This week, Ars Technica estimated that Sony’s PlayStation 4 has roughly a 65 to 67 percent market share in the current generation. These numbers are based largely on the quarterly report that Sony recently released, boasting 13.5 million PS4s sold in the period of its launch last November through the month of September 2014. With the holiday season coming up, it’s a safe bet that the rate at which Sony can ship and sell the PS4 will increase even more, even if its competition sees a similar boost.
A quick flashback: Sony dominated the market back in the GC/PS2/XB generation. Following the tremendous success of the PlayStation 2, many in the gaming world were ready to crown the PlayStation 3 prior to its launch. However Sony priced the PS3 too high for many consumers early on and opened the door for the dominance of the Wii and for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 to cannibalize much of Sony’s market share, especially in the U.S.
Assuming Ars Technica isn’t too far off the mark, it looks like Sony has finally recovered from its early struggles with the PS3, or has at least taken advantage of missteps from the competition.
The Wii U has yet to take off. There’s no clear reason why, but it could be due to the popular perception that it is significantly less powerful than the competition.
The Xbox One made a critical error early on that it’s still trying to make up for. Including the Kinect with the console, and pricing the Xbox One higher than the PS4 was not a good move. Microsoft essentially admitted as much by selling a cheaper Kinect-less option so soon after its launch. This, compounded with the now infamous 2013 E3 performance, means that the Xbox One was climbing out of a hole before the next generation even started.
Is the race over already? Is it a foregone conclusion that Sony will “win” the current generation console war? Yes and no.
The first year is critically important, and with Sony all but “winning” that first year is a decent indicator of how the rest of the console generation could play out. However, we saw Sony overcome a lackluster start and finish strong last generation so anything is possible.
The Ars Technica report shines on some reasons to be optimistic about the Wii U. Thanks in large part to Mario Kart 8, Wii U sales are up, and with Super Smash Bros. on the horizon, there’s hope that the momentum can continue.
As far the Xbox One is concerned, although the 2013 E3 was a disaster, Microsoft at least had the wherewithal to backtrack and make things right. Now that the price is competitive with the PS4 (even lower until January 3rd), and has some quality exclusives, the Xbox One is in position to pick up some ground.
At the end of the day though, numbers don’t lie. Even if the Wii U and Xbox One are great consoles that have positioned themselves to improve their sales going forward, the PS4 is still in the drivers seat. As Ars Technica points out:
The PS4 has shipped roughly 63 to 68 percent of all “current generation” consoles in recent months. That’s significantly better than the (still impressive) 48 to 49 percent of the shipments that Sony can claim over the life of the current console generation. In fact, the shipment of six million PlayStation 4s from April to September is only slightly below the lifetime shipments for either the Xbox One or Wii U, and that should tell you something about how well Sony’s system has been doing of late.
At this point, it would take a massive change in public opinion to put a dent into the lead that Sony has. Something along the lines of a monster killer-app game, a dramatic price drop and/or a inexplicable drought of games on Sony’s end. There’s a chance that none of that will happen however and thus, the console war might already be over. At least the race for second place might be interesting to follow.