Xbox One Faces a Familiar Sales Story in January

Posted on February 10, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 23 Comments

Xbox One Faces a Familiar Sales Story in January

This is starting to become a tradition: Microsoft announces record sales of its Xbox One console. But still manages to fall short of the PlayStation 4.

“Thanks to continued support by our fans, 2017 is off to a strong start as Xbox One game hours grew 21 percent year-over-year,” a Microsoft statement attributed to corporate vice president of Xbox Marketing Mike Nichols reads. “In addition, in the U.S., Xbox One had its best January to date and was the only eighth generation console that saw growth in January compared to the prior year according to NPD Group. Team Xbox is committed to delivering the best gaming experiences for our fans.”

You’ll notice what Microsoft doesn’t say there: That Xbox One was the best-selling console in January. And yes, that’s because Sony’s PlayStation 4 once again took the crown. (This is based on NPD data, meaning it’s accurate and U.S.-only.)

As you may recall, Xbox One experienced its “biggest month ever for sales in the U.S.” in December, and that, like this past month, it was the only [current-generation] console with year-over-year growth. And yet, it fell short in December too. And in November as well.


As I noted last month, the silver lining is that Xbox One looks great if you look at a wider time period: Xbox One somehow outsold PS4 over the second half of 2016, for example.

But with years of defeats at the hands of the PS4, I think it’s time to just admit that Xbox is never going to catch up, not in this console generation. The question, then, is whether that’s OK.

I think it is. The market for dedicated video game consoles seems quite strong, and while no one should be happy with a 2-to-1 deficit when compared to the market leader, the approximately 25 million Xbox One consoles out in the world is nothing to be embarrassed by. That’s a solid business, but more important, Xbox One sales have outpaced those of its predecessor during a similar time period. And the Xbox 360 went on to sell 80 million units.

Microsoft will need at least three consoles—the original Xbox One, the Xbox One S, and “Project Scorpio”—to get there, but so what? Sony has already released three PS4 revisions itself. Things have changed.

Obviously, I’d like to see Xbox One perform better against the PS4, but this isn’t Windows phone all over again, not even close.

Join the discussion!


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

Comments (23)

23 responses to “Xbox One Faces a Familiar Sales Story in January”

  1. 5394

    The big weakness is foreign sales. Until it can sell more in foreign markets, Xbox will be an also ran. It seems like its recent technologies especially Bing and Cortana are not adapted in foreign markets. It left a big hole in its lineup.

  2. 2394

    I'm glad Xbox One is growing, and I give zero about how many Playstations get sold in comparison. There's enough money for everybody, and enough of my friends are on my platform that I don't really miss anybody.

  3. 5538

    Xbox One needs to appeal to a broader audience. The audience it appeals to are mainly FPS gamers if you look at the game library, whereas the PS4 has that and more. I know I sorely miss some J-RPGs and solid platformers (ReCore was fun, but buggy as heck). Xbox is really a solid platform (it's online services are most likely the industry standard for gaming), and by no means a failure, but if it wants to increase it's longetivity (even if you're not a fan of those other genres), it needs those games, just like how Windows needs those apps.

    • 5234

      In reply to SDreamer:

      I think Microsoft missed the boat by not putting out commercials with IN. YOUR. FACE. shouty marketing like in the 80's and 90's where they basically rhyme off every thing that it does.  They needed a hook.  Just showing game commercials with an Xbox logo at the end just didn't cut it.

      Something like:

      TV?  IT DOES THAT!

      Apps?  IT DOES THAT!

      Games?  IT DOES THAT!

      I'm sure there's lots of examples of retro commercials that already did this.


    • 8626

      In reply to SDreamer:

      Don't believe the hype.  The top selling games for the PS4 are Shooters and sports titles, just like on the Xbox One. Its just a bunch of rehashed franchises such as Gears of Halo, Call of Battlefield, The Last of Drake's Uncharted, Assassin's Raided Tomb, The legend of Mario's big Kong and Madden 2K.  The only difference is how the gaming media portrays the different console's libraries.  

