As Black Friday approaches the lower price of the $399 PlayStation 4 may help that system outsell the $499 Xbox One, while 2014 may hold game-changing competition from Apple for the new generation of consoles.
Sony and Microsoft both designed systems to cater to the gaming and program watching demands of a living room audience, with DVD, online content stores, games and 3-D sensor technology.
Apple may be planning to step up competition for living room audiences with an eventual upgrade of its Apple TV set top box using technology from its new acquisition PrimeSense. Apple on Monday confirmed it bought the Israel-based company, which designed the 3-D depth sensors for the Microsoft Kinect on the Xbox 360.
"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," according to a statement from Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet.
The Kinect software allows players to use their motions as part of the gaming experience. The Xbox One released on Friday includes Kinect software designed in-house by Microsoft. PlayStation 4 also uses motion sensor technology for its games, but the PlayStation Camera has to be bought separately from the system.
Apple could use the PrimeSense technology for any number of devices including a smartwatch. The latest generation of systems is trying to develop "an ecosystem of features" so a new version of the Apple TV could eventually compete with consoles using the PrimeSense technology, explains Scott Steinberg, a consultant on the gaming industry at business consulting firm TechSavvy. "It's inevitable that Apple enters the fray," Steinberg predicts. "It would be a real game-changer."
Pent-up demand is likely driving early sales to hardcore gamers because the last version of the PlayStation was released in 2006, and the XBox360 was released in 2005, Steinberg says.
"The real test will be 12 or 18 months from now, when we will see whether those systems can maintain momentum of sales," Steinberg says. "The new generation is designed to be future-proof with features that will keep audiences satisfied."
PlayStation 4 sold 1 million units during its first day of sales in the U.S. and Canada, while the Xbox One sold 1 million units during its first day of sales across 13 countries, said Lewis Ward, a gaming industry analyst for International Data Corporation market research firm. That indicates there may be more chances for PlayStation 4 sales when it launches in the European Union, Australia and New Zealand on Nov. 29, Ward explains. The systems sell many of the same games, with only three or four titles sold exclusively on their systems, including "Forza Motorsport 5" on Xbox and "Killzone: Shadow Fall" on PlayStation, so the lower price seems to be the advantage for Sony's system, Ward explains.
The gaming console market is undergoing a shift not just to offer both streaming media and games, but to compete with Internet and smartphone gaming. Competition for traditional consoles may also come from gaming company Valve, which is planning a new set of products in 2014 for TVs to use its game downloading platform Steam. The Steam Machine could pressure the video game industry to focus more on digital download convenience.
While games on tablets and other devices are gaining popularity to compete for people's spare time, the PlayStation and Xbox systems won't be pushed out of the market in the near future the way PC gaming is becoming less common, Ward predicts.
"The console experience in the living room is pretty insulated," Ward explains.