Gaming Console Wars Are about to Begin
by Maria Welych - Thursday, November 14th, 2013

News of Black Friday deals are already starting to leak out.

The console wars will kick off Friday, Nov. 15, with the release of Sony’s PlayStation 4, a full week before Microsoft’s Xbox One on Nov. 22, and bean counters will be watching closely.

Analysts initially called Sony the clear winner but are hedging their bets after Microsoft reversed itself on several key policies, including the “always online” requirement, that had gamers crying foul.

Robert W. Baird and Co. analyst Colin Sebastian projects the Xbox One and PS4 will each push 1.5 to 2 million units in North America.

“Our shipment unit forecasts are slightly below consensus of 3 million or more for each platform,” Sebastian said. “We estimate 5-6 million total Xbox One and PS4 shipments worldwide in 2013.”

The main differences include price (the PS4 is $100 cheaper), equipment (the One comes with the second generation Kinect motion sensor, a Blu-ray drive and a DVR for recording game play) and entertainment options. While both consoles offer Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Hulu Plus and Redbox Instant, only the One will include Watch ESPN, HBO Go, Twitch, the NFL, Target Ticket and Fox Now.

However, Xbox One owners need to pay up to $60 a year for an Xbox Live Gold subscription to use any third-party entertainment apps, including Netflix. A PlayStation Plus subscription is not required to use the PS4′s entertainment apps.

The real winners in the console war are likely to be retailers like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Amazon, which will be selling the consoles and games. News of Black Friday deals are already starting to leak out. Kmart is offering deals on games and console accessories, but for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Keep checking Google for the latest leaks.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is coming off a tough weekend. Target had a shipping error and sent 150 Xbox One consoles two weeks early. One lucky customer took photos and videos of the device and put them on the Internet, and Microsoft worked hard to take them down — amid negative outcry from gamers.

It all ended amicably, though, with the customer agreeing not to post any more videos or information in exchange for Microsoft inviting him to an exclusive launch event party.

Are you going to be in line for a new console this Friday or next? Why or why not? Email me at mwelych@gmail.com, and I’ll run your responses in a future column.

Bits & Pieces

  • Caught ya! Microsoft, in an effort to boost its Windows Phone Store, has been turning web apps into apps available on its store, which are basically wrappers for popular websites.
  • Blizzard has announced a new expansion pack for stalwart MMO “World of Warcraft.” It’s called “Warlords of Draenor,” and it adds a world, allows players to build settlements and will boost characters to a high level.
  • This is ironic: The National Security Agency has released a smartphone app to help the agency recruit employees. Work with what you’re good at, I guess.
  • A new study from New York University finds that playing math games competitively or on a team helped students learn the material faster.
  • A team from the University of Cambridge found that software called PIN Skimmer correctly worked out smartphone security codes more than 50 percent of the time by using a phone’s camera and microphone.
  • PBS has released the third in a series of online games that immerses players in U.S. history as seen through the eyes of teenagers living it. The first “Mission US” chapter focuses on a printer’s apprentice in colonial Boston and the second follows a 14-year-old runaway slave. In the new mission, “A Cheyenne Odyssey,” players become a Northern Cheyenne boy whose life changes with the encroachment of settlers, railroads and the military. Check all three missions here.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that shipments of DSLR cameras are expected to drop 9.1 percent, to 17.4 million units. An IDC analyst told the newspaper that some consumers are spending their money instead on smartphones and tablets.
  • A group of partners, including Electronic Arts and the Institute of Play in New York City,  has created  SimCityEDU, a version of SimCity created for middle-school students. Rather than just teaching something, the game is testing their “systems thinking.”

 

Maria Welych, who was technology editor at The Post-Standard for five years, is director of marketing and public relations at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology. She can be reached at mwelych@gmail.com.