It's finally November. In a matter of days, diehard gamers will be able to get their hands on Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PS4, followed a week later by Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One.

The marketing muscles are already being flexed. Microsoft is out with a high-energy spot that portrays Xbox One users as being everything from the head of a corporation in the middle of a meeting to a sci-fi-smitten young lady waiting at a train station. A spectator in a stadium full of soccer fans is singled out by a star player to take the field. Someone sitting outside a modern cafe is recruited to join Roman gladiators on the attack.  

The stereotype of diehard gamers as pimply teens swigging sodas with cheese doodle-dusted fingers was never fair. The Entertainment Software Association's latest demographics data shows that less than a third of the people playing video games are under 18. Another nugget that seems to buck conventional wisdom is that 45% of gamers are female. Contrary to the abundance of scantily clad booth babes at video-gaming conferences, there's a lively female gaming audience -- there are more women 18 or older playing video games (31%) than boys under 18 (19%).   

Is it any wonder Microsoft's Xbox One ad features a cross-section of everyday people escaping to the invitation of gameplay? 

Sony's surreal spot sticks closer to the male gamer angle, though it mixes things up by having two friends singing a song as they engage in real-life versions of popular gaming genres.

Neither company can afford to blow it this month. The new consoles aren't cheap. Sony's PS4 at $399 and Microsoft's Xbox One at $499 will be competing against similarly priced tablets this holiday shopping season. Touch-screen tablets weren't even in the consumer electronics landscape when the PS3 and Xbox 360 hit the market several years ago. Nintendo (OTC:NTDOY)also recently slashed the price of its soft-selling Wii U, blurring the value perception of what a console is worth. Sure, any real gamer -- or anyone up on spec sheets -- can see that the PS4 and Xbox One are superior gaming devices to tablets and more powerful than the Wii U. It will still make this a very interesting holiday shopping season as various platforms aim to be the system of choice.  

It's probably too late for marketing to sway the early adopters. They've already decided if they want a PS4 or an Xbox One. Most of the retailers offering preorders have all but sold out of their initial allocations, though naturally there will be some chains hoping to generate some buzz ahead of the critical holiday shopping season by reserving a few consoles for the folks lining up on the day of each platform's respective launch.

Then again, these next-gen systems aren't exclusively for diehard gamers. Sure, that will be the group that takes in millions of these systems later this month. However, both consoles have made it a point to establish themselves as entertainment devices. With their ability to surf the Web, stream video, and engage with live TV, the goal here is to make these systems the cornerstone of a home's media center. Advertising now to the broader audience is a way to serve up distinguishing features that will make it happen. 

The game's afoot.

Everyone's thinking inside the box
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