With the runaway popularity of mobile and tablet gaming stealing the focus from the home console space, some pundits wondered whether the battle for the living room had not shifted to people's pockets. That line of questioning has taken a back seat to the latest battle in the console wars, as fresh casualties pile up daily between the two leading contenders, Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One.
The latest salvo comes by proxy from IDC Canada, whose latest research shows that the majority of game-playing Canucks plan to purchase a PS4 over an Xbox One this Christmas.
While only 6% of respondents said they "definitely" plan to buy the PS4, with a slightly smaller 4% planning to buy an Xbox One, the disparity looms larger when we drill down to 18 to 29 year old males. Among that coveted console-loving group, 13% planned to "definitely" buy a PS4, compared to 3% of similarly-motivated Xbox One fans.
At first blush, the reasons are clear: the PS4 comes in at a full $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. By all accounts, Microsoft bungled their E3 2013 press conference by announcing the mandatory inclusion of its Kinect camera, and a limiting DRM policy that restricted players from lending or reselling game discs. They did this while applying for a patent for a camera-enabled device that would count up the number of people in the living room and charge them extra to watch a movie, if the assembled crowd exceeded the license agreement.
Add to this Sony's publicly-stated commitment to working with indie game developers (in stark contrast to Microsoft's much more closed, gatekeeper approach), and the fact that an Xbox LIVE membership is required to use Netflix on the device. The annual LIVE fee is even required to run the Xbox One's web browser (Internet Explorer, naturellement), functionality which is free out-of-the-box on competing systems.
These factors all culminate in a climate where Sony's PS4 is set to lead the charge through Canadians' living rooms, with Microsoft tripping over themselves to backtrack on their policies and to bring their offering more in-line with their competitor's. But as we've seen through the history books in this bloody, seemingly endless war, a console's fortunes are prone to reversal. The beleaguered PS3 began life as a marginalized, more expensive machine, with far fewer supporters than its popular rival, the Xbox 360.
While the console war raged all around it, the Nintendo Wii U sat on a shelf, patiently waiting.