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Early adopters buying Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Xbox One next month will have to wait until the week after Sony (NYSE: SNE ) fans get their shiny PS4 consoles. And then they're going to have to wait a bit more.
Xbox One chief architect Marc Whitten told gaming site IGN that the Xbox One won't be playing games the moment gamers crack open the box. A software update will be required.
"While we're still finalizing the details, we expect that the download will take between 15 and 20 minutes for most users," he said to IGN.
These day-one patches aren't unique to Microsoft. Sony will have one a week earlier. This is one of the few drawbacks of these next-gen consoles: operating software continues to evolve long after the assembly line starts making the systems.
The updates have never been all that newsworthy, but that changed last November when Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY ) Wii U frustrated its first wave of buyers. The software update took more than an hour -- and in some cases far more than that -- but things got even worse. Some frustrated buyers who decided to shut down their systems mid-update found themselves with bricked consoles.
It's quite possible that Nintendo's inability to recover after a lackluster debut -- selling just 400,000 units in its first week on the market -- was related to the negative feedback of the painful update, which limited the Wii U to disc-based games until completed.
Things will naturally play out far better for both Sony and Microsoft this time around. Pre-orders for both platforms are already reportedly well ahead of both Wii U and earlier PS3 and Xbox 360 rollouts.
There will also be far better title support for both systems than the slim pickings facing Wii U buyers last November.
Things can always change of course. If either platform proves buggy next month, critics will shout it from the rooftops before the holiday shopping season gets a chance to send Microsoft and Sony a large chunk of this season's budget.
Nintendo thought it had an advantage rolling out a year ahead of the competition, but initial hiccups doomed the device. Weak sales forced Nintendo into a Wii U price cut this summer, far sooner than the Japanese gaming icon ever wanted to start discounting its console. Cheaper Wii U systems are unlikely to make a dent on Microsoft and Sony next month. The only thing that can stop them at this point is their own potential blunders.
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