Following the recent 'tablet war' and 'handset war', next week sees the resumption of the long-running 'console war' (aggressive lot, these techies) as Sony and Microsoft both release their latest gaming machines.
It's set to be an important battle for both companies: with the Xbox 360 outselling the Playstation 3 both here and in North America, Bill Gate's company will be keen to consolidate their position as market leaders, while Sony, who announced they are expecting a 40% drop in earnings for the year, will be hoping to rediscover some of the magic that blew Sega and Nintendo away in the late 90s.
So far, Microsoft have got their opening shot in first. If you haven't seen the intriguing (if somewhat cringe-worthy) TV advert yet, featuring regular nobodies like us marauding through the streets with a gang of Roman soldiers or accepting an invitation from Steven Gerrard to join him on the pitch, you will soon (particularly if you click on the video below).
The Xbox One does a lot of new things that the 360 does not, but to spare you the boring details, we've condensed it down to five particularly interesting / alarming advancements.
Forget entering passwords – the new version of Kinect will detect your body shape and voice as soon as slump down on your sofa, and load your personal settings automatically. If you're the type of person who posts alarmist Facebook status about privacy settings and rejects owning a Nectar card on principle, you might find this technology worrying: some reports have suggest Microsoft will share Kinect data with advertisers (Microsoft have rejected this claim). Otherwise, it's another 10 seconds of your life saved by technology.
Voice controls will be a big feature of Xbox One, further sign of a brave new world in which we spend half our days shouting at robots. A specific example will be the command 'snap'. The word that once meant victory over your 6-year-old at cards will now instruct your console to operate two applications at once via a smaller screen in the corner of your television, meaning you could Skype your nan while subtly blowing up enemy soldiers on Call Of Duty (or similar).
More voice activated fun. One of the features Microsoft is most proud of is the fact you can watch your cable or set-top box television through Xbox One. Why bother? Because instead of fumbling for the remote you can shout instructions at it ("FAST-FORWARD!", "PAUSE", "TURN THE VOLUME DOWN UNTIL THAT CHRISTMAS ADVERT HAS FINISHED", etc.). The other advantage is that you'll receive notifications of incoming Skype calls or multiplayer invites as you watch, although we do hope they can be turned off for that crucial final episode of Homeland.
Everyone knows an experience is no longer an experience unless you've recorded it and shared it with strangers. And when it comes to your perfect handbreak turn / edge-of-the-box volley / head shot, Xbox One's upload feature will allow you to do just that. Barking "Xbox record that!" will automatically capture the next five minutes of whatever it is you're doing, leaving you with priceless footage you can tinker with in the usual ways – trim, add effects, filters, commentary track – and upload to the community for all to enjoy / ignore.
Ever since the Nintendo Wii arrived to threaten living room ornaments across the land, the idea of gaming as an idle pursuit has been under threat. The Xbox One's new Kinect 2 sensor is taking the idea of living room work outs to a new level with their 'Xbox Fitness' package (available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers only). Ten times as powerful as its predecessor (see point 1), the new Kinect even has the ability to read your pulse while you put yourself through its workout routines. With 'Fitness Points' allowing you to track your progress and an intelligent system suggesting tweaks and improvements to your regime, this could solve the nation's childhood obesity crisis within a generation. If you hide all the copies of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.