It's finally here... but is it too late?

It's finally here... but is it too late?

Microsoft is almost a year late to the game, but it has been working hard to raise the ante in the ongoing console war.

Microsoft's Xbox One finally made its debut in Singapore yesterday at $639 for the basic Xbox One bundle.

That is the same price as the Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4), but the Xbox deal comes with a sweetener - a copy of Fifa 15, the latest iteration of the hit football game.

For an extra $100, gamers can also get the Kinect camera as well as Dance Central Spotlight games.

Sony has a headstart with local gamers since it launched the PS4 here last December. The XBox One went on sale last November in the United States and 12 other territories.

While Microsoft delayed its Asia launch, Sony had expanded to 50 territories by the end of last year, covering major territories including the US, Germany, Brazil, South Africa and Singapore.

That headstart shows up in its numbers. Latest reports indicate that it has sold 10 million PS4 consoles globally; Microsoft, about half that number. A leading retailer here told Digital Life that pre-orders of the PS4 sold twice as fast as the Xbox One did here during their respective launch months.

Speaking on condition that he was not identified, he said there had been more hype for the PS4 during its launch last year. Its timing was also better because it launched during the holiday season.

Fewer Xbox One pre-orders

Another top retailer said that in his shops, he sells three PS4 machines for every Xbox One.

Mr Soon Qishan, who owns the popular game shop Qishan in Far East Shopping Centre, puts the disparity even higher. Pre-orders for the PS4 outnumbered those for the Xbox One 20 to one during their respective launch months.

Sony's global launch of a special white edition on Sept 9 seemed designed to put pressure on Microsoft's Xbox One launch this month in more than 25 countries.

"I guess Sony is not letting Microsoft launch the Xbox One in peace," said Mr Soon, who became famous overnight two years ago when he sold more than 20,000 parallel-imported versions of Diablo III at launch for $65.90 each, way below the official $89 retail price.

He said his shop currently sells more PS4s in one day than the total of Xbox One pre-orders he has received so far.

However, he did concede that most of his customers are Sony PlayStation diehards, and that may explain why his numbers are skewed.

Gaming with your bros

Another advantage Sony had over Microsoft is in the choice of games. Sony timed the launch of the white PS4 on Sept 9, the same day that the highly anticipated shooter Destiny hit the streets. Microsoft bet on Fifa 15, which launched yesterday.

Many gamers regard Destiny as a console pusher, a title so popular that gamers will want to buy a new console to play it. Sony's headstart meant that gamers here who wanted to play Destiny immediately had to choose the PS4 over the Xbox One.

Most of my gamer friends chose the PS4. So, even though I have the Xbox One (I got mine from the US) and the PS4, I had to use the PS4 to play Destiny if I wanted to join my friends on cooperative missions.

For less hardcore console fans who have yet to decide, it is still a close fight between the Xbox One and the PS4.

Hardware specs and features are comparable. The Xbox One is priced competitively as you get an extra game (Fifa 15).

Several retailers here, including Challenger, Newstead, Funz Centre and Gamescore, realise the importance of Destiny and have priced it at $59 (usual price $76.90) for buyers of Xbox One.

Head-to-head comparisons by gaming sites rate both consoles as comparable.

After playing on both extensively for about a year, I agree. Hardcore fans with deep pockets will buy both to enjoy exclusive titles such as Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and Order 1886 (PS4), and Halo 5 and Quantum Break (Xbox One).

If you plan on buying only one new console, the choice might well be determined by your friends who have already chosen theirs.

Console gaming is lovely, but it is nothing like going at it with your bros.

This article was first published on Sep 24, 2014.
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