Next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony are set to duke it out this holiday season.
Xbox One, the successor to Microsoft's popular video game and media streaming console, is set to launch on Friday, Nov. 22. Rival Sony is scheduled to release the PlayStation 4 a week earlier, on Nov. 15.
The companies faced off in June at this year's E3 conference in Los Angeles. Sony, by virtue of its hands-off stance to digital rights management (DRM) along with the PlayStation 4's better specifications and lower entry price, garnered some largely positive critical reception. As the release dates of both consoles approach, Microsoft has been working to level the playing field.
"Xbox One will be available on Nov. 22, 2013 in all 13 of our initial launch markets—Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, UK, and USA," Yusuf Mehdi, vice president of Marketing, Strategy and Business for Microsoft Xbox, announced on Sept. 4. Other regions are expected to follow sometime in 2014.
Nov. 22 is a date with some historical significance for Microsoft. In a video interview that accompanied the announcement, Mehdi noted, "What's special about Nov. 22 is that's the day that we released Xbox 360. Xbox One's predecessor launched Nov. 22, 2005."
Mehdi said that Microsoft held off on officially announcing a firm release date for the Xbox One until the device entered full production. Xbox evangelist Larry Hryb (aka Major Nelson) offered photographic proof on his blog. Images show the first case of consoles packaged for retailers and the first shipping pallet packed high with the devices.
Demand is high; the initial allotment of Xbox Ones is practically sold out, said Mehdi. "We have sold out of our pre-order supply in the U.S. faster than at any other time in our history," he said. Yet the company has been able to squeeze out a few more special edition "Day One" SKUs. All told, "We're on track to have the biggest holiday release ever for an Xbox in our history," boasted Mehdi.
An official release date aside, Mehdi revealed that the Xbox One will pack more power than its initial specs suggested, narrowing the performance gap between Microsoft's console and Sony's PlayStation 4. Both are based on Advanced Micro Devices' "Jaguar" architecture, but Sony claims the performance crown with components such as GDDR5 RAM versus DDR3 for the Xbox One.
"I am also pleased to confirm that the development team has increased the CPU from 1.6GHz to 1.75GHz, roughly a 10 percent increase in CPU performance. This is on top of the 6 percent increase we previously announced for the GPU," he stated.
Early last month, Marc Whitten, Xbox One chief product officer, admitted that Xbox One was receiving tweaks to boost its performance. "We've tweaked up our clock speed in the GPU, from 800MHz to 853MHz," Whitten said in an Aug. 2 podcast with Hryb. In June, soon after E3, Microsoft reversed its controversial Xbox One DRM policy that restricted used game sales and trades.