Eric Johnson

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PlayStation 4 Will Be Released on November 15, Xbox One Release Date Still MIA

ps4-hrdware-large18Sony’s next-gen console, the PlayStation 4, will be released on Nov. 15 in the U.S. and Nov. 29 in Europe, the company announced today at the Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany.

“Our goals for the PS4 are clear, ambitious and unwavering,” said Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. “We set out to build the most powerful gaming platform with a deeply held, consistent focus on you, the gamer … I’m delighted to say that PlayStation 4 will be launching in 32 countries this holiday season.”

At its Gamescom press conference last night, Microsoft notably did not announce a specific release date for its own next-gen console, the Xbox One, and representatives did not respond to a request for comment regarding availability. The company has previously said it is planned for release sometime in November.

(Incidentally, at EA’s Gamescom event, the company announced that Need For Speed: Rivals, which is a launch title for the Xbox One, will debut on Nov. 21. Oops? It’s certainly possible that that’s the Xbox One date, too, but, as GameInformer’s Mike Futter pointed out, these game dates can move around.)

The precise release dates of the two consoles don’t matter much. Their oft-at-war attendant fans are a built-in audience; undecided gamers who are only getting one or the other will pick based on the launch titles, and non-gamers may be drawn to media and social apps. Yawn.

But the race to announce a release date is more interesting on a bigger-picture level. Unlike the previous generation, in which the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 had nearly a year between their initial release dates, these consoles are coming out within a month of one another. How they perform relative to each other — and if one or the other flops — will be a barometer for the health of console gaming, since overall gaming hardware, software and accessory sales have been on the decline for months.

Sony also announced that the Wi-Fi version of its handheld console, the PS Vita, would be getting a $50 price cut to $199, which puts the Vita within the price range of its main rival, the Nintendo 3DS. Twitch, the game-recording and streaming-video service, will be baked into the PS4 at launch. That means that in addition to a previously announced partnership with Ustream, players who want to stream PS4 games will be able to choose to use the more hardcore-gamer-focused Twitch, instead.

Both Microsoft and Sony pledged their commitment to indie developers at Gamescom, teased dozens of games and made sure to play to their European audiences. One of the first games previewed at the Sony event was the car-racing game Gran Turismo 6, while Microsoft said that any Europeans who preorder the Xbox One will get a free copy of FIFA 14.

As announced at E3, the PS4 will cost $399; the Xbox One, which is bundled with a Kinect motion sensor, will cost $499.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”