Which Console Should You Buy: the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3?

With the Wii U set to launch in 2012 and new announcements expected from Microsoft and Sony in the near future, you may think this is a bad time to buy a home entertainment console. Think again. These consoles may be long in the tooth, but they’ve expanded their capabilities over the years via online updates and offer robust game libraries filled with must-play titles. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are so versatile that they could be the hub of your home entertainment system. So what are you waiting for?

Microsoft Xbox 360

250GB Kinect Holiday Bundle

$399; www.xbox.com

Though it’s the oldest of the consoles, the Xbox 360 keeps getting better thanks to its platform updates and the introduction of the hands-free Kinect peripheral last year. This special holiday bundle offers the total Xbox 360 package—two full titles (Alan Wake and Motorsport Forza 3), a wireless controller, a headset for chatting with friends online, a 250GB hard drive for storing your media, and robust parental controls.

With impressive first-party titles such as Gears of War 3 and Halo: Reach available, you won’t be lacking for exclusive games, and the Xbox Live Arcade hub features new downloadable titles every week.

Netflix and Hulu Plus subscribers can use the console to stream high-definition content right to the TV.

After three months, the Xbox Live service costs $60 per year, which includes all the streaming, media downloads, and online multiplayer action.

Nintendo Wii

$149; www.nintendo.com

The most popular console of this generation, the Nintendo Wii rewrote the gaming rule book with its innovative motion control scheme that makes it easier for people of any age pick up and play.

The Japanese company has brought gaming icons Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, and Metroid to the party with a catalog of must-play first-party games. However, many of the best third-party games never made it to the Wii due to its hardware limitations.

The biggest weakness of Nintendo’s record-setting console is its lack of HD graphics and a comprehensive online service. If you’ve just bought a 1080p flatscreen, you’ll want to spring for a console that delivers high-def content.

This is the only gaming system that retails for less than $200, and its games typically sell for $10 cheaper than its competitors’.

Sony PlayStation 3

Sports Champions Move Bundle

$349; www.playstation.com

Looking for the most technologically advanced gaming console on the market? Behold the still-cutting-edge PlayStation 3. This impressive piece of hardware has the most future-proof components available, with native 1080p high-definition support, a Blu-ray player, stereoscopic 3D capability, 7.1 surround sound a 320GB hard drive, and built-in Wi-Fi.

The PS3 supports Hulu Plus, Netflix, the NFL Sunday Ticket, and MLB.TV. The PSN also features a marketplace where you can buy or rent movies and music.

Sony’s family-friendly Move motion-control wand is showcased by the included Sports Champions game. If you’re looking for a more hardcore experience, Sony’s stable of first-party PS3 games such as God of War III, Infamous 2, Killzone 3, and Uncharted 3 is unrivaled.

Best of all, unlike Xbox Live, online multiplayer and PSN access is entirely free.