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Sony has spent the last six months locked in a brutal war with Microsoft, with each attempting to best the other for next-gen supremacy. From the outside, it's been hilarious to watch. Seriously, I haven't seen this much smack talk and passive-aggressive banter since SEGA was claiming to be doing what Nintendon't.
But it hasn't really felt like a fair fight, has it? Despite starting on an even playing field, Sony has been outright humiliating the Xbox One, like LeBron James dunking on a twelve-year-old. When Microsoft said $500, Sony said $400. When Microsoft said "no used games," Sony promised to support them. Xbox One went always-online, and Sony stayed off, Microsoft packed in a camera no one wanted, and then Sony took it out. But now, for the first time, Sony has slipped up, making a mistake that may end up being more costly than any of Microsoft's pre-release follies.
Today, Sony revealed that the PlayStation 4 would be releasing on November 15 in the US. At face value that sounds great--mid-November has traditionally been the dumping ground for new hardware and it's early enough to assure that supplies will be on store shelves come Black Friday.
But this generation is different. Next-gen consoles aren't just going to be competing against each other, but with the current gen. In previous years, the next-generation was such a massive leap that it was blatantly obvious to everyone why the new hardware was needed. Publishers and developers have also chosen to continue supporting the current generation, meaning that nearly every major AAA release from Call of Duty: Ghosts to Watch Dogs is going to be released on the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 as well as the PlayStation 4/Xbox One. Or, as is the case with Grand Theft Auto 5, it's the next-gen consoles that are being skipped this year.
Are people really going to wait for the next-gen consoles to buy games they can already buy on their current hardware? If the Wii U's launch lineup is any indication, that's a resounding no. Assassin's Creed 4 and Battlefield 4 are hitting two weeks earlier and Call of Duty: Ghosts releases on November 5. Those are some of the biggest games of the year, and it's a tall order for Sony to ask those franchises' ardent supporters to hold out for them. Those gamers--the ones who anxiously await buying products as soon as they're released--are the same ones Sony and Microsoft are fighting over. And Sony might lose them.
Sony knows this. At its GamesCom event it revealed a sort of trade-in program to allow players to upgrade select PS3 games to PS4 games for a "severe discount." What that discount will be is unknown. (Sony used similar wording to convey a "significant discount" on PS Vita memory cards, but that ended up being just 20%). That said, I can't see this ostensibly dramatic price reduction being enough to lure people to the PS4 versions, especially if Microsoft capitalizes.
And I think it will, if for no other reason than Microsoft finally finds itself in a position to get in the last word. Thus far, many of Microsoft's pre-release blunders can be attributed to making the first move and allowing Sony to one-up them. Microsoft revealed its price first, giving Sony the ability to to react by removing the previously included camera and slashing the price by $100 (something Sony denies was reactionary, but c'mon). By going first and revealing the restrictions on game sharing, it gave Sony time to not only react in terms of branding, but to release a freaking viral video about the situation. This time, Sony blinked first. Microsoft waited it out, and now it's in a great position.
If Microsoft is able to get the Xbox One out the door by the first weekend in November--or, hell, by the end of October--it would be a coup that could trigger the goldfish memory core housed within all gamers' minds. If people have Assassin's Creed 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, and other hot-ticket items staring at them on store shelves, rest assured that any indignity or moral stand against the Xbox One's policies will fade away. Who cares if the system was going to make you check-in online every 24 hours? Big deal if the Kinect is or is not always watching you sit on your couch. So what if used games and backward compatibility are questionable.
Oh, and $5 says Major Nelson reveals a release date by the end of the week. Any takers?
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