  4. 5038

    Will Xbox ever "catch up" to PS console unit sales?  Don't know, but that's almost an irrelevant question if we truly are in the last-ever/forever-evolving console generation cause in that case

    a) Unit sales don't really matter, active users matter much more (yes of course there's a short term correlation, but dusty paper weights don't count in the long term)

    b) Even if we do count unit sales as a worthy metric, there's a WHOLE LOT of time to catch up ;) 

    On another note, it's probably safe to assume the sales gap is much closer; no longer 2 to 1, thus how the Xbox can have best ever results while still being behind.    

  5. 4629

    I love my Xbox One and use it on a daily basis.  It is all the little things that it does, in addition to the great gaming, such as being able to wake it from sleep with Cortana. That is cool. There is no danger, as Paul mentioned, of the Xbox One being in trouble. As long as they keep making awesome games, people will keep buying it.

  6. 8779

    I hope you Paul never get your free trial of microsoft studio  PC... and you get to try a new pixel chrome from google your new love

  7. 1243

    Honestly, if I hadn't already owned an Xbox 360 for the last 10 years and an Xbox One for the last 3, I would probably move back to PlayStation. Haven't had a PlayStation since PS2.
    Now I have 200 games on my 360, and at least 140 on my Xbox One. If I were able to magically switch those over to a PS4, I'd give it a try.
    Why? The Xbox One, in general, has gotten worse over the years instead of better. I'm talking about straight performance and UI. Shortly after launch, the Xbox One UI was vastly superior to the PS4 and it worked near flawlessly. Fast forward to today, and the UI is nearly unusable in it's current state. It has the last three things I did taking up the entire screen with non intuitive ways to get to Friend's lists, the Store, etc. Even getting to the My Games & Apps section is terrible. And then there's the performance, which is getting slower and slower with each update.
    I played around with a friend's PS4 and the difference was night and day.

  8. 6171

    The story will not change for Microsoft until they release much more powerful hardware.  As it is, if you want the best you go desktop PC, second-best (several rungs down, actually) is the PS4/Pro, and then there's the xBone...;)  Microsoft had to learn a painful lesson with the xBone (similar to what they learned about the original Win8's Metro-sans-desktop OS GUI)--when people look for a *gaming console* they are thinking about computer games--not about cable TV.  Hope they learn that lesson--the original xBone reveal was packed with many falsehoods and completely unpopular "features" (Internet "on", etc.)--and they changed a lot of that before it shipped.

    The good news is that as the PS4 and the xBone are both now basic x86 computer platforms, both companies can release newer models every couple of years without a problem, imo.  The days of the decade-long "console milk" are long gone.  That's good news.  The company that comes out with a hardware-upgradable console first will probably be the ultimate winner here, imo.  (Essentially, a "desktop-PC for dummies" at a console price in which ram, GPU, and storage can be upgraded by the owner--and who knows, maybe even the cpu, too!)  The market is there and it is the same market as the PC market--I wonder which company will get there first...!

  9. 4288

    Microsoft is moving towards unifying the console and PC markets (for developers) quite a bit. This will help great games to continue to be made for Xbox/UWP.

    I think a lot of people will be interested to see what Scorpio brings and how much of a bump it brings to the market.

  10. 7099

    O Microsoft, you make what i think was the best console ever with the Xbox 360, then wreck its UI in to this mess of ugly tiles (yeah those tiles that made people love Windows 8 and Windows phone) , you then go up on stage and announce its successor the Xbox One where you talk about nothing but TV TV TV , Sports and then a little about COD erm, i want a GAMES CONSOLE?!! , then make the Kinect non optional in the beginning which was dead on the 360 anyway, you then call gamers who like to play old games backward , and then i find one the best features of the Xbox 'System Link' is basically non existent in the Xbox One games.

    I cannot imagine why i got a PS4 this generation or why Sony is selling so many more consoles than Microsoft.....

    So glad i did get the PS4 as i am loving VR on it. 

