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

Posted on April 29, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Games, Xbox One with 24 Comments

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

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.


Tagged with

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (24)

24 responses to “PS4 Maintains Lead Over Xbox One, and That’s OK”

  1. Darmok N Jalad

    At this point, I own both. My problem with the XboxOne is not so much that it is underpowered, it's that it has been very buggy as a game console. The simple act of switching discs is always a gamble. I lost count of the number of times I would insert a game, have the game start to launch, then get the warning that there's no game disc. My launch console and several accessories had to be serviced under warranty. The PS4 has been a model of consistency by comparison. Granted, PS Network is not as refined or as easy to use as Live, but it gets the job done. I don't feel that XboxOne is a failure, either. It's just that Sony nailed the gaming aspect so much better, kinda like how the 360 did the generation before.

  2. sharpsone

    I'm all in on Xbox. I purchased the original Xbox, X 360, XO and XOS on day one and will do the same with Scorpio. I like the ecosystem system better. Even with PS4 having more graphics power it wasn't enough to impact my decision. Scorpio will erase all of that anyways.

    I heard something about Sony releasing another PS in 2018 if that's the case I'd be one pissed off PS4 pro owner. That seems way too soon since pro was only released 7 months ago. The high-end should get at least 3 years of service before we see another successor. If the console wars become a yearly upgrade I'm out. That's the reason I left the PC gaming world but I will return to it if Sony and MS force my hand.

  3. edboyhan

    I'm not much of a gamer. I thought MS's initial approach for the XB1 which revolved much more around the notion of a game console also as a Living Room media hub. Gamers (IMO) are a vocal bunch whereas the couch potato set not so much. With increasing flexibility between consoles and dedicated game PC's, (and the rise of things like Google Home and the Amazon Echo devices), I think the notion of how a company deals with gaming, media control, home automation, etc. is open to a complete rethink. I think MS has given itself a lot of options. Now, if they could only get their herd of elephants to turn on a dime ... (:grin)

    Seriously, I think the challenge for MS going forward given that they have reasonable strategies, is how to execute on them nimbly. That's an area where I think Amazon has an edge.

    I also wonder if all the pre-disclosure of project Scorpio might not be a mistake. Admittedly the specs look good, but they also give Sony a target to blow past with a presumptive PS5.

  4. melinau

    Scorpio sounds pretty intriguing, but will the reality live-up to the hype? Probably not if VR is anything to go by!

    MS has put down some impressive VRAR?R markers with HoloLens. Sadly for normal human beings, or even geeky types, its simply too expensive.

    For my money one of the BIG stumbling blocks with current tech "VR" (for short) hardware is the umbilical linking it back to the PC. Until that can be removed on affordable hardware (and ARM's latest Graphics designs look relevant) I simply don't see it taking off. So at least some of Scorpio's alleged grunt is wasted .

    Like Paul I'm an arch glass-half-empty type, but its a sunny day here so......

  5. jamiet

    If the 2 to 1 ratio is true, then Microsoft must sell their upcoming Scorpio at $399. If the real money is made on the back-end i.e. software sales, subscriptions etc then they must take the loss (presuming it is a loss) and keep the starting price at $399.

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to jamiet:

      I think they could get it down to $399. The most expensive component is the SOC, and I doubt AMD will be charging that much for it in wholesale lots. It's not a direct comparison, the you can get an RX480 with 8GB GDDR5 (essentially a PS4 pro GPU) for just about $220. I know that's not Scorpio or the entire SOC, but it's also retail price. I think the $399 price point will be quite possible, at least for the entry level tier. Will MS do it? I hope so, as they need to hit PS4 pro hard to show they are serious. Getting some new original content wouldn't hurt either.

  6. Bats Paul Thurrott dreaming or what? Didn't he not say mid-last year that when Microsoft announced Xbox One S and Scorpio that it was the right strategy as well? IN ADDITION....when he posted a Year-End review for this site (I forgot when, perhaps late December), the said that MICROSOFT had a BIGGER YEAR in terms of consoles over the PS4.

