Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Did Xbox Just Blow Its Chances?

Source: Microsoft
Source: Microsoft

This generation’s console war has been a one-sided affair for nearly as long as it’s been going on. The PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One nearly two to one ever since both consoles were released in 2013. Microsoft had its best chance yet to narrow that gap during the holiday season of 2015. But now that the dust has settled, it looks pretty clear that Microsoft blew it.

Going into the holiday season, when the biggest chunk of each year’s console sales happen, Sony was way ahead. The only hitch was that, with Forza Motorsport 6, Halo 5: Guardians, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, Microsoft had a much stronger lineup of exclusive games coming out during that time. The only meaningful PlayStation 4 exclusive during the same window was Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, a bundle of three games that had been released on PS3 years ago.

If ever there was an argument to be made to buy an Xbox One over a PlayStation 4, it was during the holiday season of 2015. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it doesn’t seem to have played out in the company’s favor.

According to Sony, this holiday season boosted the PS4 sales to 35.9 million. Microsoft hasn’t announced specific numbers for quite some time (presumably because the sales figures don’t compare favorably to Sony’s), but the best recent estimate from SegmentNext, suggests Microsoft has sold about 18 million Xbox One consoles.

That puts Sony in a 2:1 lead, which is about where the company was prior to the holiday season. Apparently Microsoft’s holiday lineup of exclusive games wasn’t enough to give Xbox One the boost it needed.

Source: Sony
Source: Sony

Which means Microsoft is in big trouble in 2016. While Sony didn’t have many appealing exclusives lined up in 2015, it’s a very different story in 2016. Here are the headliners that are coming to PS4 this year:

  • Uncharted 4
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • The Last Guardian
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • Ratchet and Clank
  • Street Fighter 5
  • Persona 5
  • The Witness
  • No Man’s Sky

Meanwhile, Microsoft has a weaker lineup that includes just Gears of War 4, Quantum Break, Halo Wars 2, and Crackdown 3, plus lesser-known titles like Sea of Thieves and ReCore. If 2015 gave Microsoft an opportunity to narrow the sales gap based on quality exclusives — and Microsoft blew it — 2016 is going to much less kind to the company. 2016 is Sony’s year to become practically invincible — and I think it will.

Let’s not get too dramatic, though. This doesn’t mean the Xbox One is doomed. Microsoft announced that all of its recent exclusives sold over a million units over the holiday, proving that Xbox One owners are willing to open their wallets to buy exclusive games.

But it is looking increasingly unlikely that Microsoft will ever be able to catch up to Sony’s incredibly popular system. If the Xbox One had any chance, it was holiday 2015. That time has come and gone without making a dent in the sales gap. Now it’s Sony’s game to lose, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed
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