PS4 and Xbox One neck-and-neck in games console race
Sony and Microsoft appear to be running neck-and-neck in the games consoles race, according to IHS Games and Research.
Sony's latest salvo in the next-generation battle of gaming consoles, the PlayStation 4 (PS4), is scheduled to hit North American markets later this week. Microsoft's Xbox One is expected to be released on November 22, with both products on the shelves for the key Christmas shopping season.
"With the determination of both companies not to give either a head start, the simultaneous launch of both PS4 and Xbox One results in a more complex forecasting environment," IHS said in a note on Wednesday.
It forecasts that Sony will sell about 2.4 million PS4 consoles by the end of 2013, with Microsoft selling a similar amount of 2.2 million Xbox One consoles. IHS expects geographical brand allegiances to remain in place, with the Xbox One outselling the PS4 in North America, and the PS4 outselling the Xbox One across Europe.
Because the community of Xbox 360 users is significantly bigger than the original Xbox generation, the Xbox One should see "significantly stronger" launch sales compared with the previous one, IHS said.
In 2005, Xbox 360 launched at the end of the year with sales of 1.2 million, according to IHS. The Xbox One is Microsoft's first new games console in eight years and will go on sale in 13 countries.
In Sony's favor is competitive pricing for the PS4, the research firm said. Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai has declared the game console as one of the three pillars the company will rebuild itself on, along with mobile and digital imaging.
"Back in 2006/2007, the PS3 launched at an eye-watering price point of $599/€599/£425, making it at least $200 more expensive than Xbox 360 at launch. This time round Sony has the pricing edge, which IHS believes will strengthen its sales potential in both North America and the U.K. - geographies dominated by Xbox 360 during the current generation," the firm said.
According to IHS, a decision by Japanese electronics giant Sony not to launch the PS4 on its home turf until next year reflects a priority to take on Microsoft in its key markets. There's also less urgency to launch in Japan, where handheld consoles and smartphones are popular, it said.
In September, Microsoft said that retail stores in many markets had run out of Xbox One consoles available on pre-order.
(Read more: Microsoft: Xbox One pre-order supply nearly sold out)
IHS said that on a longer time frame Sony was likely to have the edge in the games consoles market.
"IHS believes that Sony's wider geographical brand allegiance - especially across continental Europe and Japan - will be decisive in allowing PS4 to outsell Xbox One on a global basis by the end of 2017," it said.
It estimates that Sony will sell about 49 million PS4 consoles by the end of 2017, with Microsoft selling about 38 million Xbox One consoles over the same period.
—By CNBC.Com's Dhara Ranasinghe; Follow her on Twitter