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Gaming online: Which console is best?

Game consoles aren't just stand-alone boxes anymore -- it's increasingly about what you can do with them online. If you are unsure about which next-gen console to pick up, we've put together a comparison of the Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, outlining all of their individual online features and costs.

Game consoles aren't just stand-alone boxes anymore -- it's increasingly about what you can do with them online. To help you decide which is best for you, puts the Xbox 360's Xbox Live!, the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network, and the Nintendo Wii's online service head-to-head in a detailed comparison to see what kind of experience each console offers.

For a quick overview, see our comparison chart below, then click on each of the links for further information. If you're having any troubles getting your console set up online, check out our feature Get your gaming console online for step-by step instructions on how to connect via either a wired or wireless broadband connection.

Intro | Wii Online | PlayStation Network | Xbox Live!

Wii Online

PlayStation Network

Xbox 360 Live!
Sign-up Fees
Online Play
Yes (Free)
Yes (Free)
Yes (RRP AU$99.95 for 12-months)
In-built Internet browser
Wireless Only (Wii LAN Adaptor RRP AU$29.95)
Wireless and Ethernet
Ethernet only (Wireless Adaptor RRP AU$169.95)
Web Browser
Yes (Opera Browser available for purchase)
Yes (Up to six windows open at once)
Parental Controls
Voice Chat
Yes (With any Bluetooth headset)
Yes (With Xbox headset)
Video Chat
Yes (With PlayStation Camera RRP AU$79.95)
Yes (With Xbox Live Vision Camera RRP AU$59.95)
Online Store
Yes (Wii Shop)
Yes (PlayStation Store)
Yes (Xbox Live! Marketplace)
Purchase Games
Yes (Previous NES, SNES, N64, Sega-Genesis, and TurboGrafx16 titles. Between AU$7.50 and AU$15.00)
Yes (Certain new-release for around AU$59.95 and arcade games for around AU$8.45)
Yes (Arcade games between AU$5.50 and AU$17.00, with new-release games to become available)
Download Game Demos
Yes (Free)
Yes (Free. Xbox Live! Gold membership will get certain demos earlier)
Download Music Videos
Yes (Free)
Download Game Trailers
Yes (Free)
Yes (Free)
Download Movie Trailers
Yes (Free)
News and Weather Channels
Receive Software Updates
Online Community
Approx: 2 million worldwide
Approx: 6 million worldwide
Playable Online Games
Approx: 5+
Approx: 30+
Approx: 80+
Friends List
Online User Accounts
10 per Wii Remote (Mii characters)
2 per console (1 master and 1 associated)
1 per Gamertag
Online Currency
Wii Points (2000 points for AU$30.00)
Australian Dollars
Microsoft Points (1000 points for AU$16.50)

Intro | Wii Online | PlayStation Network | Xbox Live!

Creating your own Mii character is simple.

Nintendo Wii Online
The Wii is a great console when it comes to downloading games online. Nintendo's latest home system not only plays Wii games, but it also has plenty of retro goodness up its sleeve thanks to a massive back catalogue of more than 150 NES, SNES, Nintendo64, Sega-Genesis, and TurboGrafx16 titles available for download from its Virtual Console system. The situation is a little dryer when it comes to competitive or coop play online with Wii games, however, as the system does not have many games yet where you can go up against other players. You can, however, chat through the Wii's built-in message board and mingle with your Mii characters in the Mii Channel. Bottom line is that the Wii is most suited for the casual gamer, who would enjoy the added comfort of checking the news, weather, and surfing the Web.

Online Features

  • No sign-up fees.

  • In-built Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g. Hook up to your existing wireless Internet connection via your router or with the Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector. With the Nintendo Wii LAN Adaptor (RRP AU$29.95), it is possible to connect to your existing broadband connection (cable or DSL).

  • Downloadable Opera browser for Web access. The browser costs 500 Wii points.

  • Wii Channels: Current free online services available to the Wii are broken down into channels.
    -- Mii Channel: Users are able to create up to 10 characters to a Wii remote. Characters are cartoons which can be customised by their facial features. These characters are then able to be used in some games, mainly the Wii Sports collection. You can mingle online in the Mii channel amongst other players, adding them to your friends list.
    -- Everybody Votes: This is where you can start and vote on user created opinion polls.
    -- Photo Channel: With the SD memory card slot it is possible to upload your digital photos and share them on the Wii message board.
    -- Weather and News channels: Access the latest news and weather locally and worldwide.
    -- Wii Shop: Purchase a wide range of previous Nintendo titles through the Virtual Console.

  • Parental Controls. Restrict the use of certain games and channels on the Wii console with an access code.

  • No voice or video chat available.

  • Online Community

  • Players can interact within the Mii channel, adding them as friends and chatting on the Wii message board.

  • Approximately 5+ games playable online.

  • Online Retail Offerings

    Access online features through the various Wii channels.

