Never before have there been two contenders as similar as the Xbox One and PS4. And never have two titanic products of this magnitude and prestige gone on sale at exactly the same time - not months or years, but days apart.
There is an assumption, given the cross-platform reality of our recent history, that there is room in the world for two similar next-gen consoles to co-exist in harmony.
But I posit that only one console will win the Iron Throne. The other must pay the Iron price, and favourite for the wooden spoon is currently the Xbox One. Here's why:
1. History favours dominant consoles
The current generation is a bit of an oddity. You have 100 million Nintendo Wii consoles gathering dust in an alternate universe somewhere, and two others - PS3 and Xbox 360 - that've sold roughly 80 million units each and are seen as a dominant pair.
But the two previous generations have shown how more often than not, one console tends to come out on top. The Sony PlayStation dominated the Sega Saturn and the Nintendo 64. The PS2 blasted away the Sega Dreamcast and never gave the original Xbox a chance.
You could argue that only the PlayStation 3's high asking price and the fact it launched a year after the 360 prevented Sony from continuing that domination.
2. Microsoft alienated its audience
This year's Christmas silly-season is going to be the biggest few months in the history of gaming but Microsoft has royally cocked up its pre-season preparations. First it alienated gamers by mooting tight restrictions instead of greater freedoms.
It then insulted those disappointed gamers by telling them to get lost and buy an Xbox 360 instead. And then it wet its pants, lost confidence in itself and indulged in some inelegant backtracking when it realised just what it had done.
This is now what people think about when they talk Xbox One - they are not thinking about it's might as a gaming machine or its genuinely impressive AV chops. Meanwhile, Sony simply followed the most basic principles of economics: make products and services that people want to buy at prices they're willing to pay.
3. The selfish gene
Gamers are in a unique position to choose and shape the direction of the next generation in ways they have never been able to do so before. They can vote with their wallets this holiday season, and lobby those around them to make the same choices, and that's exactly what we're seeing all over the web every day.
The phenomenon of fanboyism emanates largely from people seeking validation of their opinions and purchases by rationalising them - this is why people are not only feeling positively about the PS4 right now, they're actively PRing it for free at the bottom of the internet. After all, there's no better time to influence the direction of an industry than at the very start of a new era, when two competing products go on sale at the same time.
As a gamer, it might not even be in your interest for there to be two competing consoles. If you buy only one console, you ideally want all games, services, features and benefits to be available on that system. You don't want to see your friends enjoying things you cannot have.
4. PS4 has a pre-order sales lead already
Success breeds success - a huge initial sales advantage could easily deliver a knock-out blow to the Xbox One and convince legions of fence-sitters that PlayStation 4 is indeed the way to go. After all, there are 155 million former PS2 gamers out there, and word is that the PS4 pre-orders are significantly outstripping those of the new Xbox.
You need only glance across to the much-maligned Nintendo Wii U to see how rats will abandon a sinking ship when they see the water coming in. So why in the world would rats board a ship that's already perceived to be sinking?
The importance of multiplayer and friends in modern games cannot be overstated - it's the glue that binds gaming circles together. Single player experiences are being eroded by those involving co-operative play and replaced entirely by wholly multiplayer philosophies.
Being on the same platform as your mates and the wider community in general is more important today than ever and will be more so tomorrow. It could be argued that a huge reason why the Xbox 360 prevailed so successfully in the face of the damaging RROD fiasco was the strength of Xbox Live over the comparatively weak PSN of the day.
This time around, Sony appears to have planned its network strategy to popular effect.
6. The PS4 is also cheaper
Finally, if the above factors aren't significant enough, how about the price of the consoles themselves? The PS4 is cheaper in all territories, a huge advantage when added to all the other reasons gamers are finding to talk up the PS4. And it was a front runner before the price was even announced.
- See if the PS4 is worth it in our up-to-date review
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