All three home consoles are performing phenomenally at the moment. Games look beautiful on the Xbox One, and Microsoft’s Game Pass has made the console’s exclusives cheaper to experience. The Nintendo Switch has had a more successful and game-filled first year than many expected, and the PS4 is quickly approaching the sales numbers of the best selling consoles of all time. However, you cannot deny that the PS4 has been the strongest to date, selling far more than either of its rivals. This being said, with the excitement surrounding everything Nintendo is doing and planning, can Sony’s console stay ahead of the game?
As of January 2018, the last time the PS4 sales numbers were revealed, lifetime sales had surpassed 75 million, which is five times the number of Nintendo’s console, albeit in a far shorter time period. The figures are much closer if you compare the two consoles’ 2017s. The PS4 went from just over 50 million sold to just over 70 million by the end of the year, while the Switch sold approximately 14 million units. When you take into account the fact that the Switch only launched in March, the figures are very similar. Also, during the month of January 2018, the PS4 outsold the Switch by 373,585 units. Neither the Switch or the PS4 are showing any signs of slowing down, either, with November 2017 being the PS4’s best November ever and the Switch already outselling the lifetime sales of the Wii U.
One of the main departments in which the PS4 is leading, as of March 2018, is exclusive games. 2017 was strong for Nintendo exclusives, with the masterpieces that are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey playing a huge role in the popularity of the console. However, 2018 is looking a little quieter. While it is possible that the Pokemon RPG and/or a port of Super Smash Bros. Wii U arrives sometime later in the year, aside from Project Octopath Traveler and Kirby Star Allies, very little has been confirmed for the year in the way of exclusives. The PlayStation 4, however, has a library’s worth of exclusives between now and 2019. The God of War reboot releases in April, Spider-Man, and Detroit: Become Human are due in the first half of the year, and Days Gone and Dreams are possibilities for the second half of the year. God of War is exciting because it’s a new take on the series, exploring the personal side of Kratos in a semi-open world. Spider-Man will inevitably sell consoles due to the caliber of the developer and the status of the web-slinger himself. Then, Detroit is an impressive looking follow up to Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls (its popularity could hinge on how well it is received critically, though).
Something that could lead to a huge increase in Switch sales, however, is the fall of the 3DS. With Nintendo’s focus now on the Switch, especially with it being so popular, fewer releases are going to come to the handheld and those that love it could migrate to the hybrid. Nintendo handhelds are always incredibly popular, with the DS selling over 150 million and the 3DS over 70 million, and the design of the Switch allows it to take on the responsibilities of both the handhelds and the traditional home consoles. The expectation is that the main-line Pokemon games, that have been a staple of handhelds since their origin, will begin releasing on the Switch with the next title. The Pokemon games moving to Switch, alongside other first-party exclusive titles that are usually built for handheld, will persuade handheld lovers to pick up a Switch, having a positive effect on the sales of the system in 2018.
Where the PS4 may have another advantage, however, is in its online functionality and the games that take advantage of that. We don’t know exactly how the Switch’s online platform is going to fare when it releases later in the year and PlayStation is as reliable as it ever is (admittedly not the best around) and there’s a lot of hugely popular games that take advantage of it. Games like Fortnite: Battle Royale are taking the world by storm, with PS4 friend-lists being full of gamers trying to get that Victory Royale. Then there’s the games that are due later in the year, such as Red Dead Redemption 2, which will inevitably use the popularity of GTA Online to introduce a Red Dead Online of sorts, and Call of Duty, which will reportedly return to the popular Black Ops sub-series in November. None of these games, which are amongst the most popular on any platform, are due to release on Switch. Third-parties are showing more support than they did to the Wii U, with the release of games like Wolfenstein II and FIFA 18, but they aren’t committing to full support too early. It is unlikely that the next Call of Duty or Fortnite are going to come to Switch due to the power of the system and the unknown nature of its online infrastructure, leading fans of those games to continue to play on PS4, and those that want to get into the game to pick up Sony’s console.
Any possible price changes may also play a part in how both the PS4 and Switch do during the rest of 2018. The Switch is not even a year old yet, so a price drop would be a big surprise, especially considering how difficult it was to find throughout 2017. PS4, however, will turn five later in 2018 and a price drop wouldn’t be out of the question. As with all price drops, a sales boom occurs, ushering in those that were holding out for it to hit a certain price point. The closer the PS4 gets to $200, the more likely those hesitaters are to bite the bullet. A PS4 Pro price drop could also go hand in hand with the rise of 4k, pushing sales of Sony’s system even further. Of course, a price drop isn’t a certainty, since the console is performing so well at the current price, but a cheaper system could take the sales to the next level.
A significant factor in whether the PS4 continues to beat the Switch in 2018 is what Nintendo do with their console. Will the online system be stable enough to support the already substantial install base, and will it have enough huge exclusives or third-party titles release throughout the year? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answers to those questions yet. PS4 will continue to sell well, releasing high-quality exclusives and partnering with third-party developers to make their console the home for the biggest games, so we know that it will perform well. Whether it continues to reign, however, is down to the competition.