PS4 vs. Xbox One vs. Wii U: Sony Wins 2014, But Microsoft Fights On

Source: Sony
Source: Sony

The numbers are finally in for December’s video game console sales, bringing 2014’s battle between Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to a close. It was a banner year for console sales overall, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One vastly outselling their predecessors during the same times in their life cycles.

The overall winner of 2014 has long been clear: The PS4 attained incredible sales momentum that the Xbox One failed to match month after month. The PS4 sold in enormous numbers all year long — it sold so much it even vexed the president of Sony himself. Perhaps the biggest reason is that the Xbox One stumbled out of the gate on account of a series of unpopular decisions made by Microsoft.

Throughout the year, Microsoft managed to correct its mistakes one by one. In March, it began offering a version of the Xbox One without a Kinect motion sensor, bringing the entry price down to the $400 mark that Sony had charged for the PS4 since its November 2013 launch.

During the holidays, Microsoft further cut the price of the Xbox One by $50, making it the most affordable console over the period, starting at $350. The Xbox One also had a better holiday lineup of exclusive games, thanks to Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Sunset Overdrive. This all added up to the Xbox One selling more than the PS4 in the U.S. in both November and December.

No matter how many units Microsoft sold over the holidays, though, Sony couldn’t be caught when it came to units sold to customers worldwide. Let’s dive into the global numbers for December to see how things shook out leading into the new year. All of the sales data quoted here come from VGChartz, one of the only analysts that estimates global sales figures.

Source: Microsoft

Let’s start with the console we haven’t mentioned yet: the Wii U. In the first two weeks of December, Nintendo sold around 200,000 units per week. In the next two weeks, sales kicked up close to the 300,000 mark per week. In the fifth week of the month, the after-Christmas week that ended January 3, the Wii U sold just under 100,000. All told, the Wii U sold an estimated 1,109,325 units in December. [Update, 1/20/15: The sales data for all consoles has been updated to reflect the week ending January 3.]

Nintendo’s handheld system, the Nintendo 3DS, fared significantly better than the Wii U. It sold around half a million units each of the first two weeks of the month, ratcheting up to the 700,000 range for the following two weeks. In the final week of the month, sales slowed back down to the 400,000 range, for a grand total of 2,961,316 units sold in December.

Microsoft, for its part, held steady all month with about half a million units sold each of the first four weeks in December, slowing to around 230,000 in the final week. It all added up to a grand total of 2,284,298 Xbox One consoles sold throughout the month.

As usual, Sony dominated the competition, selling around 700,000 units per week most of the month, and only slipping to about 400,000 in the final week. The total for PlayStation 4 was about 3,204,402 consoles sold in December. That means the PS4 outsold the Wii U by 189%, the 3DS by 8%, and the Xbox One by 40%. In other words, in December, PS4 came in at No. 1, followed by the 3DS, Xbox One, and finally Wii U.

Despite the 3DS’s strong showing, the real apples-to-apples battle is between Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PS4. The big question coming out of December was whether Microsoft could maintain the momentum it built up during the holidays.

Source: Nintendo

In early January, Microsoft pulled the $50 price cut, then quickly reinstated it, presumably because sales dropped off significantly when the console went back up to $400. The bigger issue facing Microsoft is that the PS4 has a couple of major exclusive games launching early this year, both of which are important enough to make fans buy a PS4 over an Xbox One. The Order: 1886 launches on February 20, and Bloodborne, from the makers of the popular Souls series, comes out on March 24.

Meanwhile, none of Microsoft’s big exclusives for 2015 have specific release dates. Only two of them are expected in the first half of the year: Quantum Break and Inside. Those should help sell consoles to some degree, but it doesn’t bode well that no release dates have been announced for either game yet.

For its part, Nintendo has announced its plans for both the Wii U and 3DS for the spring, including release dates for nearly a dozen games across the two systems. It’s almost certainly too late for the Wii U to become a major contender in this generation’s console war, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo has given up just yet.

With so much heated competition, 2015 is sure to be a great time to be a console gamer. Sony may have owned 2014, but the fight rages on. Microsoft has shown it has plenty of ideas and is willing to make big moves to take on Sony this year. Nintendo is an interesting wild card. How will things shake out in January and beyond? Stay tuned.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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