Sony claims it sold 5.3 million PlayStation 4 units worldwide by the beginning of February.
The game console, which launched in North America last November, is locked in fierce competition with Microsoft’s Xbox One. Microsoft hasn’t refreshed its own sales numbers in several weeks, although it claimed that 3 million Xbox One units had sold by the end of 2013.
Sony’s sales numbers came from research firm The NPD Group. “February 22 sees the launch of PS4 in Japan, and I’m looking forward to Japanese fans sharing the excitement of the deep social capabilities and entertainment experiences only possible on PS4,” Andrew House, president and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, wrote in a Feb. 18 statement.
If the PlayStation manages to pull ahead of the next-generation Xbox with regard to sales, it could validate Sony’s strategy of focusing on hardcore gamers; contrast that with Microsoft, which built and marketed the Xbox One as an entertainment hub for not only a broad mix of gamers, but also non-players who simply want a piece of hardware that can stream content. A sales spike would provide a much-needed victory for Sony, which has suffered from declining sales for its other electronics products.
The PlayStation 4 also enjoys a cost advantage. In a recent Polygon op-ed, Ben Kuchera highlighted Microsoft’s decision to integrate its Kinect motion controller into the Xbox One as a particularly bad one, as it tacks an additional $100 onto an already-expensive device in exchange for relatively little benefit. “It’s possible that software updates and some amazing and yet unannounced software will redeem the Kinect,” he wrote, “but that doesn’t change the idea that the company is forcing hardware on players who may not want it.”
On paper, Kinect helps make Xbox One a next-generation device—but in reality, Kuchera concluded, it “adds cost and frustration, and at this point there’s nothing on the horizon that will make it more attractive.” That only helps the PlayStation 4 among cost-conscious consumers who don’t share a bond with older Xbox versions.
But the console wars are a long game (so to speak), one in which a single game franchise—such as “Halo” for the original Xbox—can help tip things in one competitor’s favor. Microsoft is betting that “Titanfall” and the next “Halo” game will give it just that advantage, but Sony has its own franchise games in the works. And other consoles—not to mention tech giants such as Apple and Google—have their own plans for the gaming space. The next several quarters could become a battle that would put Call of Duty to shame.