Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2021 Christmas Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We have many of them. Are you looking for our other guides? Find them here!
The giveaway season has arrived, but an ample supply of next-generation consoles have not. Between chip shortages and dealers / bots, the chances of someone getting their hands on a PS5 or Xbox Series X without a whole lot of effort (/ luck) are slim to none. It is possible! But you may not want to spend your vacation on it.
If it just is not going to happen this year, there are still plenty of things that should make the gamer in your life happy – accessories and enhancements that any gamer will appreciate and make their current setup a little more comfortable, while Sony / Microsoft / et al. catch up with demand.
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Every gamer needs a pair of good headphones – to save on this is a single ticket for headaches. In many of today’s most popular games, bad sound is a definite drawback.
Are you trying to choose between wired and wireless? The cable could be fine if they play at a desk; for sofa games will wirelessly help them to be more comfortable and less tangled.
Here are some recommendations for each platform
For Xbox or PlayStation: SteelSeries 7X and 7P
I’ve played pretty much every PS5 game with these. They’re just amazing and much better than Sony’s own PlayStation branded headsets. Comfortable, great sound, good battery life and fast connection.
They are not the cheapest, but they are certainly not the most expensive either – there is a new version that does not change much, so the (still amazing) last generation is for sale. Note: 7X is for Xbox consoles and 7P is for PlayStation – unfortunately not one version works for both. Fortunately, if you want something like this, it’s the next thing on the list.
Price: SteelSeries 7X (Xbox), $ 133 from Walmart | SteelSeries 7P (PlayStation), $ 150 from Best Buy
For Switch, multiple consoles or for a budget: SteelSeries Arctis 1
These are not as soft or expansive-sounding as the 7 Series, but they are solid, comfortable and (because they are wired) compatible with everything under the sun: all major consoles plus phones, and the price is certainly right. If this list seems SteelSeries heavy, it’s just because they really got it right this generation.
Price: SteelSeries Arctis 1, $ 50 from Amazon
For PC: Razer BlackShark V2 or V2 Pro
This headset is understated in design, sounds great and very comfortable. I have received nothing but compliments for the sound of the microphone.
To be honest, I’m not sure it’s worth the extra money for the wireless (Pro) version, as PC gamers tend to be within three feet of their computers. If you can get the wireless on sale, go for it, but the wired version is a good option when money is tight.
Price: Razer BlackShark V2 (Wired), $ 75 from Amazon | Razer BlackShark V2 Pro (wireless), $ 140 from Amazon
Maybe a mechanical gaming keyboard?
This is a tough one. I was originally supposed to do a summary of a lot of keyboards … but like next generation consoles, many of the best ones are very hard to find right now.
If your beloved PC gaming has a keyboard they like, you can sneak a peek and get them a new or upgraded one of the same brand. But if you hear them talk about what “color” on the mechanical contact they like or they talk about building their own… maybe back. Once they go down that rabbit hole, the choices are very individual and it’s hard to get the right one as a gift. Maybe go with a gift card or something.
Maybe your loved one was lucky enough to get a Series X or PS5 already, or they will soon have one. Maybe they just want to upgrade their current gene console. Either way, they probably still want a little extra gear.
Media remote control
If someone uses their PlayStation 5 as the primary way to watch Netflix, Plex and so on, it gets old pretty quickly by using the rather large, heavy DualSense gamepad that is easy to bump up off the couch for it. Snap one of these remotes and no one needs to learn if “O” or “X” means cancel, or if they need to use bumpers, triggers, D-pads or analog sticks to rewind and fast forward. Honestly, this thing should probably come in the box. Super easy and practical gift for combination players / cord cutters.
Price: $ 30 from Amazon
A great hard drive extension
On a PS4, you can just buy a large old external USB hard drive and plug it in. You can do the same with a PS5, but there are… limitations. For the most part, it is better to upgrade the internal storage.
Any person who is reasonably technically secure should be able to install this expansion drive for PS5s, which they probably will eventually have, as games these days are huge. This is a one-time purchase and installation that extends the life of the console and makes things simpler, especially if they have the “digital” version without a disk drive. The big brands (Samsung, PNY, Kingston) all have PS5 compatible options; just make sure it’s one of them and you’re good. One detail that is easy to miss: Some models notice that they need a heatsink to work with a PS5, but they do not actually include one in the box. THANKS.
