Video game consoles are going to be a popular gift for the holidays this year, because video game consoles are a popular gift for the holidays every year. This fact falls somewhere behind death and taxes in terms of inevitability for a large part of the United States.
The problem is that game consoles require a lengthy series of updates, downloads, adjustments and vaguely arcane incantations before they work properly. I was once given an NES for Christmas when I was a child, and I was able to put a game in the top slot and play within a few minutes. The trickiest part was finding enough whale oil for the lantern so I could see the buttons at night.
In other words, those days are over.
I’ve suggested that parents open their consoles ahead of Christmas morning to get the updates installed, the games downloaded and the controllers either stocked with fresh batteries or completely charged so people can play the moment the wrapping paper is removed, but this suggestion has always proven oddly controversial. The act of opening those packages and putting in the codes and waiting patiently for everything to download is part of the joy. It takes all kinds, I suppose.
You know your children or the recipient of the present better than I do, but in general it’s hard to believe there are people who value turning the system on for the first time over the act of actually playing the game itself. My wife and I used to stay up late the night before Christmas putting together presents and making sure everything had batteries all ready to go, and a morning spent playing with toys was always much more enjoyable than a morning spend setting things up.
I also say this as an individual who has spent the past 36 hours downloading games to my Xbox One X for testing. It’s not fun.
So my recommendation remains the same this year, and there will likely be some version of this story next year. If you’re giving someone a fresh gaming console for the holidays, care enough to pop it open to update the firmware and install the games. This helps makes sure the morning is set aside for fun instead of watching progress bars slowly fill up. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s great to be able to jump right into playing games the moment the presents have been opened and the wrapping paper has been thrown away.
If you disagree and you love being the first person to do all this stuff ... complain in the comments I guess. I don’t want to take away anyone’s fun if the setup process really does bring you joy. But for most players, the shortest line between opening the package and playing the game is the most enjoyable.