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Gifting a console? What you should know before wrapping it up

No one wants to spend their precious holiday time downloading games and updating consoles.

Playstation nintendo xbox console wars
Image: KnowTechie

This year, as with most years, gaming consoles are the year’s hottest gaming gifts. To make the experience extra special, some prep work is involved before gifting a console, games, or peripherals.

Whether that’s the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, or the Switch OLED – any gamer on your list will be thrilled to receive one of these game consoles this year.

Remember that server issues or slow internet could take the holiday cheer out of your gift. Setting up the console beforehand will reduce the time getting that new console up and running.

We’ll show you what you need to know and what preparation you can take before gifting a console to ensure the gamer on your list is ready to play on unwrapping day.

Do these things before gifting a console

Modern consoles are closer to PCs than ever before. You can’t just take them out of the box and start playing immediately.

First, you’ll need to update them to the latest operating system. But it doesn’t stop there.

There are system and controller firmware updates. And if any games come with the console – install and update those too.

It’s important to start this process early, especially if you only have time to work on it during the hours when your children (or adults) are sleeping.

Console updates can take a while and might even take overnight to complete, depending on your internet speed. And that’s without factoring in the time to download and patch any games.

If you plan on doing this right, you have your work cut out for you. The person you’re gifting a console to knows how much time this takes, and will appreciate you all the more.

Pick the right console for the right person

Xbox playstation and nintendo consoles on a purple background
Image: KnowTechie

One thing you need to do before you even purchase a console is to make sure you’re getting the right one. The last thing you want is to give them the wrong console.

A few factors make picking the right console important. Most gamers have a preferred console of choice, and you should find this out before gifting a console.

Additionally, you want to make sure you get the right generation. The latest consoles available from the three major manufacturers are the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and the Nintendo Switch.

If you’re looking to gift a PlayStation 5, there are two options. The standard PlayStation 5 lets you play both physical and digital games. But there’s also a PlayStation 5 Digital Edition with no disc drive that costs a little less.

This year, Sony is refreshing the PlayStation 5 with slimmer versions, upgraded storage to 1TB, and a Blu-ray drive accessory for the new Digital Edition. So, you might want to wait, either to get a good deal or to grab the new version.

The Xbox Series X|S are essentially the same console. An Xbox Series X has a disc drive, and an Xbox Series S does not.

The Series X also has slightly improved specs but costs more than the Series S. There is also a new Series S with 1TB of internal storage, so the only fundamental differences are the size, disc drive, and a more powerful GPU on the Series X.

The Nintendo Switch has three options to choose from. The middle-of-the-road Nintendo Switch is the classic, handheld plus docked Nintendo experience.

If you only want the handheld version, you can save some money and get the cheaper Nintendo Switch Lite.

Finally, there’s the Nintendo Switch OLED Model. This version offers an improved screen, more storage, and various other improvements over the original model. But, of course, it’ll cost you a little extra.

Update the console

Updating software before gifting a console
Image: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

Nobody wants to spend Christmas Day staring at a console’s update screen. That’s why it’s important to update the software before gifting a console.

To prepare for this, you’ll need to plan. This is especially important if your internet is frequently congested with streaming video and other tasks.

How to set up a new console

Xbox series x and playstation 5 on purple background
Image: KnowTechie

Like any other electronics, you want to be careful when you set up a new console for the first time. The process is relatively easy if you follow the steps below.

Step 1: Open the console box carefully. Ensure not to rip anything, and carefully cut the security sticker with a sharp knife.

Leave the two halves on. The last thing you want to do is accidentally tear part of the box when peeling the sticker. You can even replace it with a new security sticker when you’re done.

Step 2: Plug in the console and follow all instructions to update the latest operating system. We recommend using an Ethernet cable for this step, as it enables the fastest download speeds.

You can also use this time to enter any Wi-Fi details if you know them. That’ll save time when your recipient unwraps their console.

Once you’re finished updating the console and installing any games, you can repackage the console.

If you want to go further, get a replacement security seal sticker from Amazon. That way, you can replace the sticker you cut earlier and give your loved one the whole unboxing experience.

How to update a new console

Xbox series s and controller
Image: Unsplash

You might already own the console you’re gifting, so you know how to update them. For everyone else, here are instructions from all three major manufacturers on how to update before gifting a console:

Creating a temporary login is best, and you can delete it afterward. It takes an hour or more to update a console.

You’ll also feel pretty good that you did it early before the millions of other people updating their consoles for the first time, as that can sometimes cause issues.

You don’t need to create a temporary log-in if you’re gifting a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S.

Instead, the console will ask you to update the firmware before it asks you to sign in. But you will need one to update a Nintendo Switch.

Also, make sure to charge the controllers.? The PlayStation’s DualShock 4 uses a micro-USB to charge. The DualSense controllers for PlayStation 5 use USB-C.

Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S controllers need AA batteries unless you buy the Charge n Play accessory, and Switch controllers charge wirelessly when attached to the main console.

