Xbox One kicks off Irish console war
At midnight on 22/11/2013 Irish consumers with the good sense to pre-order got their first taste of the eighth generation of games consoles with the release of the Xbox One. In exactly one week the competing PlayStation 4 will go on sale after a successful US launch where over 1 million units were sold.
Traditionally a three horse race Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, the discontinuation of the Wii this year has reduced the field to two. It is also the first year Sony and Microsoft will be going to market with competing products at the same time. It’s impossible to talk about one without using the other as context. Both companies are starting from a similar position of strength. According to stats on VGChartz.com the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have both sold around 80 million units with Microsoft ahead in the US and Sony on top in Europe.
How well each console will fare depends largely on how quickly users will upgrade from their console of choice to the newest model. In Ireland, at least, the transition will be quick. According to retailer GameStop (which operates 51 stores around the country) Ireland tops the world in PlayStation 4 pre-orders and is second only to Australia for the Xbox One.
For the more discerning customer, or someone looking to buy their first console may find their options influenced more by price and strategy than hardware and catalogue; the reasons for which go back to gaming expo E3 in May.
At Microsoft’s launch of the Xbox One it was announced that games could be played and shared across devices without the need for bringing a disk everywhere. A neat idea, except it would require hard copies to get a ‘digital fingerprint’ making them useless to anyone but the owner – effectively ending the trade in second hand games. The One was also designed as an always-connected machine, signing itself into Xbox Live every day. The console was also introduced as a way to combine on-demand content, Internet access and TV viewing in a single box. Some videos on YouTube made note of the amount of times TV was mentioned in presentations compared to games. A €499 price tag might be too rich for bedroom gamers.
In contrast, the PlayStation 4 is market as a console for gamers first. Also at E3 Sony executives drew loud applause in saying its machine did not have to be online all the time, would preserve the second hand games market and cost €399.
Cheaper, more gamer-centric and with largely the same number of titles on release, the PlayStation 4 looks like winning the console war for 2013. If supply fails to meet demand, though, it could be Microsoft’s year.