Xbox One vs. PS4: Sony Dominates Again in April and Isn’t Letting Up



March was a solid month for Sony (NYSE:SNE) when it came to the ever-broiling competition it has with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in the video game console market. Sony took the cake in the four full weeks that month with 655,518 PlayStation 4 units sold compared to Microsoft’s 433,940 Xbox One units, and even Nintendo’s (NYDOY.PK) 154,227 Wii U consoles sold — the PS4 beat both combined. Now it’s clear that Sony isn’t letting up.

Though nothing stood out as a major boon for Sony in the four mostly full weeks of April quite like Titanfall did for the Xbox One in March, it still managed to come out ahead of the Xbox One in a number of ways. The hit action game inFAMOUS: Second Son was the biggest single contributor to the PS4′s success in April, as it was the top selling title for the PS4 three out of the four weeks in April, according to data from VGChartz, only taking a second seat during the week ended April 19 to make way for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

For the Xbox One, Titanfall was the game it had to bank on, even though it was already in its fourth week during the first week of April. During all of April, Titanfall was the top selling video game for the Xbox One. But one hefty blockbuster title didn’t prove strong enough. Sony’s spread of game titles proved more compelling to buyers, just as it did back in March when it sold 2.49 million games for the Ps4 compared t the 2.06 million games sold for the Xbox One.

To put it simply, for all of April, the PS4 took the cake and didn’t share any of it. Hardware sales during the four weeks that month totaled 579,850 units globally, according to VGChartz’s data, and each of the four weeks saw higher PS4 sales than any other console. The Xbox One didn’t even take second to the PS4 as it had 335,101 total sales during the month, falling behind Nintendo’s 3DS and its 428,891 sales.

What’s particularly damning for the Microsoft console is that the disparity in sales between it and the PS4 has only gotten bigger, even with the help of Titanfall added into the mix. At the end of March, the PS4 had a global lead of 2.69 million units sold over the Xbox One. At the end of April, that lead had grown by about a quarter of a million units to 2.93 million units sold.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Sony has something of a foreign advantage, as the Xbox One is still not available in Japan, while that’s the home turf of the PS4. However, taking this factor out of the mix doesn’t change the story. Only looking at sales in the U.S., Sony had a lead of 310,846 units over the Xbox One at the end of March, and that grew to a lead of 323,839 units sold at the end of April.

Things don’t look like they’ll get too much better in the future either, as pre-orders in the U.S. for two of the biggest blockbusters this year — Ubisoft’s (UBSFY.PK) Watch Dogs and Activision’s (NASDQ:ATVI) Destiny — both have higher numbers of people pre-ordering on the PS4 than on the Xbox One.

Sony definitely appears to have the edge, and in all likelihood won’t let it slip. But a new factor has just emerged in the form of China and a 1 billion plus person marketplace. Check out what this may mean for Xbox from our previous article on China opening its borders to foreign gaming consoles.

China is home to nearly half a billion gamers who spent $13 billion on the hobby in the past year alone. That’s a sizable chunk of the world’s population and an enormous market by any estimation. But for the past 14 years, the Chinese government has blocked foreign game consoles from being sold in the country, leaving Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo out in the cold. Meanwhile, it’s been PC, mobile, and online games that have vacuumed up all of the profits.

That’s about to change. Earlier this year, China said that it would lift the console ban and allow foreign console makers to sell its wares in the country as long as it works with a local partner and operate out of the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone. Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it plans to do just that. The company has partnered with BesTV and is going to release the Xbox One in China in September.

In an announcement, Yusuf Mehdi, the corporate vice president of marketing and strategy for Microsoft’s devices and studios, said that, “Launching Xbox One in China is a significant milestone for us and for the industry, and it’s a step forward in our vision to deliver the best games and entertainment experiences to more fans around the world.”

With a newly opened market as big as China’s, it’s only a matter of time before Microsoft’s competition gets in on the action. As of yet, neither Sony nor Nintendo have made any announcements to that effect, but don’t be surprised if you hear noise from both companies soon.

Microsoft says the Xbox One will be the first console to launch in China under the newly loosened restrictions. It’s a head start it could use, seeing as the Xbox One is trailing the other current-generation consoles in sales. To date, according to VGChartz, the Xbox One is selling well behind the PS4 in global sales, and the lead the PS4 has is growing. How long of a head start Microsoft will have in China remains to be seen.

There’s one more catch for game makers hoping for a slice of the Chinese gaming market. The Chinese government has issued a long list of reasons individual games may be banned, including things like violence, obscenity, drug use, and gambling. To make sure they’re suitable, all games sold in China will have to be approved by the “culture department in charge.” Since so many triple-A games are based on shooting, it will be interesting to see which games are allowed to be sold in the country and which are not.

Speaking with Polygon, Digital World Research analyst P.J. McNealy said, “For Microsoft, if you’re building a global strategy for console, you have to include China in the roadmap. Ideally, it will be the largest market over time. Realistically, it won’t be because there are certain inherent challenges with respect to intellectual property that will probably make things challenging. That said, it doesn’t mean this isn’t the right time to take a shot at selling the box in China.”

Since Microsoft is currently trailing Sony and Nintendo in sales, the sooner it can access big new markets, the better.

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