Quarter of a year has passed since the arrival of the ‘Next-Gen’ and the sales war has only just started
You may recall that during the next-gen release month of November that I wrote about the needless comparisons between Xbox One and PS4. However, there is one area that matters, at least for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, and that’s sales figures. While there may be a mutual respect for each other the three giants of the games industry want their pockets to be the deepest. After all, this is the world of business and these are global companies that have to make a profit to survive. With that in mind let’s see how the sales figures look coming into March for the eighth generation of consoles.
The figures above gathered from Extreme Tech and Venture Beat as well as Nintendo’s official website show that the PS4 has sold the most units so far, with Wii U just behind and Xbox One propping up the bottom with a figure just over the 4 million mark. From those figures Xbox One may seem to be in danger of falling away from the competition, but in truth it is the Wii U that is in real trouble. Having had near enough a whole year as the only Next-Gen console on the market Wii U had the opportunity to sell as many units as its ground-breaking predecessor, the original Wii. Despite the year long advantage the sales of Wii U consoles only amounted to approximately 3.5 million units sold across all territories in its first year. To put that figure in perspective the PS4 sold 1 million units in 24 hours when it launched in just two, albeit the biggest territories of US and Canada. Following that Sony’s new games console has now managed to sell what the Wii U did in a year in a quarter of the time with the new Xbox not far off achieving the same success.
Wii U’s underwhelming sales can be contributed to a number of factors including hardware specs and reputation with the gaming community. Gamers who are looking to invest their money in a new console want to know what they are getting for their money so hardware specifications are compared and discussed at length by nearly all gaming journalists before any console launch. With regards to Wii U the relentless side by side comparisons do not favour Nintendo’s machine. The problem is that if you want a console to last the next 6-7 years do you want one with no Blu-Ray drive, only 2GB Ram, no USB 3.0 ports, and is region locked? Probably not. For the hardcore console gamer the extra power ensures longevity and that game developers will be utilising the hardware for years to come. Equally having the more powerful machine is important in the modern day for gamers who want their system to be an all-in-one entertainment unit hence the importance of a blu-ray drive. Besides hardware Wii U faces problems with its catalogue of games with a weak offering of third party titles that fail to support the relatively sparse first party titles that Nintendo relies upon. Despite the need for more games the desire to support third-party development in the future is an attitude that Nintendo appears to be reluctant to adopt with President and CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata stating no financial investment would be made in third party developers. Putting faith into their own development teams is a bold move and only time will tell if the Wii U can reclaim ground, but for now the eighth-gen sales wars are very much a two horse race.
So taking Wii U out of the equation what are Sony and Microsoft doing in terms of figures post-launch? Well Microsoft announced that they sold a whopping 258,000 consoles in February closing the monthly sales gap to +90% of what the PS4 was selling. Sony did not release any official figures, but from Microsoft’s numbers it is safe to estimate that around 286,500 PS4 units were sold. In addition Microsoft added that the Xbox One is outselling the Xbox 360 in the same post-launch period by more than an outstanding 61%. Those are some promising numbers for the industry at a time when some commentators believed that consoles were a dying breed with the increasing popularity of mobile games and the reduce in price of PC components. They are also promising for Microsoft who suffered some PR nightmares during the months leading to the launch of Xbox One and according to the sales figures were looking to have suffered for some lapses in judgement.
While the money may be pouring in for Microsoft and Sony the sales of these consoles also have impact on us, the consumer. The games we buy are made buy developers who unsurprisingly also need to make a profit. The way they do this is by releasing games on the best selling consoles as they have the largest available audience to sell to. However, if one console becomes the dominant machine with regards to units sold then developers are more likely to make deals with the makers of that console. The best example may be the Release of GTA III and Vice City on the original Xbox. Back in 2003 Sony had in place an agreement with Rockstar that GTA would be a timed exclusive for the highly popular PS2, meaning that if you wanted to play GTA III or Vice City on their release you would have to play it on PS2. Inevitably this sold more PS2 consoles resulting in more game developers producing games solely for the console, such as one of my personal favourites Naval Ops: Warshipper Gunner. Once the PS2 had this amount of power in the console market the Xbox and GameCube (which did not support the release of adult only games) were simply left trailing behind Sony’s second console for the rest of the sixth generation, however a repeat of this situation is unlikely to happen. A more likely scenario is rather than use overwhelming sales to attract third part developers, Sony and Microsoft will invest heavily towards obtaining the rights to exclusive games from them, like those of the newly released Titanfall to Xbox One and 360, with the aim of making them ‘system sellers’.
Another point of consumer interest is also the need for competition in the market place. With strong contenders faced off together the burden on gamers pockets actually becomes lighter as recently seen with the Xbox One price drop which we can safely assume aims to combat the runaway sales of the PS4. Another reason for keeping retail prices low is that while corporations need to make a profit, there is a very prominent realisation that they also need the hardware in the homes of gamers in order to make a further profit from software sales (games, etc.). If selling the console itself at next to or zero percent profit ensures a high amount of sales then the return on the software sold should result in a more profitable scenario for the console manufacturer. Games and other software also reduce in price as competitors manoeuvre to make their products the most attractive to their target audiences. The benefit to consumers is that if tomorrow Microsoft announced that all new Xbox One games were to be sold as £35 you can guarantee that Sony would follow suit in order not to be priced out of the market. Essentially competition keeps prices lower and my bank balance from self destructing.
There you have it, what the big boys of the gaming industry have sold and why we should be be interested, but what about the future? Well March is probably the first chance for both the PS4 and Xbox One to flex some muscles with the launch of their first AAA exclusives since their respective launches back in November. Infamous: Second Son and Titanfall are very different games, but both are starting to face comparisons as they go head to head to help their systems sell more units and break new sales records. Also expect to see some rather large announcements at E3 this year as well as more news in the months leading up to the event. PS4 and Xbox One have their feet firmly in the door now let’s see if they can blow the roof off.
Thanks for reading,