This is a bit of a hassle, as Xbox controllers with vanilla are pretty excellent … but if the Xbox has been your beloved’s most important gaming platform for years, you might be able to help them a little with their games. The improved ergonomics, cute D-pad, rear paddle triggers and other enhancements can be game changers – no joke. You can do things with the rear buckets that would otherwise require ridiculous hand twists. Xbox One-era controllers are compatible with Xbox Series X consoles, so this is an investment that should work for years, no matter what gene they are on right now.
Price: $ 160 from Amazon
Series X stock expansion card
Same deal with PlayStation: External USB drives work well enough on the latest generation of Xboxes, but there are limitations when using them with next generation consoles.
Not that it’s particularly difficult to install the PS5 expansion card, but with the Xbox Series X you literally put it in the back. That is it. $ 220 for 1 TB seems a little expensive to me, but it’s up to you.
Price: $ 150- $ 400, depending on capacity
The only thing better than having a Pro Controller is having two Pro Controllers. These things are excellent and the best way to play most games if you are on the couch. With Switch’s focus on multiplayer, it can lead to bitterness when one person gets a cute ergonomic Pro and everyone else is on the little Joy-Cons.
Pro type: While they are not quite just as hard to get as next-generation consoles, first-party controllers are also in short supply this year! Book early to make it happen.
Price: $ 70 from Nintendo
8BitDo SN30 Pro SNES-style controller
Nintendo has an ever-growing library of retro games on its console (if you pay the monthly fee for them), and it just feels better to play them on the original controllers. But Nintendo apparently only makes about 50 of them a year, and they are constantly sold out. Grab an SN30 – they’re wireless, they work with other platforms, and they add analog sticks to the SNES layout, so you can play any game with 90s flair. By “you” I mean, of course, your beloved.
Price: $ 49 from Amazon
A monster microSD card
The switch can quickly run out of space if you are not careful, and it is virtually mandatory to grab a microSD card to expand its storage. Fortunately, expanding the Switch’s storage space is easy and relatively inexpensive! Grab a 256 GB or 512 GB microSD card and ban storage worries once and for all.
Do not pay extra for a microSD card with Mario on or whatever – once it’s in the console, you’ll never see it.
Price: Varies according to capacity / speed. The 512GB microSDXC, as shown above, costs $ 75 from Amazon
Subscriptions and digital goods
These days, most players have to subscribe to one or the other – on the consoles, for example, most online multiplayer requires a subscription. Find out what their favorite subscription is and get them set up with a few more months and you know it is a gift that will come in handy.
Xbox: Game Pass or Live Gold
You have options here. If they just want to play online, Xbox Live Gold starts at around $ 10 a month. If you also want to give them all you can-eat access to a surprisingly solid collection of games, the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs around $ 15 a month and includes Xbox Live Gold.
PlayStation: PS Plus or PS Now
Sony also has two different plans: PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now. Plus ($ 10 per month, or $ 5 per month if you pay per year) is what you need for online multiplayer; Now (same price) you get access to hundreds of games. Know that these are two separate subscriptions.
Switch: Nintendo Switch Online
Nintendo Switch Online is pretty bare bones, but if they want online games in Smash Bros or Mario Kart, it’s a must. And as an added bonus, it comes with access to a lot of NES and SNES games.
Wondering what the more expensive “Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack” is? The short version: For more than double the price, they provide access to a lot of N64 and Sega Genesis games, plus the Animal Crossing Happy Home Paradise expansion. Maybe worth it if Animal Crossing is their thing, maybe not otherwise.
If you have a bunch of family members who want online access, the Family Plan allows you to add up to eight users to a $ 35 per account account. year, which equates to about $ 5 per year. user per year. That’s cheap!
Paid match / currency in the game
Are they super for a specific game? Fortnite? Peak? Halo Infinite?
It’s a little hard to explain, but many games these days have a system – commonly called a “combat pass” – that rewards you with things in the game (think character skins or dances you can do to mock your enemies) to log in and play. Some of these systems have paid levels that offer multiple rewards. Buying these premium upgrades can feel like a bit of a luxury – potentially making it a solid gift for the person who can not / will not pay for themselves.
A catch? Depending on the game, it can be difficult to give the match pass as a gift! The trick is in most cases to give them some of the game’s respective currency in the game (you want to buy it as a code or a card from a reputable dealer, in general; there are lots of scams in these waters), which can generally be used for to buy premium battle pass. In most cases, the match pass expires with each “season” in the game – so if they already have that season’s pass, they can save it for the next one or just spend the currency on skins in the game or something else they’ve looked at.