It’s taken what feels like an eternity, but Microsoft has finally attached a release date to its next generation console. The under fire Xbox One will deploy on 22nd November in 13 nations around the world, slap bang in the middle of the PlayStation 4’s global rollout. Speaking during its GamesCom press conference last month, Sony confirmed that its own supercharged system will arrive on 15th November in North America and 29th November in Europe. The Redmond-based firm’s surprise reveal earlier today will result in a busy three weeks for the games industry and retail sector.

But what does it mean for the Japanese giant’s machine? Honestly, not a lot. We had worried shortly after the platform holder’s own release date announcement last month that Microsoft may manufacture a significant headstart over its counterpart, but that hasn’t happened. It’s still shipping behind the PS4 in its strongest territory, and while it has an extra seven days to establish itself in Europe, any advantages are offset by the slender number of regions that the Xbox One is actually set to arrive in. For a large chunk of continental Europe, Sony’s system will still be the only option in 2013.

The unified date will at least give Microsoft a minor advantage from a marketing perspective. It will be able to launch a simultaneous assault on social networks, print media, and television channels across the globe to really build excitement around its product, whereas Sony’s efforts will be a little more staggered; the online enthusiasm surrounding the North American launch of the PS4 will have died down a little by the time that the European release actually arrives. That’s going to create a challenge for the platform holder, but it’s a pretty miniscule issue in the grand scheme of things.

Indeed, it’s stock that’s going to prove the main differentiator this year. Both companies know that with demand for next generation consoles sky high, there’s always the danger that impartial consumers could defect to whichever platform is readily available this fall. With more regions to supply, Sony’s going to have to produce a lot more units than its competitor to ensure that all nations are adequately stocked. It’s had several months to analyse its pre-order numbers and get its production pipeline in order, though, so it clearly feels that it can satisfy early adopters.

And that’s why the release date is somewhat irrelevant at this point in time. Sony has an advantage in North America, and Microsoft has an advantage in Europe – but neither console is going to establish a commanding lead this fall. Both systems will sell out of their initial shipments, and then the real battle will begin in 2014. Sony will hope that inFAMOUS: Second Son and its console’s comparatively low price point will give it a boost once the early enthusiasm has faded, but Microsoft will be sure to respond with its own barrage of blockbusters. Perhaps the most exciting thing is that after a lengthy warm-up, the starting line is finally in sight – and if you think that the past six months have been fun, then the coming weeks will be even better.

Has the Xbox One’s release date impacted your excitement for the PS4? Do you think that Sony’s advantage in North America will make a difference, or do you feel that Microsoft’s headstart in Europe will prove to be a bigger deal? Let us know in the comments section below.