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PS4 Maintains Lead Over Xbox One, and That’s OK

Posted April 29, 2017 | PlayStation 4 | Windows | Xbox | Xbox One

Sony announced this week that it has now sold over 60 million PlayStation 4 video game consoles. A related report suggests that the console is maintaining its 2-to-1 lead over Xbox One.

This isn’t entirely unexpected. And if you’re looking for a silver lining, I guess it could be a lot worse.

The running story here is that Sony has been reporting various PS4 sales milestones since both consoles launched in late 2013. But Microsoft stopped doing so very early, as PS4 sales started to more than double those of the Xbox One. Sony’s most recent check-in was in December, when Sony revealed that it had sold 50 million units. Today, that tally has jumped to 60 million units.

Put in perspective, the previous-generation PS3 sold about 80 million units over its 9 year lifespan. So here we are, 3.5 years into the PS4 generation, and Sony has already sold 75 percent as many PS4s as it did PS3s, and in less than half the time. Put simply, the PlayStation 4 is nothing less than a runaway success.

Over in Redmond, we’re provided with much less concrete numbers and metrics that Microsoft hopes demonstrate a different kind of success for Xbox. For example, in this week’s quarterly earnings announcement, Microsoft noted that its gaming business grew 4 percent in the quarter. Xbox Live revenue growth offset Xbox One console revenue declines. Xbox Live active monthly users jumped 13 percent across Xbox One and Windows 10 on PCs. And Xbox software and services revenues grew 7 percent.

Interesting, right? OK, not really. But the firm hasn’t reported actual console sales in over three years.

The running theory, based on evidence from game makers, is that the PS4 has been outselling Xbox One by at least 2-to-1 over this time period. But we’ve not heard an update on that second-hand math since last year, and it’s not clear whether Microsoft has been able to maintain—or improve on—that pace in recent months.

A recent report, thankfully, sheds a bit of light.

“SuperData [correctly] estimated the PlayStation 4 hit 60 million units worldwide … giving it almost double the number of sales as Microsoft’s Xbox One,” an MCV report reads (emphasis mine). “According to SuperData CEO Joost Van Dreunen, Microsoft’s Xbox One platform has currently sold around 33 million units worldwide.”

Woah, woah. I realize that’s about a 2-to-1 deficit. But that’s a decent number. And it means that Microsoft hasn’t lost ground since the Xbox One S launched. No, it hasn’t gained ground either.

Like the PS4, the Xbox One has been in-market for 3.25 years. And like the PS3, the Xbox 360—Xbox One’s predecessor—sold over 80 million units (84 million, to be exact) over its own lifetime, which in this case was 10.5 years. Maybe my math is a bit fuzzy, but when I compare those sales relative to each other, I don’t really see the Xbox One as a failure. (When I compare it to PS4, a bit of song and dance is required.)

The MCV report does claim that Sony is better situated to capitalize on its success, blah blah blah … But seriously. 33 million units? That’s … not bad. Is it? That’s 10 million per year on average. If Microsoft maintains that, which I realize it won’t, the Xbox One is on a pace to outsell the Xbox 360.

OK, I’m probably dreaming there. But with this generation of consoles, we’re seeing a new strategy in which the life cycle is extended by mid-stream hardware upgrades, of which there are two so far: The Xbox One S, a pleasant revision that ironed out most of the original consoles issues, and Project Scorpio, which will bring 4K gaming and VR capabilities when it arrives this holiday season. This, combined with Microsoft’s strategy of truly expanding Xbox to Windows 10 PCs, should help maintain momentum. Yes, it’s the right strategy.

I realize I’m not normally perceived as the sunniest of personalities, but I see this all in a fairly positive light. It really could be a lot worse.


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