  11. 4504

    Most of my friends who bought one console, got the PS4, and when that happens all their friends get the PS4 and so on. Even though I don't play multiplayer much, I like that when I want to, I'll be able to play with my friends. Anyway, I have both PS4 and XB1, and personally, I use both equally - I tend to go through phases of just using PS4, XB1 or PC.

  12. 2175

    "This is starting to become a tradition:" 

    Uhh...  It's been this way since the launch... In 2013. Perhaps we should accept (I know I have) that Xbox will never lead the ps4. I'm not talking about winning 1 or 2 months.  I'm talking about the entire generation.  Xbox is number two.  Let's deal with that, and move on 

    • 7932

      In reply to jamiet: I agree, I don't (and haven't) cared who is the leader, just so long as I get the operational characteristics that I need from whatever service/device I am using.
      I'll bet there are millions of Xbox 360s out there still doing what people need to do, and why upgrade until it breaks? IMO, there is nothing that compelling about the last couple of generations of Windows or the XBoxOne, that, in retrospect, was really worth the hype. I typically hold off on buying hardware until I really need to update, and then I might leap ahead 2 or 3 generations for the replacement, more in hopes that it will last another 10 years (or whatever) before it is 'done'.


      • 2175

        In reply to mmcewan:

        Yep. I still believe that PS4 was more compelling because PS3 was just a mess. The online component and user experience was lackluster by comparison to Xbox 360. The games were optimized for superior performance on 360. There was more to gain by leaving behind the PS3 and jumping to PS4. 

        That said, Xbox One could have been more appealing. But it didn't offer much enticement, other than prettier games, for 360 owners to upgrade. IMO. There were features on the 360 which weren't available on the Xbox One. I mean, why upgrade to a console that was missing some important feature sets.

        Anyways, the damage has been done to the brand. I still don't believe the Xbox team knows anything about positioning and brand identity. Hopefully, by the time Scorpio rolls around, they learn how to do it.

  13. 7066

    Internally, Microsoft knows Xbox One is nothing short of a disaster, and the gaming community sees it.

    They are no longer saying Xbox One is outpacing the Xbox 360, because it's not. The 360 had sold more within the same time frame on the market.

    They have a smaller mindshare, fewer first party studios, fewer third party partners, much smaller global presence, lost the United States and the U.K. and their blockbuster IPs are all past their prime.

    The Scorpio could help some but without some really good exclusives it's going to  a tough sale. Remember, many of the big 1st party games will be XBOX PLAY ANYWHERE and PC doesn't require LIVE. 

    Speaking of Live will Microsoft ever tell us the number of paid subscribers? 

    Paul thanks for you analysis but you're being much too kind. When the Swifch launches its possible the Xbox One becomes the 3rd selling console. 




  14. 9201

    What's the big deal here, everyone knows PlayStations are better gaming consoles. Quell Surprise.

    Consoles are all dominated by tedious FPS games anyway. Who cares. More gaming is done on PCs and Steam, and at least that is what helps the struggling W10 sales.

  15. 5506

    I think people just awaiting for Scorpio to come up.

    Already own PS4 and don't have reason to buy the PS4 Pro, was thinking on getting Xbox but with the Scorpio coming this year i can wait if the price is right.

    Also i like the black color better for my stuffs.

  16. 8662

    Make that thing black and sales go sky rocket and surpasses PS4.

    • 5184

      In reply to moorpipe:

      Not sure it will sky rocket past PS4, but agree it is disappointing you can't get a black console without some funky themed bundle.  I personally hate white boxes in my living room, but finally broke down and got the XB1S in white because I wanted a freaking XB console I could stand vertically and didn't look like a 1980's VCR.

  17. 169

    This is a good news story, not a bad one.   PS4 is objectively more powerful and hence more valuable to consumers.  XBox One is decent and has many benefits due to XBox Live, the ecosystem and other features.    #2 is okay.   I'm looking forward to what happens in the next console generation.  These are good times for gamers.