Tactically speaking, Sony would seem to have the advantage. Its console is $100 cheaper than Microsoft's entry, though it did sacrifice the motion-based camera -- making it a $60 add-on accessory -- to get to that price point. Most would also agree that earlier is rather than later, especially since Microsoft isn't giving itself a lot of wiggle room by releasing its platform just a week before Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season.
However, there are plenty of things that could go wrong for Sony with its seven-day lead.
- The first wave of reviews can be unflattering, leading gamers to wait a week to get an early read on Xbox One critiques.
- It could be buggy. This is naturally a risk for any new platform.
- There could be negative backlash for PlayStation Plus. Unlike earlier Sony consoles where multi-player games could generally be played without paying up for a subscription, that ends with the PS4 and its PlayStation Plus offering. Microsoft's been getting tens of millions of folks to pay up for Xbox Live Gold for years, but Sony may be taking a chance with this premium requirement.
- Sony could get hacked -- again. It may be shrinking away in the rearview mirror, but Sony's networks was hacked twice in 2011. It's probably not a coincidence that Microsoft's Xbox 360 kicked off its impressive monthly streak of being the country's top-selling console after that.
- A shortage of availability may send gamers to rival consoles. We don't know how many systems Sony and Microsoft will have at launch, but this isn't a case where scarcity will help drum up demand. No one is going to bid these systems up if a rival is available. That may not extend to Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) Wii U. It is cheaper and in ample supply this month. However, the specs and games don't necessarily align with the typical PlayStation or Xbox user.
Naturally, things could also go the other way. Reviews can be tremendous. Supply may be plentiful, or at least trickling in at a healthy enough clip to keep potential buyers patient. These setbacks can also trip up Microsoft a week later.
A successful PS4 rollout will also benefit the fledgling PS Vita. Sony's handheld system hasn't fared as well as Nintendo's entry, but a neat feature of the PS4 is Remote Play, allowing gamers to stream their PS4 games on their PS Vita via WiFi. The whole "second screen" trend didn't really help Nintendo's Wii U, but if a PS4 owner was ever on the fence about paying up for the portable gaming system, this would seem to be a good enough reason to send more money Sony's way.
Sony has a week during which it will be the only relevant name in gaming. It had better not mess this up.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.