In the past week or so, we’ve had some very lofty and impressive sales figures released by the two big, dueling, console giants, Sony and Microsoft.
Sony dropped their bomb first announcing they had surpassed the 7 million mark in global sales of their Playstation 4 console. Far out stripping expectations and cementing their place at the top of the next-gen hierarchy. At least in the short term.
Microsoft know this is a long war and that each battle won and lost means nothing, especially in the first year of a new platform’s release. That being said, they too decided to release sales info and shocked a lot of people by announcing they had sold 5 million consoles – showing that they were keeping a better pace with Sony than many had realised.
However, lifting the lid on these bold claims makes for a slightly different picture of the current lay of the land.
Firstly, Sony’s ‘7 million units sold’ claim appears to be rock solid. According to sales data at the close of last week, the PS4 has actually sold 7.1 million consoles. That’s 7 100 000 PS4s actually in peoples homes, connected to their TVs and being used on a regular basis. This is a staggering figure. Most analysts felt that, by the end of March into April, about 10 million consoles would have been sold, with the split being around 5 million sales to each console. So the PS4 is roughly 2 million units ahead of sales forecasts – which is amazing.
This may also account for Microsoft’s slightly misleading data. When analysts suggested 5 million consoles a piece by the end of March, then they announce exactly 5 million units shipped by the start of April, it looks great! Yes, the PS4 is outselling the Xbox One, but the Xbox One is still hitting it’s sales forecast, Sony is gathering new users, but not at Microsofts expense… or so they would have us believe.
It all comes down to terminology. Sony happily announce ‘units sold’, whereas Microsoft hide behind ‘units shipped.’
The difference is that Sony are talking about PS4s in peoples homes, Microsoft are talking about units shipped to stores – some of which are still in those stores waiting to go to a good – spacious – home.
This is nothing new, Sony tried to hide behind the ‘units shipped’ figures with the PS3 vs. 360 sales comparisons (when they should have just reminded people that their console was a year younger). With the two behemoths going actually head to head this time, it’s surprising that Microsoft would try this tactic. It didn’t wash with the PS3 and it doesn’t wash with the Xbox One.
Videogame charts tracking companies (such as VGChartz) actually put global sales of the Xbox One at around 4.3 million, which shows they actually have given up a chunk of the predicted market to Sony and the PS4. It’s not a huge difference, but clearly one that Microsoft feels is important to hide.
It also puts the claims of stock shortages into a different light. If there are 700 000 unsold units, there shouldn’t be much stock shortage anywhere for the Xbox One. Of course, ‘stock shortages’ are another commonly used marketing technique – people want nothing so much as what they are told they cannot have (popularised by Nintendo, but used by pretty much everyone in the industry).
There is also the matter of the territories that the console has launched in. To date, Sony have now released the PS4 in around 70 territories world wide, some big, some small. Microsoft, by comparison, have only brought the Xbox One to 13 territories. It’s not unreasonable to think that when the Xbox One is released in as many territories, its sales will swell too! However, it’s also not unreasonable to ask: Why is the Xbox One only available in 13 territories – 6 months after launch?
Well, the reasons for that are , allegedly, twofold. In the first instance, there is an issue of localisation. Microsoft insisting customers have the Kinect 2.0 as part of the system – whether they want it or not – didn’t just push the price up. It also meant that the voice recognition needed to be integrated into dozens of languages and dialects. Considering the kinect already struggles with strong accents – extra time has had to be taken to develop the use of Kinect in many European, Eastern European and Asian markets that the PS4 has been able to launch straight into. The second issue is the fact that these self same territories in Europe have pretty shoddy broadband infrastructure, meaning that the biggest selling point of this machine, Titanfall, won’t necessarily be the groundbreaking masterpiece for this particular console.
Lest we forget, the Xbox One was originally designed as a voice activated, always online, media hub. The advancements in technology, whilst impressive on paper, have meant that certain parts of the world have to sit by while their nation’s technology catches up.
It’s still way too early to crown a winner in this war. But Sony have certainly taken a commanding lead so far by giving gamers what they want. How this stacks up down the line is too difficult to predict. However, it’s similarly difficult to see where Microsoft and the Xbox One go from here. They’ve already played their ace in the hole with Titanfall, it helped accelerate sales and was the best selling game in March. Great. But what’s next? The gap is widening and the Xbox One needs something to pull gamers back in. To create a machine with a wide appeal and then sell to only 13 markets seems counter-intuitive, perhaps they know something we don’t?
Time will tell, hopefully E3 will shed light on what the PS4 and Xbox One strategies for the second year are – we’re looking forward to proper battle of epic proportions! After all, none of us really benefit from a landslide victory.
Have you picked a side in the console war? Tell us why in the comments below!
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