There are three companies in the game console business, and two of them are having a great year. In its last quarterly announcement, Sony declared that it had sold 3.2 million PlayStation 4 systems in Q2, which brings the lifetime sales of the platform to 82.2 million. Lifetime sales of the PS3, in contrast, were 83.8 million.
It’s the time frames involved that make this such a coup for Sony. The PlayStation 3 may have sold 83.8 million units, but it took 11 years to get there, from 2006 – 2017. The PS4, in contrast, has pulled the same trick off in less than five years. Of course, it’s only fair to note that this has happened for Sony because it effectively ate so much of Microsoft’s market share this time around. During the last generation, the Xbox 360 led the PS3 in the early part of their mutual lifespans and final sales totals between Microsoft and Sony were a virtual tie. This time, Sony remains far ahead, having outsold the Xbox by over 2:1. In fact, as VGChartz has detailed, Sony is only 12 million units behind the combined sales of the Xbox 360 and PS3 at the same point in their life cycle.
The Switch, meanwhile, continues its meteoric rise up the sales charts. At 16 months old, Nintendo has now shipped nearly 20 million Switches — 19.67 million total, including 1.88 million in the past quarter. This puts the Switch within spitting distance of the GameCube, at 21.74 million units, with the N64 beyond that at 32.93 million. At the rate Switch is growing, it’ll blow past GameCube by the end of the year and could beat the N64 by its second anniversary, depending on just how good Nintendo’s holiday season is. It’s not hard to wonder how long the Nintendo 3DS has, given the overwhelming popularity of Nintendo’s newer handheld. The lack of discussion around the cheaper device at E3 wasn’t a great sign for its fans.
And as for Microsoft? No comment. Microsoft’s argument for why it doesn’t release Xbox One sales are that it’s focused on engagement as a key metric for its products, not the number of units it ships. This is the kind of claptrap PR people get paid to invent and market, but it’s never held the slightest bit of water. Microsoft doesn’t release sales figures because the Xbox One has gotten stomped in the marketplace. Is that fair? Not really. The Xbox One may not be as fast as the PS4, but it was never half the speed, while the Xbox One X is unarguably the better console if maximum performance is your overriding criteria.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, there’s no indication that the Xbox One X made a material difference in the company’s sales position vis-à-vis Sony. The various firms that estimate total Xbox One sales continue to show Sony pulling away from its rival, with a gradually extending leadership position. At this rate, there’s no chance the Xbox One will even match the original sales performance of the Xbox 360, much less catch up with the PS4.
It’ll be interesting to see how the two companies reset their respective positions when the PS5 and Xbox Next hit town. Microsoft is said to be planning two consoles — one focused on streaming, one traditional model — in an attempt to shake up the market and possibly appeal to new customers. Sony, so far, is only known to be working on one model, though it’s reportedly tapped AMD again to do its design work.