PlayStation 4

There will have been one of two reactions to Microsoft’s sizeable Xbox One delay within Sony’s colossal European headquarters today: cheers or mopped brows. At almost every turn, the North American company has been playing into the PlayStation maker’s hands, and this latest setback is just another example of that. It’s certainly not the end of the world for the Redmond-based firm, but it’s not exactly sunshine and rainbows either.

It’s certainly not the end of the world for Microsoft, but it’s not exactly sunshine and rainbows either

For those out of the loop, the Xbox team announced a small delay to its next generation console in several European regions today. While the system is still on track in major territories such as the United States, Germany, and the UK, those in Russia, Belgium, and the Netherlands will be made to wait. In all, the firm has downgraded its initial launch plans from 21 countries to just 13. Those residing in one of the slashed regions will receive the console in 2014, alongside a free game.

Before we discuss the subject further, it’s worth remembering that Sony hasn’t actually detailed which territories will get the PlayStation 4 this year – for good reason, judging by today’s news. The company has said that the system will release this holiday in Europe and North America, but that’s all that we really know. Theoretically, the Japanese giant’s device could still launch in fewer nations than the Xbox One – but it seems unlikely.

And that’s bad news for Microsoft’s machine. Not only is its next generation console really up against the wall at the moment, but its brand is also historically weak in continental Europe. Regions like Finland are not necessarily going to swing the console war in Sony’s favour, but if the Japanese giant can ensure that its system is available when the competition isn’t, that will further secure the PlayStation brand’s dominance in those nations. It’ll be hard for the Xbox One to fight back.

The fact that the Redmond-based company’s had to downgrade in the first place hints at a larger narrative, though: it’s having issues. Irrespective of the claims in its press material, 21 territories is not particularly ambitious – it managed Japan, North America, and a large majority of Europe within the span of a month with the Xbox 360. Sony was less successful with the PlayStation 3, but that was due to manufacturing setbacks.

And it does beg the question whether Microsoft is facing similar issues. It’s said that the delay is due to localisation, but there had been rumours that the firm was struggling with production, and those were reinforced by surprisingly low pre-order allotments globally. It’s clear that the company thought that it could hit 21 territories, because it almost certainly wouldn’t have announced that number otherwise. Today’s delay alludes to a last minute hitch.

There’s another theory, though: the firm may be focusing its efforts on the regions where its brand is the most popular. Shortages in North America and the UK would be disastrous – especially with Sony offering a more affordable alternative. There’s a chance that Microsoft may have reassigned all of its output to the largest regions, presumably to ensure that it has stock available against the PS4.

Microsoft may have reassigned all of its manufacturing efforts to the largest regions

And that is where Sony needs to be careful, too. With both next generation systems offering such comparable experiences, hardware shortages may not be such a good thing. The average consumer shopping for a new console this Christmas will likely purchase whichever is available, and if Xbox Ones are sitting on store shelves when PS4s aren’t, that will be a problem. Of course, that example also plays the opposite way.

The good news is that Sony seems to understand that, as recent reports reiterated that the firm intends to get as many stray systems into the retail channel as possible at launch. Those tactics won’t change because of today’s Xbox One delay, but the news will still prompt a reaction within Sony land. That will come in the form of jubilation or relief, depending on the platform holder’s plans. Considering the events of the past few months, the former seems more likely to us.

What do you make of the Xbox One’s delay in parts of Europe? Do you think that it means much, or do you reckon that it’s just an unfortunate incident for those residing in the removed regions? Let us know in the comments section below.