popping, innovative, and enormously challenging. Compare Tony Hawk on the first PlayStation console to The Last of Us on the PS4, and you’ll see what we mean.

Did you know that the original plans for the PlayStation called for it to be an add-on to the Super NES?

Beside the gobs of power that the PlayStation 4 features, including an AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next Engine, 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, and an AMD Jaguar Eight-Core Processor, the options to play solo or against online opponents is what drives the console market these days. Sony’s PlayStation Plus online multiplayer site is one of the best out there, and definitely enhances your online experiences.

B&H also sells PlayStation 4 bundles, where you can pick up a console and an extra controller or even a new PlayStation 4 camera. Bundles also include some of the hottest games, like Destiny, NBA 2K16, or MLB 14: The Show. The Destiny bundle will be one of the first to feature the Glacier White PS4 and controller, and is sure to be hot this season.

As with every game system, you’ll want to stock up on extra controllers (because no gamer is an island) and controller accessories so that you and your friends can enjoy all-night gaming sessions. We offer the Sony Dualshock 4 wireless controllers in Black, Blue, White, and Urban Camouflage. Each features a clickable, point-capacitive touch pad, dual analog sticks, a six-axis motion sensor and a built-in rechargeable battery. Pair them up with a controller recharger unit, and you’ll never have to worry about being without power. In your controller, that is.

When you’re so intent on gameplay, the last thing you want is failure to communicate (especially if you play squad-based or team games like Call of Duty). This is why B&H carries a line of headsets that are sure to enhance the audio and keep you in control of your scenarios, whether busting your hump through a swamp-filled, corpse-infested bayou or taking down the enemy in extraterrestrial locales. Some audio manufacturers known for high-end audio equipment are even joining in, as we saw with Sennheiser and its G4me One and G4me Zero headsets (read more about them here). They feature noise-canceling microphones and volume controls on the ear cup. You can also mute the microphone by simply raising the mic—eliminating the need to scramble around and look for the mute button. Nobody on your squad needs to know your mom is taking forever making your chocolate milk.

Also available is the Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround Headset for the Playstation 4. It features eight precision-balanced speakers for immersive 3D-like sound and a flexible removable mic, along with individual backlit volume controls for each channel (front, rear, center, and subwoofer). You can even use the Selectable Voice Monitoring to hear your own voice through the headset.

But what good is all this hardware without games? We have the latest and greatest, including NBA 2K 15, FIFA 15, Destiny, and Madden NFL 15. Whether you’re a sports fan, FPS expert or you long to shoot up aliens on distant planets, there’s a game at B&H for you.

Also, don’t forget—your home console system is now more than just a gaming box. B&H is on top of this with the Sony PlayStation TV system. This unique device works in conjunction with your PlayStation 4 to download and stream hundreds of games from your PlayStation Vita, PlayStation One, and the PSP Portable system. You can also stream games from your PS4 over Wi-Fi and play them in another room. You can stream movies, TV shows, and music from the Play StationNow service, as well. The service is just getting its sea legs, and is constantly being updated with additional games and services. This is also available in a PlayStation TV bundle with an HDMI cable, extra dual-shock controller, game voucher, and 8GB memory card.

The Xbox One

Sony’s competitor has been making games and building a gaming empire for more than a decade now. When Microsoft entered the video-game arena, the company came into it to win it—and certainly led in market share for a number of years with the Xbox and the Xbox 360. Not one to rest on its laurels, Microsoft expanded and brought innovation to the gaming industry, and one of its greatest achievements was bringing multiplayer gaming to the masses simply and quickly.

Microsoft comes to the forefront of next-generation systems once again with the Xbox One console, featuring an AMD Radeon Core Next engine, custom 8-core x86 AMD processor, and a combination 8GB of RAM and 32MB of ESRAM. ESRAM is RAM that resides next to the GPU and is dedicated to speeding up the complex algorithms of the game’s graphic core, and lending power to graphic processes like shadow mapping and buffering. Basically, it leaves areas (like the sky) untouched and lends all its power to what’s going on below the sky.

What does this mean? It means eye-popping visuals with fast renders, meaning little slowdown in the game, meaning gaming nirvana. Mmmmm... ESRAM.

But a hot engine and technological jargon do not a gaming console make—you have to have backup in the form of the best games and coolest peripherals. B&H covers both bases with a lineup of accessories and games that may be the One to beat.

Let’s talk Xbox One controllers. We have a wide variety, including the very popular Xbox One Stereo Headset, which features a unidirectional microphone, independent game and chat audio level controls and premium 40mm neodymium speakers for full spectrum audio (20 Hz to 20 kHz). They’re lightweight (only 9 ounces) for extended game sessions and the comfortable over-the-ear pads also make it easy on the old auditory orifices. The Sennheiser G4ME One headsets that we suggested for the PlayStation 4 also get a big thumbs up from us—they work equally as well on the Xbox One—and still feature plush velvet ear pads, a noise-canceling microphone, and the ability to mute by raising the mic boom.

We know you can’t get your game on unless you have the right controllers, so in addition to carrying the standard Xbox One Wireless Controller and Play and Charge Kit, we also carry specialized options like the Xbox One Limited Edition Call of Duty: Advance Warfare Wireless Controller with improved thumb sticks, redesigned directional pad that's better for sweeping (although it won’t help you campers out there—you know who you are) and a design inspired by Sentinel Task Force (the in-game paramilitary group). Not an FPS aficionado? We also offer arcade joysticks that emulate the look and feel of old-school arcade units, like the Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2 controller from MadCatz. It features an authentic Japanese-style joystick and buttons, and a user-serviceable access panel so you can customize the eight-button Vewlix-style layout to match your old-school gaming tendencies. And I know you got ’em. Who doesn’t remember the days of putting your quarter up to reserve your place in line on the old neighborhood pizza-parlor Street Fighter II machine? Don’t remember Street Fighter II? Or pizza parlors? Or games that only cost a quarter to play? Man, I’m old. Get off my lawn…

Razer also has an arcade joystick called the Atrox Arcade Stick Gaming Controller for Xbox One, which also features fully mod-capable layouts, eight-way precision stick and buttons, and one-touch access to the internal working of the machine. Once you have arcade sticks up and running, there are no excuses. Finish him! (Please don’t Google that phrase. If you don’t know the reference, you shouldn’t be allowed to play games.)

So what about the games? There are exclusives to the Xbox One that you won’t find on the PS4, but that kind of game segregation is becoming a thing of the past. Games like Titanfall on the Xbox One and Last of Us on the PlayStation 4 lose half the gaming base when they settle for exclusivity. So, excellent sports games like FIFA 15 or FIFA 15 Ultimate Edition, Madden 15, and Madden 15 Ultimate Edition can be enjoyed on the Xbox One, along with fan favorites like WWE 2K 15 and Minecraft.

B&H also offers bundles of the Xbox One with your favorite games, like a Destiny bundle, Madden 15 bundle and Forza Motorsport bundle. The bundles are a great way to add a hot game and other peripherals like extra controllers or a Kinect sensor.

So there you have it—a wide variety of gaming systems, peripherals, and games from B&H, to help ease your holidays along. Great as gifts, or as a gift to yourself, gaming definitely brings people closer together. Nothing says “quality time” better than losing a round of games to your eight-year-old nephew while your mom makes you chocolate milk. Nothing.