Anyone who’s played Fallout knows that war never changes. That’s as true in the console wars as it is in any other conflict. One video game console tends to outsell the others by a large margin at any given time, and this generation has belonged to the PlayStation 4. For three years, ever since the PS4 and Xbox One launched one week apart, the PS4 has sold roughly twice as well as Xbox One. That’s a long enough time for Sony’s lead to seem unbeatable, but recent developments seem to indicate the tide may be turning. Has the Xbox One been making a comeback in the second half of 2016?
Xbox One and PS4 sales figures
Judging by recent sales figures, it sure seems like Xbox One is on a roll. But first, let’s dig into the numbers to see where the two game consoles stand. The last time we heard reliable sales figures for Xbox One was back in January 2016, when the CFO of Electronic Arts said between 18 and 19 million Xbox Ones were out in the wild. For Sony’s part, the company’s last official statement was in December 2016, when it said the PlayStation 4 had sold 50 million units. That’s a massive lead.
A lot could have changed in the months since then, but the three-year trajectory has been clear. Sony has always sold about twice as many PS4s as Microsoft has sold Xbox Ones. Each month, the data-tracking firm The NPD Group puts out a statement saying which console outsold the other in the previous month. Throughout the first half of the year, as expected, the PlayStation 4 came out on top. Then something surprising happened.
Xbox gains momentum
VentureBeat reports that in July, The NPD Group reported that Xbox One was the best-selling console, defeating the PS4. What might have spurred people to buy an Xbox One in July? Price cuts. Microsoft had announced that a new model of the Xbox One, called the Xbox One S, would launch in August, so to make way for the new inventory, retailers slashed prices on the standard Xbox One. That put the Xbox One’s price at $250 at many retailers, while the PS4 was still selling for $300.
Just as Microsoft won July, the Xbox One maintained its momentum in August. Thanks in part to the release of the Xbox One S, the Xbox once again sold more units than PS4. The same thing happened in September, and again in October. Those four months in a row that Xbox One outsold the PS4 represent a strong shift for the console war.
The NPD Group won’t release November’s sales data for a couple of weeks yet, but Adobe has a Black Friday sales report that says the Xbox One outsold the PlayStation 4 on that major shopping day — and that’s despite the release of the PlayStation 4 Pro on November 10.
While the Xbox One certainly seems to be on a roll, none of the data shows how many actual units were sold each month. If the Xbox One only outsold the PS4 by a small margin, that won’t move the needle much in Xbox’s favor when it comes to total units sold. But if the Xbox One has been outselling the PS4 by a wide margin for the past five months, that could mean the Xbox One is beginning to close the gap.
Whether Microsoft can maintain this momentum over the next year remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, though: Microsoft is primed to rock the boat again when it launches the Xbox One Scorpio toward the end of 2017. That new entry in the Xbox ecosystem is said to be about four times as powerful as the current Xbox One.
Another big question mark is the Nintendo Switch, which is set to launch in March. Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii U, never sold well enough to make much of a difference in this generation’s console war. But the Switch, with its hybrid console/handheld design, may appeal to significantly more people.
However it all shakes out in 2017 and beyond, it sure is an exciting time to be a gamer. And if recent figures are anything to go by, don’t count the Xbox One out yet.