Sony’s PlayStation 4 console has all but won this generation of console wars, selling 30 million units in the United States alone. The Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation has also moved 8.3 million PS4 consoles in its home country of Japan, 7.2 million consoles in Germany, and 6.8 million consoles in the United Kingdom — making it the console to beat going into the next generation.
While sales figures for the PlayStation 4’s biggest competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox One, are nothing to scoff at, it has been estimated that the Xbox One was trailing Sony’s machine by approximately 47 million units worldwide to start 2019. It is highly unlikely that Microsoft — which no longer shares its console-sales figures — has closed the gap in any significant way.
The PlayStation 4 now ranks as one of the best-selling video game consoles in history — sitting only behind its PlayStation 2 and PlayStation predecessors, as well as the Nintendo Wii.
The Nintendo Switch, meanwhile, has sold an impressive 36.87 million units as of July 2019 — while matching the PlayStation 4’s lifetime pace. With a refreshed handheld-only version of Nintendo’s hybrid console hitting the market soon, we can expect the Switch to continue its strong sales pace going forward.
Despite Nintendo’s impressive recovery from its Wii U failure, the PlayStation 4 is the undisputed winner of this console generation — and has helped bolster Sony’s checkbook against other unprofitable divisions.
One reason Microsoft fell behind Sony in terms of this generation’s console sales was that the American multinational technology company unwisely and brazenly forced a largely-unwanted Kinect motion-sensing peripheral on early adopters.
The glorified camera accessory failed to live up to Microsoft’s unrealistic expectations and was partly responsible for the Xbox One shipping against the PS4 as the less-powerful of the two consoles — something the team at Microsoft is unlikely ever to do again.
On the subject of power, the base PlayStation 4 launched with the ability to play most games at Full HD resolution (1080p), while the Xbox One consistently underperformed by outputting resolutions of 900p or 720p. It’s never a good thing to lose every side-by-side console performance comparison for a cross-platform title, and Microsoft didn’t do itself any favors by putting its console in an inferior position.
Given the fact that Sony marketed the PlayStation 4 as a video game console first-and-foremost that was marginally more powerful than the competition and didn’t force any peripherals on the user, it is unsurprising — at least in hindsight — that the PS4 hit the ground running and dominated the Xbox One in early console sales.
Microsoft has since taken note of the fact that “power sells” and that many console gamers prefer to play cross-platform titles on the more powerful option.
With this lesson learned, the Xbox team has doubled down on its “gamers-first” attitude and put out an absolute beast of a home console in the form of the Xbox One X — which succeeds where Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro fails. While the latter console fails to hit the 4K/60fps target for most current-gen hardware pushers, the former almost always hits those marks.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was the perfect example of the lack of parity between the two consoles’ power, with the PS4 Pro’s less-than-stellar 4K-upscaling solution presenting an undeniably-inferior image to the crisp and stunning full-4K resolution found on the Xbox One X.
Though Sony has won this console generation, it cannot afford to sit back, kick its feet up, and let cruise control take it into the next generation of console wars. If there’s one lesson we’ve learned over the past few generations, it’s that arrogance leads to failure.
Sony got too big for its britches following the massive success of its PlayStation 2 and PlayStation consoles, releasing a drastically-overpriced PlayStation 3 while conveying an attitude of “if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Priced at $599 for the 60-gigabyte model and $499 for the 20-gigabyte model, many gamers didn’t have deep enough pockets to drop such a fat wad of cash for entertainment in 2006. As a result, the Xbox 360 dominated the PS3 for years in terms of console sales — with the latter not catching up until late into the generation and following various price cuts and console revisions.
Riding high off of its first truly successful and massively mainstream home console, Microsoft switched gears and displayed some of the arrogance that Sony had previously shown when announcing the PlayStation 3. In a now-infamous E3 presentation, the Xbox team essentially bragged about having a living-room dominating console that didn’t put gaming first and didn’t allow you to trade games with your friends. Sony, having learned from its mistakes, jumped on Microsoft and successfully trolled their foolishness by making it clear that gaming — and only gaming — was the priority.
However, there are signs that the PlayStation team is once again getting a bit brazen in the wake of its smashing PS4 success. Following an egregious, pretentious, and downright boring E3 presentation two years ago, Sony’s video game division went ahead and skipped this year’s expo.
Meanwhile, Phil Spencer and the Xbox team have been going hard in the paint following the Xbox One launch debacle and currently have (arguably) the best home console available right now in the Xbox One X. There is little chance that Microsoft will let the next generation of Xbox hardware be inferior on paper to Sony’s.
Of course, games and “killer apps” help move hardware. The PlayStation team has a robust history of producing some of the best first-party titles from a crew of highly-talented studios — such as Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, and Sucker Punch — but Microsoft has been spending big to build its own in-house squad of high-profile first-party studios to rival Sony’s. With a slew of studios like Ninja Theory, Turn 10 Studios, The Coalition, and 343 Industries, Xbox has positioned itself to continue pumping out major AAA experiences.
The team over at PlayStation may currently have the edge when it comes to winning the home console race, but Sony has its work cut out when it once again squares off against Microsoft and its next Xbox in the battle to win early adopters’ living rooms.