Xbox v PlayStation: First reviews in gaming war
The scene is set for the biggest tech event of the year: two powerful, next-generation game consoles will launch within days of one other next week, following record early sellouts and predictions game sales will dominate the Christmas season.
And while new hardware will ignite the trend, experts say it's part of a "perfect storm" for video games, following lockdowns across the country and renewed interest in socially distant but highly connected entertainment.
Microsoft will launch its two next-gen games consoles, the Xbox Series X and S, on Tuesday next week, followed by Sony's release of the PlayStation 5 and a cheaper digital edition on Thursday.
The head-to-head launches will be even closer than seven years ago, when they launched within a week of one another.
But Sony Interactive Entertainment's president and chief executive Jim Ryan told News Corp just getting the machines ready for launch was a major achievement during "very, very challenging circumstances".
The games head, who has worked on every PlayStation launch to date, said the COVID-19 outbreak made it more difficult to get consoles ready for launch, but had increased the numbers of gamers keen to invest in them, with many coming back to gaming after a break.
"Obviously, doing all of this in the midst of a pandemic has clearly been an interesting experience and not one to repeat," Mr Ryan said.
"We've pleased to be there for people when they've needed us, you know, literally shut at home unable to go out and in many countries for many, many weeks.
"Gaming has been a good thing, I think, and we want to hang on to those people and stay connected to those people for as long as we can."
Despite renewed interest in games, Mr Ryan said Sony did not anticipate the rush on PS5 pre-orders "in our wildest dreams," with US gamers buying more new PlayStations in 12 hours than the previous generation sold in 12 weeks.
In Australia, PlayStation 5 consoles sold out in 15 minutes and some stores now warn they will not be able to fulfil orders until 2021.
"We'll supply more before Christmas holiday time and then we'll ramp up the supply after Christmas so if people can't find one at launch we're very sorry about that but we hope to be able to find a way to get them a PS5 in the not too distant future," Mr Ryan said.
"Clearly with that sort of level of pre-order activity it it's going to be hard for us to meet demand."
Telsyte principal researcher Foad Fadaghi said one in every two Australian households used a games console, and interest in upgrades this year was "sky high".
"It's going to be a massive year for games going into the holiday period," he said.
"We've seen huge growth over the lockdown period in the games industry in Australia. With people spending more time at home, video game entertainment has skyrocketed."
Mr Fadaghi said more players would also take up gaming subscriptions, such as PlayStation Plus and Xbox Games Pass, which would bring more casual gamers to consoles.
Melbourne sales administrator and veteran gamer Kirra Howden, 22, said she was looking forward to getting her PlayStation 5 on launch day next week after beating the crowds - and her friends - to secure a console pre-order from Big W.
Ms Howden said she grew up playing Xbox games but chose a PlayStation 5 this launch season for the exclusive games, including Spider-Man: Miles Morales and The Last of Us, and was looking forward to seeing how they looked on a next-gen machine.
"Games are completely different now," she said. "When I was a kid the games were very simple - you ran and jumped and chased after monsters. Now games have a backstory, plot lines and they've become art."
Originally published as Xbox v PlayStation: First reviews