Wrapping up a new console

If you want to know how to wrap an Xbox (or any other console for gifting), the best way to do this is in the box. Otherwise, the wrapping job is probably going to look awkward.

You can use traditional methods when wrapping a console or any physical game. If you need a refresher, the video above offers a great explanation of how to wrap a box.

What to do with games for a new console

Five games to check out in july 2020
Image: KnowTechie

If you’re gifting a console that came with digital downloads, you’ll need the recipient’s account details to download them. You would want to avoid attaching the games to another account.

You might feel uncomfortable asking, or if this is their first console from that manufacturer, it’s better to leave this unclaimed so they can install the games once they decide on a username.

We recommend you buy any games as physical versions (disc, cartridge, etc) so they can return them if it’s not a game they’ll play. Read the vendor’s return policy fully. Here are the policies for Amazon, Best Buy, and Target.

We like giving gift cards for the console instead of digital download keys. That way, they can pick the titles they want to play.

Make sure you give more than the cost of one game for the latest consoles. That’s $70, to be on the safe side.

If you bought a bundle with Blu-ray-based games, you could install those ahead of time so they can play something while the digital ones download.

Stick them in the drive, let it transfer data onto the hard drive, and start any updates for the game over the internet. That could take hours, so leave the console plugged in and connected to the internet.

How to install physical games on a console

Ps5 game install
Image: YouTube

Now, you can think about installing any physical games that you got to join the console gift. Depending on which console you’re gifting, that process might differ slightly.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo switch oled model and stand
Image: KnowTechie

Physical games for the Nintendo Switch come as small cartridges. They should work right out of the box. You can even play many of them while any updates are downloaded.

You can safely leave them in the shrink-wrapped box so your recipient gets all the joy of tearing them open. It won’t take long for them to get into the game once they pop the cartridge in the console.

Remove that shrink wrap carefully if you want to go the extra mile. Lift the two tabs on one short side and slide the shrink wrap off.

Then do the same on the other side once you’re done. You can even reseal it with a dab of glue.

Connect the Switch to the internet, then place the cartridge into the console. Follow the instructions that will pop up for updating and installing.

Then pop the cartridge out and back into the box once it updates.


Playstation 5 on table
Image: Unsplash

Many games for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 can be played without an update. But some will require an update first.

As a responsible person gifting a console, it’s worth preinstalling and checking for updates. Important bug fixes or added content could be part of those updates.

You can update games without having to sign into a PSN account. Please carefully remove the shrink wrap to make sure it is usedto seal the box when you’re done. Insert the disc into the drive and follow the prompts.

Once the installation is done, run the game once. That lets it connect to the internet to download any updates. Eject the disc, put it carefully back in the box, and put the shrink wrap around it.


Xbox series s and series s on white background
Image: Microsoft

Unlike PS games, most Xbox One and Xbox Series X games must be installed on the internal hard drive. Most of the time, they also need an update before they load.

First, you need to sign in with an Xbox account. Create one just for this process, then sign in. Open the shrink wrap carefully, and slide the disc into the slot. Install it as prompted, then get ready to update everything.

Press the Xbox Guide button on the controller, then select My Games and Apps > See all. On the next screen, scroll down to Manage > Updates and update every game you see in the list.

Wait for them to finish updating, then you can remove the temporary account you created earlier.

That will load all the games and content onto the Xbox, but make it so your recipient can sign into their own Xbox account when they unwrap their present.

Throw in an extra controller (or two)

Xbox nintendo and playstation controllers
Image: KnowTechie

Another good idea to consider when gifting a console is throwing in an extra controller. That way, the person you’re gifting doesn’t have to play alone.

Of course, if you’re gifting this console to someone who only plays alone or online, they might not need an extra controller.

But it’s nice to have more than one when there will be more than one person gaming on the console.

The Nintendo Switch comes with detachable controllers that can be split up and used by two people. However, you can snag an extra pair of JoyCons for party gaming with up to four people on one console.

How To Wrap A Switch Game

To wrap a Nintendo Switch game, start by placing the game case on a flat surface. Lay the wrapping paper flat with the design facing down and position the game case on top. Fold the sides of the paper over the case and secure with tape. Fold the top and bottom flaps, taping them down for a neat finish.

PlayStation and Xbox consoles typically come with one controller unless you get a special bundle that states otherwise. That makes them a great candidate for snagging an extra controller to add to the gift.

For the PlayStation 5, the latest controller available is the DualSense Wireless controller starting at $69. Microsoft also improved its controller for the Xbox Series X|S, available starting at $49.

That’s a wrap on gifting a console

So, there you have it. That’s all you should do if you plan on gifting a console or game this holiday season.

It’s important to remember today’s consoles are closer to PCs than ever. You can’t just take them out of the box and immediately start playing.

Doing all this legwork will ensure whoever you’re gifting a console lets them play right on day one.

What do you think? Gifting a console this year? Plan on taking this advice? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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