    What's funny is, Paul turning the competition from the Xbox One vs. PS4 to the Xbox One vs. the Xbox 360. LOL...that's hilarious! addition,...huh? ".... we’re seeing a new strategy in which the life cycle is extended by mid-stream hardware upgrades." Uh....didn't they do this with the LAST GENERATION as well? Seriously, wasn't their a slim version of the PS3 prior to the PS4, as well as hardware upgrades for the Xbox 360 (that prevents the RRD?) WHat that heck is Paul talking about this "new strategy?" It's an OLD STRATEGY!!! LOL.

    Let's face reality....MSFT has no momentum in the console space. There is no question, MSFT is moving faster than before when it comes to their Xbox division. The only thing is...they are doing so in circles. Like a dog chasing it's tail.

    Sony has the better gaming platform. From what I hear and read, it has the better games, the better experience, and the better ecosystem.

    In Paul Thurrott's head AND ONLY IN HIS HEAD that the Xbox One has a chance. Listen, it's getting to the serious point, that whatever Paul Thurrott's endorses, it's a surefire LOSER. Nothing from this guy's head, comes out true, accurate, or right. All in all, it looks like Microsoft better just stick to what it does best maintain and upgrade Office and Paul should the same, report Office tips and Call of Duty news, which are two things (perhaps) 99% couldn't care less about.

  7. Tallin

    Actually, if it is 33 million to 60 million, that's a significant change in ratio for the past quarter or so. I believe estimates were in the 25-26 million range when Sony was 50 million, so that would put it at around 5:4 ratio for PS4 to Xbox for the period between then and now. Not bad, really, if they can keep that up or even turn it around with Scorpio.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to Tallin:

      Nodody actually knows because MS don't release sales figures anymore, and when they did, they only announced 'shipped' figures for XB1+XB360 combined. Once MS realised announcing sales figures for the XB was a futile effort and the media would only point out how badly it was doing against the PS4, they stopped. Only MS know the true figures, so don't believe estimates either, although it's likely 33m is overestimated, and that still might mean shipped rather than sold.

  8. HellcatM

    You hear Sony talking console sales but what about game sales, who's winning there? Its just one game but Ark for the Xbox One has sold 1.5 million copies while the PS4 version only just sold 1 million. If its like that for enough games and if more people pay for Xbox live than Playstation Plus, then Microsoft is doing really well.

    I have a PS4 and I'm getting a Scorpio. I don't have an original Xbox One only because when I go over friends houses I bring my console over and the Xbox One is heavy and big, I didn't get the S because I knew Scorpio was coming out.

    There are games I'm waiting to buy for when Scorpio comes out like Destiny 2, and even GTA V because I like the Xbox controller better for FPS games than the PS4 controller.

    The rumor I heard though is in 2018 Sony is going to bring out yet another updated Playstation. I haven't heard if its going to be another PS4 or the PS5. If this is true Sony is scared of Scorpio. I doubt its true though because that would just be dumb to bring out yet another console 2 years after they brought out the PS4 Pro.

    • jrickel96

      In reply to HellcatM:

      From all I've read, the game sales are at near parity. Despite having a lot more consoles in the wild, the Xbox One sells just as many games as the PS4. Xbox user engagement is much, much higher.

      The PS4 has the "it" factor. It's the console that kids ask their parents to buy for them. Plenty of adults buy it too, but engagement is lower. Some anecdotal evidence from EA and Activision indicates that X1 sells as many games and sells more add-ons. The online numbers for CoD and BF1 are about even for players on both consoles, despite the added amount of PS4s in the wild.

      If the games sell about evenly then the developers will put priority into both.

      MS knows the engagement numbers. That's probably the reason they focus on the Xbox Live numbers. And that's the interesting part. Xbox Live and PSN both sit at around 60 million active users. That runs across console generations, so similar engagement despite a lot more overall Playstations out there thanks to the PS4.

    • Skolvikings

      In reply to HellcatM:

      I personally think ARK suffered somewhat on the PS4 due to the release of Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a similar but far more entertaining title that's exclusive to PS4.

  9. Tony Barrett

    I really don't think Microsoft think 'it's ok' as Paul does. He's defending a console that's in a two horse race with it's number 1 competitor, and lost. Not just lost a little bit, but literally trampled into the ground, even on its home turf - the US. Yes, 33m (don't know if that's a shipped, sold or made up figure - MS usually quote shipped, and they were lumping ALL Xbox sales together, not just XB1) is a substantial amount, but not when you compare it to the PS4 sales. Sony did everything right this generation, MS the opposite and had some frantic work to do to try and turn things around, but they never really got over it.

