PlayStation 4 release date set, Xbox One games announced at GamesCom

At the GamesCom conference in Cologne on Tuesday, Sony and Microsoft each made major announcements regarding the release of their competing new consoles, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Sony announced that the latest PlayStation would go on sale on November 15 in the United States:

In its presentation, which was also live-streamed, Sony said that it has seen over 1 million pre-orders for the $399 console so far, meaning that there will be quite a bit of shopping and shipping come mid-November. The game industry is facing a busy holiday season, with the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s next console, the Xbox One, set to compete head-to-head for space on gamers’ TV stands. . . .

The PlayStation will be launching in 32 territories, though it will reach Europe a few days after it hits the United States, on Nov. 29. Sony made several announcements about the console, including that it will be integrated with the social game-streaming network Twitch and that players who buy digital copies of games such as “Battlefield 4,” “Call of Duty: Ghosts” and “Watch Dogs” will be able to upgrade to PlayStation 4-compatible versions of those titles at a discount.

Hayley Tsukayama

The Xbox One will also be compatible with Twitch, a service that allows friends to watch one another’s games remotely. As it will be available on both new consoles, Twitch is optimistic about its prospects:

According to Twitch, the company has seen strong growth even ahead of the next-generation console launches, with 600,000 unique broadcasters posting to the site last month alone. That number is poised to grow. Based on the projected reach of Sony’s and Microsoft’s consoles, Twitch estimates that it will now have its platform in about half of American households.

Matt DiPietro, Twitch’s head of marketing, said that players will be able to show off their gameplay by simply hitting the “share” button on the PS4 controllers.

“The ability has never been as available,” he said. “It was more a really hard-core activity. Now that it’s going to be on the two major consoles in the market, it has the potential to just explode.”

The streaming should work for any game that runs on the PlayStation 4, DiPietro said.

DiPietro said that Twitch, which recently released a developer’s kit to make it easier to add title-specific streaming features, is seeing developers eager to build more sharing features into their games to enrich the community that springs up around individual titles.

For example, racing games may want to let players search on Twitch for the best times on a given course or let users share bits of their own games as part of a contest.

Developers, DiPietro said, are “now designing games to be watched as a spectator; they’re designing it to be more broadcasting-friendly.”

Hayley Tsukayama

Microsoft has not announced a release date for the Xbox One, but on Tuesday, the company did provide a list of games that will be available for the new console:

Microsoft has confirmed that it will be launching in November to 13 markets including the United States, eight markets fewer than the company had originally announced in June.

The company said that it will be offering European customers some games bundled with its console at launch and said the first game to be included with the device will be the soccer title FIFA 14. A digital version of the game will be included with pre-orders of the console, and the company said it will also be offering a future bundle that includes “Call of Duty: Ghosts” once the title launches in November.

The company has not announced any bundle deals for U.S. customers, but including bundled games — particularly those that will work with the now-included Kinect sensor for the Xbox — could help Microsoft make up the $100 price difference between it and the $399 PS4, and maybe convince consumers to be less focused on the base price.

Hayley Tsukayama

The games include Assassin’s Creed IV, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Peggle 2, Ryse; Son of Rome, and Zumba Fitness: World Party, among others. Games issued for the previous models of the Xbox and PlayStation will not be compatible with the new models, but gamers can upgrade their old Xbox 360 games for $9.99 through Amazon:

Gamers will have to upgrade their libraries for the Xbox One, which won’t run older generations of its games. That’s been kind of a bummer for those who’ve invested in the 360 platform over the past eight years and amassed a library of titles that they can’t play on the new system.

Amazon’s offer will let you trade-in select Xbox 360 games for a $25 credit to put toward the price of the same title on the Xbox One, leaving the price of new games at $9.99. Only certain games are on the list, including “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” “FIFA 14” and “Battlefield 4.” . . .

Players can send their qualifying games to Amazon for inspection. If the games are in good condition, Amazon will then award an appropriate credit.

Amazon’s program offers a cheaper alternative to buying all of your favorite games again, and trade-in programs such as this could help video game sales in what’s expected to be a sales slowdown as gamers save their money for new games that run on the latest consoles.

Alternatively, video game players could keep a 360 around for nostalgic gaming sessions — that, at least, is free.

Hayley Tsukayama

(Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has agreed to buy The Washington Post newspaper.)

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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