The die has been cast. Sony's Playstation 4 is in the open (well, the controller is), arriving in a shower of trailers, marketing waffle and excitable Powerpoint sequences last night. We've got an institutional bias to uphold, obviously, but we'll concede that the device is impressive - you can read more over at CVG, where good men have spent insane hours cataloguing the fine details.
So, how should Microsoft return fire at its own, currently undetailed next generation console reveal? Here are a few thoughts from me (with a bit of guidance from Jonty) on the games that could make the cut, based partly on what didn't make Sony's show. A caveat before we kick off - both manufacturers are almost certainly keeping a few things back for this year's E3 show, where the pick of next gen gaming will make its (hopefully playable) debut. As always, your own ruminations and speculations are both welcome and expected.
1. EA Sports in general
There were many glaring absences at Sony's conference last night, but none so glaring as that of the industry's second largest third-party publisher. Conversations about EA's fortunes tend to revolve around its struggle with Activision for dominance of the first-person shooter scene, but the publisher's real silver bullets are Madden and FIFA - no manufacturer can do without them, in North America and Europe at least.
Microsoft has become particularly cosy with EA of late - cue well fleshed-out Kinect functionality for FIFA 13 and Madden 13 - with Xbox Live contributing the lion's share of the dramatic digital revenue surge the publisher considers crucial to future prosperity (that's on top of a more personal intimacy - Peter Moore, currently chief operating officer of EA Sports, used to be vice-president of Microsoft's interactive entertainment business). Some form of timed exclusivity for Madden 14 and FIFA 14, a reprise of those vaunted Kinect features or exclusive DLC seems highly probable, then.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4
Getting into bed with Activision to secure early Xbox Live access to Call of Duty's DLC packs ranks among Microsoft's more inspired calls. The world's most successful FPS franchise is beginning to show signs of wear and tear, but given a new engine and a Modern-Warfare-style conceptual refresh, there's no reason it shouldn't continue to grind competitors to paste - and thus, no reason for Microsoft not to give the money-hat a top-up.
Eric Hirshberg was on hand to trumpet Destiny at Sony's event, but there was no mention of Call of Duty. Is this evidence that the baton has been passed, that Bungie's new shooter now lies at the crux of Activision's ambitions? Or is the publisher saving up Modern Warfare 4 for a future console announcement?
3. Grand Theft Auto 5
Rockstar boss Dan Houser is adamant that Grand Theft Auto 5 will not see next generation release, insisting that "there's plenty of power left in these machines" - but we'd be very surprised indeed if Microsoft, Sony or even Nintendo hadn't popped the question, and Rockstar does have a new engine on the go. It makes sense for GTA to appear on both current generation high definition consoles, given the size of their respective installed bases: there's no exclusivity deal big enough to cancel out the revenue you'd lose. New hardware is another matter, however.