    MS have just plodded along ever since, probably planning what to do next. XB1S (interim upgrade) then Scorprio (whatever that turns out to be). Don't feel sorry for MS though. If the situation was reversed, they'd be squealing their sales figures every month and rubbing Sony's nose in it. Sony though, have been a model company, only releasing sales figures when necessary. I wouldn't be surprised if Sony have an ace up their sleeve, and will watch the Scorpio release carefully. PS5 anyone?

    • jrickel96

      In reply to Tony Barrett:

      Except publishers have indicated that game sales are roughly the same. Sony can sell as many consoles as they want, but if they only sell the same amount of copies of the latest CoD or Battlefront, etc as Xbox One then is there any real difference?

      Sony doesn't have a PS5 up their sleeve. They don't have the capital to pull that off. Their console division is propping the rest of the company up along with the Japanese insurance division. The PS5 is set for 2020 and maybe they can get it out by Christmas 2019.

      The major key is if Scorpio will cause developers to abandon the PS4 for development. All the games will still come to the PS4, but they'll be ported much like the X1 is now. That means Scorpio and the other X1 consoles could have much more native advantage and that means the superiority of the hardware will be on display.

      Sony does very well on their console sales. Publishers do just as well on PS4 for sales as they do on Xbox One with indications that X1 owners spend more money on add-ons, so publishers may end up making slightly more money on an X1 version of the game. The PS4 demographic skews younger as it includes many more teenagers relying on their parents' money than the X1 does.

      If MS knows that the Xbox One sells just about as many games as the PS4 or just slightly less, what have they to worry about? Shouldn't Sony be the one worried if they sell only slightly more games than the X1 despite having a 2 to 1 console lead? That means their customers are less likely to make a long term investment, buy add ons, etc.

      The consoles are a lot more even than most realize in the place where it matters: software sales.

      That puts Sony in a bad place because they need to sell twice as many consoles to sell the same number of games. That was true last gen too. PS3 users were less engaged and bought less per console. They often buy the Playstation because of the name.

      The interesting comparison that neither company will release is active daily users - the amount of people using the consoles at least 5 days a week and making a login online. I know several people with PS4s that only use them in bursts when a new game comes out and then stop using them for weeks at a time. I use my X1 pretty much everyday. I buy digital games and have even bought movies and music through it - and even through third parties like VUDU.

      • Skolvikings

        In reply to jrickel96:

        Everyone claiming game sales for Xbox One and PS4 are identical, can any of you provide any proof to that effect? Not saying that you're not correct, but I'd like to see some proof of that.

      • cashmonee81

        In reply to jrickel96:

        Do you have any evidence for your claim? After searching to verify your claim, I only found this from Ubisoft that directly contradicts what you are saying:

        I am not saying you are wrong, just curious if you have any evidence. It is a pretty bold claim that Sony is not outselling in terms if individual games.

      • Darmok N Jalad

        In reply to jrickel96:

        The thing I always hear is that Sony has more diverse selections. The cross platform games aren't where the comparisons can be made. For example, Xbox has always had a poor selection of the style of games that are popular in Japan, and MS has never had any success there.

  10. Angusmatheson

    I believe this is a founder effect. Because of the poor launch the initial sales were 2 to 1. Now because of the social aspect, people buy the same console as their friends keeping the 2 to 1. I suspect project Scorpio will continue this, being a console of upgrade. The fear for Microsoft, if they want to change this, unless the next console is truely an entertainment center or wii type family gaming device - the next generation of consoles will be locked in by the social aspect as we'll - so will keep the same 2 to 1 ratio. However, the good news for Xbox is those user will also be locked in and not want to leave because of their gaming Xbox social network as well. (Xbox 360 having Minecraft as an exclusive for so long really helped its sales at the end of life. Another exclusive like that could, of course, change everything.)

  11. DeusFever

    At a bare minimum, the Xbox One is successful enough that Xbox One owners don't miss out on cross platform releases. It's not a WiiU.

  12. JacobTheDev

    I'm very curious to see how well Project Scorpio does. If the PS4 truly is successful due to its dedication to gamers, Scorpio has a real chance to at least catch up.

  13. MutualCore

    Actually it's more like 2.5: 1 in lifetime sales.

Leave a Reply