  • The Wii Shop:
    A wide range of NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, and TurboGrafx16 games are available to download via the Virtual Console. The Wii remote can be used on NES titles, although most games will need either a GameCube controller (capable of playing all games, minus some TurboGrafx16 titles) or the Wii Classic controller (RRP AU$29.95).

  • Over 150 games are available on the Virtual Console.

  • Games are purchased using "Wii Points" (AU$30.00 will get you 2000 Wii points). Points can be redeemed from retail stores with pre-paid Wii point cards or inside the Wii Shop with a credit card.

  • 500 Wii Points for NES games, 800 for SNES, 600 for TurboGrafx16, 800 for Sega Genesis, and 1000 Nintendo 64.

  • Downloaded games can only be used on the initial console.

  • Jump online with your favourite game and play for free.

    Intro | Wii Online | PlayStation Network | Xbox Live!

    Sony PlayStation Network
    Sony's pricey PlayStation 3 console is loaded with features. It offers both built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections to get you online, and once there, the PlayStation Store lets you buy new games, as well as download free Sony BMG music videos and high-definition movie trailers. There's also the upcoming prospect of Home, a virtual community and free addition to the PlayStation Network where users will have the opportunity to interact through text, audio, or video chatting. Home will also let you share your own videos, as well as watch streaming TV shows and movies (prices have not yet been announced).

    Online Features

    • No sign-up fees.

    • In-built Ethernet port for a broadband Internet connection (such as Cable and DSL), as well as IEEE 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi allowing you to connect to the Internet.

    • In-built Internet browser, that allows up to six windows to be open at once.

    • PlayStation Store.

    • Free voice chat with any Bluetooth headset.

    • Free video chat using the PlayStation Eye video camera (RRP AU$79.95).

    • Online Community

    • There are two PlayStation Network accounts available for each PlayStation 3. One being the master account, the other being an associated account which can be restricted by the Master account.

    • Friends list.

    • Approximately two million online users worldwide.

    • Approximately 30+ games playable online.

    • Online Retail Offerings

      The PlayStation Store is your one-stop destination for all content.
    • PlayStation Store:
      - A range of new release games available to download.
      - Arcade games for download.
      - Demo's of upcoming titles.
      - Game and movie trailers.
      - Game add-on packages, maps, characters.

    • Online wallet. Each user account has a "Wallet" which can be topped up by a credit card for spending in the online PlayStation store.

    • Players who have downloaded arcade games from the PlayStation store can share game with up to five other activated PlayStation network accounts at any one time.

    • 12-month retail Xbox Live! subscription includes a headset, 200 Microsoft Points, and the Bankshot Billiards arcade game (RRP AU$ 99.95)

      Intro | Wii Online | PlayStation Network | Xbox Live!

      Xbox 360 Live!
      Microsoft has a strong focus on online gaming with Xbox Live! and a giant selection of online games (there should be more than 300 by the end of 2007). It is possible to match up with players of the same ranking in games, as players' in-game achievements are recorded both on and offline. As with the other consoles, Xbox has their version of an online shop -- Xbox Marketplace.

      The big catch however, is that with Live!, you have to pay to play online. If you are not all that interested in playing games online just yet, the Xbox 360 does come with an out-of-box Xbox Live! Silver membership. With Silver membership, you can purchase a range of arcade games and download upcoming game demos and trailers -- everything except play against others online. It is expected that sometime in the future, you should be able to download new-release games as well.

      Online Features

      • Xbox Live! Silver membership is free.
        -- Silver membership: Free. Download arcade games, download certain new-release titles, download games demos, download additional game content, purchase Xbox dashboard themes, free game and movie trailers, download game updates, and gaming stats and achievements.

      • Gold membership: Retail package (RRP AU$99.95). Includes: 12-month subscription, wired headset, Bankshot Billiards arcade game, 200 Microsoft points. Via Xbox Live! Dashboard, 12-month (RRP AU$79.95), 3-month (RRP AU$29.95), 1-month (RRP AU$10.95).
        -- Gold membership: All of the Silver membership content but having the ability to play games online. Some game demos are available to Gold members first.

      • Free voice chat. Using the Xbox headset.

      • Free video chat. Using the Xbox Live Vision Camera.

      • Xbox Live! Marketplace online store.

      • Online Community

      • Friends list.

      • Approximately 80+ games playable online.

      • Approximately six million users worldwide.

      • Compare gaming stats and achievements with other players.

      • Online Retail Offerings

        Xbox Live! Marketplace offers a wide variety of arcade games, game content, game demos, and more.
      • Xbox Live! Marketplace.
        -- New-release games to be available in the future.
        -- Retro arcade games. (From 500-1000 Microsoft Points)
        -- Game add-on packages. Maps, characters, etc.
        -- Xbox Dashboard themes.

      • Microsoft Points are the Xbox Live! Marketplace currency. AU$33.00 will get you 2000 Microsoft Points.

      • Downloaded demos and videos to your hard drive are yours to keep.

      • If purchased downloadable content is lost, you are able to re-download it.