Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) went first last time and paid the price. The software giant now has the advantage of firing last.
Sony (NYSE:SNE) revealed its PS4 release dates yesterday. The Japanese gaming giant's new console will hit North America on November 15 and roll out through Europe two weeks later.
Microsoft has only publicized that the Xbox One will hit the market in November, but now it gets to decide if it wants to hit the gamers before or after its rival's platform is available at the retail level.
This isn't an easy decision.
Microsoft can't hit the market too late in November. It can't miss the post-Thanksgiving launch of the holiday shopping season. It may generate some extra media attention if it hits the market around Black Friday as a frenzy within a frenzy, but it will probably lose the season's crown to Sony if we get to that point where shoppers have already made their big-ticket purchases.
There's clearly a benefit to arriving early, and not just because it would make the Xbox One the first of the two platforms to hit the market. Speed isn't everything. Just ask Nintendo (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY). It thought it would have a major advantage over its more powerful rivals by having the Wii U out last November, but it has been a colossal flop. Nintendo shipped just 160,000 units last quarter.
Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ: ATVI) Call of Duty: Ghosts hits the market on November 5, and it should break industry sales records as the franchise has done with every November release. Video game sales have been slipping in recent years, but Activision's combat game has been resilient.
Getting the console out in time for that game's arrival could be huge, especially since gamers may be hesitant to snap up the PS3 or Xbox 360 versions if they feel that they will be upgrading to a new console running on a new chip architecture later in the year.
However, it's simply not a matter of hitting the market during the first few days of November. The Xbox One may not be ready. There's also something to be said for waiting to see if Sony makes a miscue in its launch that it can exploit later in the month for its marketing purposes.
Microsoft was at the other end of that situation in June when Sony waited for Microsoft's big reveal to point out that it will hit the market at a lower price point and without the restrictive measures that Microsoft went on to partly reverse.
The game's afoot again.