But will it make a difference?
Shoppers are girding their wallets for Black Friday, consumers are readying themselves for the Christmas crunch. Which console is it to be this Christmas? PS4 or Xbox One? Is the Wii U still alive? Which console has the better games?
I'll deal with the Wii U later, what with Nintendo's console having a clear advantage (and the first-party games to back it up) after launching a year earlier, and being utterly irrelevant in terms of a mass audience and the big third-party releases of the winter. That said, if you're choosing a platform based on the single best game of the year so far, buy a Wii U. It's the Bayonetta 2 machine. I'm biased, but if you love games, you'll do it.
Elsewhere, though, choosing a console become far more difficult. We'll go into greater depth in a massive comparative buyer's guide towards the end of the month, but for now let's talk about the games.
When the PS4 and the Xbox One launched last year, we tipped the Xbox One as having the more attractive Christmas lineup. Microsoft's console simply had more variety, more interesting exclusives, and it's a position that I still standby. In fact, throughout the whole of this first year, I think it's safe to say that the Xbox One has had the edge in terms of marquee exclusives.
The trouble is, of course, as I posited in an article a couple of months back, none of that made a difference thanks to Microsoft's spectacular PR failure ahead of the Xbox One's launch, and the cold, hard fact that the Xbox One was, however marginally, technically the weaker of the two consoles.
Now, at the tail end of 2014, it's clear that not much has changed. Sony are still happily trundling along, waiting for their first-party studios to cook up a bunch of exclusives somewhere down the line and shaping the image of the PS4 through third-party deals and console bundles, and Microsoft... well, Microsoft have a pretty strong lineup.
Sunset Overdrive is a whole bunch of fun. It's not groundbreaking, it doesn't do much that's especially new, but it reminds me a lot of Infamous: Second Son in that regard -- though the two games are vastly different in terms of tone. It's colourful, in-yer-face, and packs in a meaty amount of bang for your buck. There's merit in the "Insomniac unleashed" narrative behind it, and Microsoft made a bundle out of it, partnering the game with an equally striking white Xbox One. It's one of the first triple-A new-gen new IPs, and that's exciting.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is also exciting, but for rather different reasons. The Halo brand is a name that sells consoles, and this is the ultimate fan-service bundle: four games, a new Anniversary Edition for Halo 2, shiny, buffed-up multiplayer, and a beta for next year's sequel included as well. Following the disappointment of Bungie's Destiny, the return of Halo serves not only as a reminder of that studio's heyday, but as a stark example of some of the finest FPS work in the business. We'd expected to have to pay premium bucks for this, but Microsoft did the decent thing and put it all on one disc (and a hefty download) at a damn competitive price.
There'll be a bundle for that too. Oh, and there's already one for Forza Horizon 2.
That's a cracking game, and it actually works for the most part, something which can't really be said of the PS4's bright jewel of the racing genre. I can't pretend to have ever been particularly excited by the prospect of Driveclub, but I did expect it to actually work, given that as far as I could tell it was going to be a very pretty driving tech demo with Autolog. More fool me, I guess.
One thing Sony have done, however, is to continue to foster a sense of accessibility on their platform for consumers and developers alike, and they've done excellently to make PS Plus a release platform for smaller indie titles. That being said, Microsoft have not been without their own smaller darlings as well, and the Xbox One version of Ori and the blind Forest is still apparently on course for release this year.
I say this all as a PS4 owner, having known for some time that this would not be the winter of first-party awesomeness. I was the one who posited that Destiny might be the shield by which Sony held their own against Halo this Christmas, but it wasn't to be. Destiny was heavily touted by Sony, so much so that one could have been forgiven for thinking it was an exclusive game, but once the hype train's smoke had disappeared, disappointment reigned. It remains to be seen if PlanetSide 2 will still hit the PS4 before the year is out, but given the lack of noise from SOE on that front, it would be quite surprising.
LittleBigPlanet 3 will probably be wonderful, and the PS4 has needed a game of its ilk since launch -- Knack simply didn't cut the mustard. But once again, Sony are sort of treading water this Christmas, and I've found myself doing much the same as I did last year: looking at Jon's Xbox One rather hungrily and wondering if I made the right call. That has nothing to do with the machines themselves, though, this is all about the games, and the exclusives at that. Throw third-parties into the mix, and that's where the real excitement lies this Christmas.
But I kind of have to say that. Third-party games are pretty much all we PS4 owners have to look forwards to until the New Year.