The long-simmering war between the Playstation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 has boiled over in time for the holidays thanks to dual price drops that put all three consoles within $US50 of each other.
In a much anticipated move, Sony announced a new $US300 model for their Playstation 3 in Cologne, Germany during the Gamescom convention on August 18. The PS3, nicknamed the PlayStation 3 Slim, features a 120GB hard drive and is a third smaller and more than a third lighter than its predecessors.
Ten days later, Microsoft announced that their top-of-the-line Xbox 360 Elite, which also features a 120GB hard drive, was getting a $US100 price drop to $US300.
The new Xbox 360 price kicked in on August 28, Sony's new lower-priced model started showing up in stores the same week.
The Xbox 360's director of product management, Aaron Greenberg, told Kotaku that the timing was coincidental, driven more by Microsoft's ability to save money on internal components than by Sony's news.
"I think it's a bit coincidental, but it's also somewhat logical with both (Sony and Microsoft) making price adjustments at this time of the year because we are turning the corner of the holiday season," he said.
But Greenberg acknowledged that, with both consoles coming in at the same price, people will be more likely to compare the two when shopping for a new gaming platform.
"We feel like we shape up pretty well to that comparison," he said, pointing out that Microsoft also sells a basic version of the Xbox 360 for $US200.
"I really think that we are at a point now where it's less about the back of the box and more about the types of experiences," he added. "We have a larger line-up (of games) and this holiday, look at our exclusives: Halo 3: ODST, Forza 3, new Grand Theft Auto content.
"If you say (Microsoft and Sony) have two SKUs at the same price point, we are the hands down winner. That's why, I think, we are the only company growing this year, while Sony is seeing sharp declines."
On paper at least, Sony's PlayStation 3 does seem to have some obvious advantages, most notably a built-in Blu-ray player, something the company will make sure consumers don't forget.
"PlayStation 3 has always had incredible value and now at an even more attractive $US299 price point, paired with a new, and aggressive, advertising campaign, we expect to have an incredible holiday in both hardware and content sales," said Patrick Seybold, Senior Director, Corporate Communications for Sony Computer Entertainment of America. "PlayStation 3 is the most superior entertainment console on the market and while the price point and the size of the HDD may be at parity between the two consoles, the similarities stop there. With a BD drive, built in wi-fi, free access to PlayStation Network and the best gaming content available, there really is no comparison to PlayStation 3."
Seybold declined to speculate on the timing of Microsoft's price drop, but said Sony's not concerned about it.
"We're confident the value of PS3 at $US299 surpasses anything else on the market, and our amazing line up of first and third party titles, matched with the incredible evolution of PlayStation Network make PlayStation the clear choice for those looking for the best in entertainment."
Dropping the price of both Sony and Microsoft's top-tier consoles to $US300 also means that Nintendo could see a bit more direct competition with its $US250 Wii.
Nintendo has come under increasing pressure to drop the price of their console, which still sells at the same price as the day it launched in 2006.
During an investors meeting, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told those present that a slowdown in sales wasn't due to the console's price, but the number of big hits coming to the Wii.
He added that there currently "aren't a lot of discussions going on about what exactly to do about hardware pricing."
Nintendo declined to comment in time for this article about possible Wii price drops in light of the approaching competition from Microsoft and Sony.
But with Wii sales flattening and consumers looking for more bang for their buck this holiday, it would be a smart decision.
Both Microsoft and Sony told Kotaku that they plan to heavily market their new prices during the holidays pointing out to consumers all the things they get for their $US300.
"This holiday," Greenberg said, "is all about value."