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PSA: Set up your console gifts before the holidays begin

One of the most popular — and obvious — gifts to give during the holidays is a video game console. Many of us have happy memories of ripping open boxes containing brand-new Xboxes, PlayStations, and Nintendo consoles. In years past, consoles were almost always ready to go right out of the box. The little setup they required mostly concerned hardware like A/V cables and power cords.

Today’s consoles are much more advanced and feature-packed, but they’re also more high-maintenance. Many need software or firmware updates before they’ll function at all, while others require users to create an account or connect to the internet before gaming. The joy of unboxing a new console can quickly turn to frustration when these necessary processes take hours or even all day.

If you’re giving a console this holiday season, here’s a PSA: Take it out of the box and set it up before you gift it to someone.

Server load

During the holidays, and particularly on Christmas Day, people all around the world are opening and setting up brand-new consoles for the first time. This sudden increase in network traffic can bring even the most stable servers down as they struggle with the load of millions of new consoles. Many consoles these days require a persistent internet connection to complete most or all of their basic functions. If servers are under increased load during the holidays, players may not be able to jump into digital storefronts or get online as quickly as they’d like.

Nintendo even warned customers of this in a Japanese-language tweet that encouraged console buyers to set up Nintendo accounts beforehand.

今週末は #ニンテンドーアカウント のサーバーにアクセスが集中し、ニンテンドーアカウントがすぐに作成できないなどの影響が予想されます。

はじめてNintendo Switchファミリーを利用される予定の方は、事前に作成しておくことをおすすめします。

— 任天堂サポート (@nintendo_cs) December 20, 2021

On Christmas Day 2020, the Nintendo Switch eShop was down for several hours thanks to the amount of people who were trying to purchase and download games on their new Switches. Doing so requires a Nintendo account. While it seems as though the company isn’t anticipating an outage quite as bad as last year’s, it’s still acknowledging that account creation will likely be slower thanks to increased load.

You don’t even need to take the console out of the box for this. Simply visit Nintendo’s website and create an account before gifting your Switch. Sony and Microsoft’s consoles also require similar accounts, so no matter which console you’re giving this season, make sure to set up an account beforehand.

Update and play

You will need to take a console out of its box to connect it to the internet and apply any available updates, which is also highly encouraged. Depending on how long it’s been since a console was manufactured and placed on a store shelf, it’s very likely that it doesn’t have the latest version of its essential software or firmware. These processes are essential to all of a console’s functions (even Sony’s Dualsense gets firmware updates), from playing games to getting into multiplayer matches to watching streaming services and using social functions.

The Xbox Series X and PS5
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Updating modern consoles is usually pretty easy. Simply turning on a console and connecting it to your home Wi-Fi will usually prompt it to update. If there are any issues or errors, you’ll be given an error code or message that you can search online in user guides and forums.

If you’re gifting any games with the console, particularly live-service games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, or Call of Duty: Warzone, make sure that they’re updated before putting the whole thing back in the box. Nothing dampens Christmas Day fun like having to wait an hour for a litany of updates to finish before you can ask the boys where you’re dropping.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, opening up and updating a console you’re about to give to someone else is one of the kindest things you can do for them. Not only will they appreciate the fact that you’ve gifted them a console, but they’ll also be thankful that the only setup they have to do is plug it into their TV or monitor of choice and pick their first game. It’s an easy way to both avoid holiday server headaches and make your giftee happy.

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Emily Morrow
Emily Morrow is a games journalist and narrative designer who has written for a variety of online publications. If she’s…
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