At midnight on 22/11/2013 Irish consumers with the good sense to pre-order got their first taste of the eighth generation of games consoles with the release of the Xbox One.

In exactly one week the competing PlayStation 4 will go on sale after a successful US launch, where over 1 million units were sold.

Traditionally a three horse race between Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, the early release of the Wii U has reduced the field to two this year. It is also the first year Sony and Microsoft will be going to market with competing products at the same time.

It's impossible to talk about one without using the other as context and both companies are starting from a similar position of strength.

According to stats on, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have both sold around 80 million units with Microsoft ahead in the US and Sony on top in Europe.

How well each company will fare this time around depends largely on how quickly users will upgrade from their console of choice to the newest model. In Ireland, at least, the transition will be quick.

According to retailer GameStop - which operates 51 stores around the country - Ireland tops the world in PlayStation 4 per capita and is second only to Australia for the Xbox One.

The more discerning customer may find their options influenced more by price and strategy than hardware and catalogue; the reasons for which go back many months.

At Microsoft’s Xbox One unveiling, which took place ahead of the E3 gaming event in May, it was announced that games could be played and shared across devices without the need for bringing a disk everywhere. A neat idea, except it would require hard copies to get a 'digital fingerprint' that made them useless to anyone but the owner - effectively ending the trading-in of second hand games.

The One was also designed as an always-connected machine, signing itself into Xbox Live every day.

But far from being a gaming-focused device, the console was also introduced as a way to combine on-demand content, Internet access and TV viewing in a single box - some videos on YouTube event made note of the amount of times TV was mentioned in presentations compared to games.

However, its €499 price tag might prove to be too rich for bedroom gamers.

In contrast, the PlayStation 4 is marketed as a console for gamers first. Also Sony executives drew loud applause at E3 by saying its machine did not have to be online all the time, that it would preserve the second hand games market and would cost €399.

Cheaper, more gamer-centric and with largely the same number of titles on release, the PlayStation 4 looks to have better odds of winning the console war for 2013.

If supply fails to meet demand, though, it could be Microsoft's year.

Niall Kitson is editor of