Xbox One $50 discount heats up the holiday season

Xbox One's become a perennial second-fiddle to PS4, and while that's a black eye for Microsoft, it's looking better and better for consumers. Why's that? Starting on November 2, Microsoft will offer $50 off all Xbox One systems in the US through January 3, 2015. Yes, that includes the $400 bundles--meaning you can snag a system, controller, and a copy of Sunset Overdrive for $350.

If post-apocalyptic wire-grinding shenanigans don't catch your fancy, you could try the $350 Assassin's Creed Unity bundle which offers a copy of both the eponymous title and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. That deal sets you two games deep into Microsoft's new generation for $50 less than it costs just to get a PS4, while a $450 Assassin's Creed Unity Kinect Bundle also offers a Kinect and Dance Central Spotlight. Lastly, the $450 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Bundle's custom console paint job just dares you to fill its 1TB hard drive.

It's the latest heel-nipping trick from Microsoft as it tries to unseat PS4's retail dominance: the company offered one free game with any console purchase conspicuously near Destiny's release, it permanently slashed prices in the UK and, most notably, it dropped any pretense of Kinect's essential contributions to the system by selling a sensor-free bundle for $100 off.

That all goes to show you how unafraid Microsoft is to leverage the one huge advantage it holds over Sony: a healthy bottom line. PS4's price proposition has remained relatively constant for its year-long life, which is natural, considering that it's remained the clear frontrunner for most of it. But it's also because PlayStation is a profitable business in a grim time for the nearly 60-year-old firm, which is nursing its ailing electronics division. Good luck convincing CEO Kaz Hirai to cut into his margins, even if that means letting Xbox One (and Wii U) roam unperturbed south of $400. And you'd better believe Microsoft knows that's the case.

Still, it's only a temporary price cut. When prices go back up in January, some may decide against spending their shiny new gift cards on an Xbox One for fear of missing out on the next promotion--and while they consider the proposition, there's PS4 standing as solid as ever. It's hard to deny the value of putting more systems in homes, but will this kind of deal trade short-term sales figures for long-term lasting power?

For that matter, will $50 off a whole gaggle of good-looking bundles be enough to put Xbox One out in front this holiday season? I'm not sure. PS4 has some strong momentum and is finally getting its system update act together, shoring up one of the areas at which Microsoft has handily bested it. Then again, Xbox One has the clear lead in exclusives, with Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Sunset Overdrive (among others) competing against LittleBigPlanet 3 and the network-troubled DriveClub. Long-term implications aside, it's good to see Microsoft and Sony sweat--and give potential customers some very attractive bargains in the process.