In many households, consoles like the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and Wii U currently take up prime living-room real estate next to the television set. In a few weeks, this real estate will be contested when thousands of console owners welcome a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One (or both) into their homes.
So what's a person with so many consoles to do, especially when their new shiny systems can do what their existing systems are capable of (and more)? Console owners have a few options. According to the vice president of insights and analysis for Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, Jesse Divnich, it all comes down to what kind of consumer you are.
1. KEEP IT FOR THE GAMES
"There are still some great titles coming out that are only coming out on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360," Divnich told Polygon. In fact, there's no shortage of major video games that are launching later this year and early next year that will only be available on the PS3 and Xbox 360. In the last quarter of 2013, we'll see the launch of current-gen exclusives like XCOM: Enemy Within, South Park: The Stick of Truth and Gran Turismo 6. Early 2014 will see the launch of Dark Souls 2, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Fable Anniversary and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13.
"The whole idea that one day the PS3 is going to be worth thousands of dollars only works if everybody gets rid of theirs"
In addition, there's a long list of fighting games and independent titles expected to launch in 2014 that, so far, have only been announced for the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Another reason Divnich offers for keeping your current-gen console is that they're still functioning machines that can play your entire library of Xbox 360 and PS3 games.
Both Microsoft and Sony announced earlier this year that neither of their consoles natively support backward compatibility at launch, which means you won't be able to pop your PS3 game discs into your PS4 and expect them to work.
Both consoles could eventually support backward compatibility, but there have been no new announcements from either manufacturer at the time of writing. So if you think you might want to go back to play some of your PS3 or Xbox 360 games, it's probably best to hold onto those consoles until there's further news about backward compatibility support.
2. HAND IT DOWN, SELL IT
"If you're someone who's truly going to transition over to the new systems, then maybe selling your console might be ideal," Divnich says.
Retailers like GameStop will accept an Xbox 360 (S model) 320 GB system or a PS3 500 GB system for $110, according to its current trade-values listing. High-end computer manufacturer Alienware is running a trade-in program that will take your console off your hands in exchange for $200 cash back with the purchase of a new Alienware system.
The consoles still have monetary value, even though you'd need to trade in at least five before you can buy an Xbox One.
Alternatively, those looking to get rid of their consoles could pass them on to friends and family, especially younger gamers who might not be able to afford their own consoles.
According to Divnich, the good thing about selling a console, whether it be through a physical retailer, eBay or Craigslist, is that it will eventually land in the hands of someone who actually wants it and will use it. "That's what we want as an industry and as a business," he says. "We want people playing games. Ideally, what we'd want is for it to land in the hands of somebody who's going to utilize it and purchase more games."
3. DUMP IT
Divnich strongly advises against throwing away your current-gen console, especially if it's still functioning. Aside from being wasteful, it could also pose an environmental hazard.
As electronic waste decomposes, its liquid and atmospheric emissions end up in bodies of water, soil and air, which then affects land and sea animals, vegetation and the quality of drinking water.
If you've decided to throw out your console, it is worth searching for an electronics recycler that is certified by e-Stewards. Recyclers with e-Stewards certification must meet certain standards for responsible recycling and reuse of electronic equipment.
4. KEEP IT FOR THE RICHES
There's an argument to be made for keeping your consoles and selling them once they become rare collectors' items. But Divnich says this isn't a very good argument.
"That only applies to the 0.01 percent, because the whole idea that one day the PS3 is going to be worth thousands of dollars only works if everybody gets rid of theirs," he says. "If everybody holds onto it, then that value doesn't increase." Divnich compares it to the baseball card collecting craze of the 1980s and 1990s. Hearing that a few rare signed baseball cards could be worth a million dollars, lots of people started collecting them. "But when everyone started doing it, it devalued the entire market," Divnich says.
If you're going to hold onto your PS3 or Xbox 360 in the hopes that it will fund your retirement, your best bet is to convince everyone else to get rid of theirs (good luck!). Alternatively, Divnich suggests holding onto it for the memories. Most self-identified gamers have spent many hours of their lives using their PS3s and Xbox 360s, so it's worth holding onto as a keepsake, even if you're not going to use it.
This is part of Polygon's Gen Next series, stories that will examine the transition from current-generation to next-generation consoles, what it means if you don't make the transition and if and when you should. Follow along here.