By Matt Peckham
October 8, 2015

Nearly two years after its launch at $400 in November of 2013, Sony says it’s dropping the PlayStation 4’s price to $350. The permanent system cut goes into effect Friday.

While it’s not an unexpected maneuver—Microsoft launched its slower-selling Xbox One at $500 in late 2013 and wound up dropping it all the way to $350 by this summer—the timing is telling. Interest in the PlayStation 4 has been steady since launch, and with a handful of exceptions, the console has consistently outsold its rivals month to month. It’s debatable whether the system actually needed a price cut at this point.

But Sony has a tougher holiday ahead when you contrast it and rival Microsoft’s respective exclusive lineups. Halo 5: Guardians arrives on the Xbox One in just a few weeks; it’s the most anticipated holiday exclusive of 2015 according to Nielsen. Microsoft also has a timed exclusive on the next Tomb Raider game, launching mid-November. Sony has The Uncharted Collection (the first three Uncharted games in high-defintion) and an expansion pack for its high difficulty hack-and-slash Bloodborne in late November. But merits aside, the Uncharted series has never had Halo‘s star power, and the same holds for Bloodborne, however much the game has blown the lid off expectations at north of 2 million copies sold.

So while Sony won’t come out and say it (and I don’t want to put words in the company’s mouth), it’s hard not to see the drop preemptive—a way to mitigate the inroads Microsoft is almost sure to make in monthly systems sold when the Halo 5 juggernaut arrives October 27.

Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com.

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