The previous console generation defied all logic, where the two most similar consoles launched a full year apart and ended up tied by the end of the race. But this generation, things are different. Sony and Microsoft releases consoles of comparable power and price within weeks of each other, and depending on who you ask, though, one or the other is blowing its competition out of the water. Jump onto an Xbox forum and you'll hear how the Xbox One has better games and people care about the "all in one" experience. Meander towards the PS4 side and you'll hear that the lower-priced console (with its awesome games) is surely outselling the overpriced, gameless Xbox One. Oh, and someone, somewhere thinks that Nintendo still has a chance to destroy the competition with the Wii U.
The truth, however, is more exciting and equitable: they're both doing about the same. Microsoft just revealed that the Xbox One, despite launching later in the year, managed to ship 3.9 million units. The PlayStation 4, on the other hand, sold 4.2 by December 31, according to Sony.
Looking forward, the two systems have pretty evenly matched release schedules as well: Xbox has Titanfall and a Halo game on the horizon, and Sony fans can look forward to new entries in the Infamous and Uncharted franchises. This is good news for the console-makers, great news for the game industry, and absolutely fantastic news for gamers who don't want to hear analysts talk about how console gaming is dead and everything is moving to mobile.
Competition breeds innovation; innovation breeds progress. Microsoft's lead in the last generation gave it the ground to slowly add features without taking big risks, leading to six years of iteration while Sony tried its hardest to get cross-game chat working. Microsoft added Netflix, and Sony... eventually figured out Trophy support. The Xbox had a Hulu app, and the PS3 got hacked. But once Sony (eventually) caught up, Microsoft had to scramble to make its Xbox Live service stronger--eventually opting to give out free games in an effort to match PlayStation Plus. With PlayStation Now on the horizon, Microsoft needs to answer again--not because it's behind or winning, but because things are even, and it simply can't afford to fall behind.
With the two consoles fighting for first place in a very tight race, the deciding factor is going to come from something new. Sony can't hope that the occasional free game through PlayStation Plus is going to win things for them, and Microsoft isn't going to be able to hide behind Master Chief during this new generation. Things are, for the most part, all tied up, and gamers are going to benefit greatly as the two companies struggle to break the stalemate.
Editor's Note: This article originally stated that Microsoft had sold 3.9 million units in 2013, when in fact it had shipped 3.9 million. GamesRadar regrets this error.