(This post is largely conjecture and somewhat uninformed; I spent a few minutes reading parts of Anandtech’s comparison and not much else.)
We now know the hardware details for the next gen gaming consoles. In short, they look a lot more like PCs than any console to date (at least so far as I’m aware*). Specifically, I’m talking about the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.
AMD won the contract to supply the processor and graphics for both systems, and I expect that they’re nearly identical architecturally. The two biggest differences are that the PS4 has almost 3x the memory bandwidth of the Xbox One and the PS4 also has half again as many compute units in the GPU. Other than that, both machines use an AMD Jaguar chip with 8 cores. I’m pretty sure these 8 cores are in a 4-module arrangement, which means these consoles really only have 4 cores worth of floating point hardware, though that’s not clear from only 5 minutes of googling.
I think the PS4 will have a distinct performance advantage, but I’m not sure how much that’s going to matter. Both systems are far more powerful than their predecessors, and neither system should have any problem driving a 1080 display at extreme detail. For the immediate future, the performance difference may not even be noticeable. Of course, the software environments will be more optimized than on a standard PC, so I expect the performance on both systems to stellar.
I think the sales and marketing approach is going to matter a lot to the success of these systems. I believe Microsoft and Sony have rather different ideas about how people will use gaming consoles as we move forward. Microsoft is going for more of an “entertainment console” approach while Sony is pursuing a more “spare no expense” high-performance gaming rig. I don’t know what’s going to appeal to consumers. Microsoft has started off on the wrong foot by threatening to require a persistent Internet connection and trying to kill off the used game market. We may see a split between people who use their systems primarily for gaming vs. those who use their system primarily for entertainment.
* Apparently the first Xbox was x86 based.