As many Star Wars fans know, shooting first is quite a big deal. Many believe that by releasing Xbox 360 a year before its competitors, Microsoft was able to thrust the brand from third place to second place, only behind Nintendo's massively successful Wii. PlayStation 2 also launched a year before the Gamecube and Xbox--outselling both of these consoles combined. One generation prior, PS1's year-long advantage had it outselling the late-coming N64 by more than a 3-to-1 margin. Given those numbers, it's no surprise that companies want to make sure they are not left behind in the console race. These transitions give every manufacturer a huge opportunity, as previous success does not guarantee future returns. The top execs at Sony are all very aware of this reality: it only took one console--PS3--for Sony's plummet from first place to last place. It only took one console--Wii--for Nintendo to nearly quadruple its footprint.
At this point, it seems likely that not only will Sony announce its next console before Microsoft, but will release their new hardware first as well. It seems analysts were right, with RW Baird's Colin Sebastian saying in 2011: "between Sony and Microsoft, we expect Sony to be first to market perhaps as early as 2013." But, going first isn't necessarily the best move. Let's not forget that Sega launched the Dreamcast a year before PS2--and exited the console market two years later.
Sony's stock has plummeted over the past five years