This guide is for people who want to buy an Xbox 360 gaming console as a gift for someone else, but don't really know anything about gaming consoles. This is to be a guide to help you determine what is needed, and what is wanted, but ultimately to save you money by buying only things that the person receiving this system will use.
Unlike the old days, systems straight out of the box do not come with everything you need. 20 years ago, when you purchased a system, you would receive two controllers, a game, and all the hookups necessary to enjoy your system out of the box. This is not so anymore. Companies realized that the real money was in the software and peripherals for the systems.
The cost of an XBOX 360 system is $299.99 for the core system and $399.99 for the Bundled system (new prices). Microsoft has split the systems into two tiers to attract all levels of gamers.
The core system contains the console, or the XBOX 360 system, one (1) wired controller, one (1) power pack, and one (1) S-Video TV connectors (which are best for standard televisions).
The Bundled System has the console, one (1) wireless controller, one (1) 20 GB hard drive, one (1) headset, one (1) power pack, and one (1) component High Definition video cable (which are best for televisions that are High Definition 720p and below).
If you are buying this for an experienced gamer, the best bet would be to purchase the Premium Bundled System with all the extras, they are most likely going to utilize and want all the extras.
PLEASE NOTE: Early versions of the XBOX 360 were known to heat up and burn out. It is to your benefit to create a cooling area, or put it into an open area so the heat does not build up. So be careful when buying online or buying a used system. DO NOT KEEP IN A CLOSED AREA, THEY WILL BURN UP! I have gone through two early versions of the system until I was able to get the version 3 systems.
Both systems come with the Silver subscription to Xbox Live. This allows downloads from XBOX live, but does not allow the full features of XBOX Live Gold, which allows you to play online. XBOX Live Gold is $49.99 per year, and is an additional cost to the system.
If you're buying the Xbox so that it can be shared among two or more people (e.g. it's a gift for both of your children), then you should purchase additional controllers for each additional person, which would allow them to play together. The Xbox 360 supports up to four controllers, although there are few games that allow four simultaneous players. Like I said earlier, the Xbox comes with one controller. Controllers run $29.99 for wired controllers and $49.99 for wireless. The wireless controllers require two (2) AA batteries to run for 20-30 hours of playing time. If you do get a wireless controller, your best bet would be to purchase a play-and-charge kit for $19.99. It is a rechargeable battery so you don’t have to keep buying AA batteries all the time.
Games for the XBOX can run up to $60.00, with some of the new games as low as $29.00 new. The games are on a dual-layer DVD and hold up to twice the data of a regular DVD. On a side note, it's perfectly okay to buy a used Xbox game, as long as everything is in good condition, and it comes with all the manuals. Xbox games are like DVDs, so just make sure they're not scratched. The best bet to purchasing games would be to get used ones off of ebay at a great price! Please remember to buy the game that is appropriate for the person and to check the ESRB ratings (like movie ratings).
As an alternative to buying a game, you might instead want to purchase a subscription to "Official Xbox Magazine". In addition to the usual reviews and articles about the Xbox and Xbox games, this monthly magazine comes with a disc that contains demos of upcoming games. It is a great way to test a bunch of demos and get an idea of what you would like to play.
The above list will be enough for anyone wanting to play Xbox games by his or herself at home. There is one special feature about the Xbox that you should consider. This feature is called "Xbox Live", mentioned earlier, and in my opinion is the #1 reason why the Xbox is superior to other gaming consoles (e.g. Sony's Playstation 2, Nintendo's Game Cube, etc). Every Xbox game can be played as "single player"; that is, without Xbox Live. Xbox Live simply adds the ability to play some games "online". These games are called "Xbox Live enabled". It also allows players to compare their gamer-scores and how they size up to the rest of the XBOX 360 owners. Roughly 60% of all 360 consoles have gone “Live”. Remember, you have to have high-speed internet to play online with XBOX Live.
Another problem is that connecting the Xbox to the Internet requires some technical savvy. It's not rocket science, but it may require running cables or buying additional networking hardware, so that the Xbox can share the Internet connection with other computers in the house. Unfortunately, such issues are beyond the scope of this guide, so you'll just have to ask the recipient if you don't know. If the recipient has a wireless network at home, he would probably want the Microsoft Wireless Adapter, which is $99.99.
Xbox 360 is a great system with some stunning graphics, though when you get done buying all of the extras, it can be expensive. Please remember that all prices in this article are retail prices and are not reflective of the deals that can be found on ebay. I hope that this guide helps you first time buyers.