Lifetime Console Sales Are What Matter, Not Initial Sales
Yeah, I’ve run out of controversial ideas now. From Titanfall being overhyped to calling early adopters of next-gen brave, rich or stupid to talking about Sony’s PSN Hack in 2011 to ranting about Games with Gold to discussing the viability of PlayStation Plus, I’m about done with this very out-of-character anti-Xbox-fest I’ve been having recently.
I love my Xbox.
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It has the happiest sound in the world.
So today I want to try and even that out by talking about something that a commenter on yesterday’s article about PlayStation Plus brought up which has actually been a constant argument in the recent console war debates; that of the sales figures for each console. I must admit that I’ve wanted to talk about this ever since Dead Space 3’s early sales figures were released midway through last year, but now offers the best real opportunity to talk about it across the gaming spectrum, not just related to a specific game series which is likely now defunct thanks to EA’s oversaturating of everything.
Last generation saw three really great gaming consoles release to the world. First came Microsoft’s Xbox 360, then Nintendo’s Wii and finally Sony’s PlayStation 3, each hot on the heels of the previous generation’s Xbox and GameCube, which enjoyed moderate success, and PlayStation 2, which blew all competition clean out of the water. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you side with, Sony slipped up initially by doing what Microsoft is currently doing with the One and seeming very anti-consumer, and the result of the clunky, expensive, technologically superior but far too complicated PS3 release was that more and more gamers moved over to other consoles instead. That and Microsoft and Nintendo were experts at marketing — Microsoft selling Halo to the world, and Nintendo telling people Wii stocks were severely limited. The liars.
Now if you judged each console after a year, you’d probably have ruled the PS3 as a gigantic failure. Yes? Underwhelming sales figures, not that many great exclusives, not much going for it at all. Here are the current sales figures for each console:
- PlayStation 3 — 80 million
- Xbox 360 — 82.9 million
- Wii — 100.90 million
Well fuck. Would you look at that. The PS3 isn’t a complete and total financial failure after all. But we already know this because in recent years with exclusives the likes of the Uncharted series, The Last of Us and Journey and a brilliant PlayStation Plus subscription model that actually rewards gamers, the PS3 has been considered a success for years now. If anything, it was the strongest finisher… and really ladies, isn’t that what we all want? (Uhm.)
More surprising for me is that the Wii sold that much — I guess that’s the power of marketing toys to families.
Now let’s take a look at the current sales figures for this generation’s consoles:
- PlayStation 4 — 6 million
- Xbox One — 3.9 million
- Wii U — 5.86 million
So what can we currently interpret from those sales figures? Well, at present point the Wii U is lagging behind, with a year of extra time in the world but less sales than the PS4 to show for it. This, Nintendo, is because everybody who bought a Wii already has a Wii and doesn’t need a new toy to play with; they are not the type of players of games who ‘upgrade’ anyway. And aiming for the hardcore market is very admirable but good luck trying to win over the Sony and Microsoft hardcore.
Speaking of, those arguments of the Xbox One only selling half as well are quite dismissive of the fact that the Xbox One has only released in half the countries, and for slightly more in terms of price. Thus when you factor in those two elements, the picture becomes slightly less one-sided. Let’s price every one of those sales at the recommended amounts. That means Sony has currently made $2.349 billion in gross console revenue and Microsoft has made $1.9461. Not that much of a difference, hey?
Factor in overall game sales per console, if we actually had these figures available to us right now (all we know is that at present time Sony’s overall PS4 games sales figure stands at around 13 million) and we could draw an even more comprehensive picture of what the financial statistics really look like, but I think we can stop here and say that the difference really isn’t as large as everyone makes it out to be.
Of course, we don’t actually know how much of a loss Sony and Microsoft makes on each console sale, so for all intents and purposes one of these companies could be making a lot less than we think, and therefore has that much more reliance on game sales in order to appease investors and pay the bills.
Still it’s quite clear that the Xbox One isn’t doing as bad as everyone thinks it’s doing. Then again the internet has always been about vocal minorities and so for all the hate and criticism the so-called ‘Xbone’ gets online, there are a good few people going out to their local retailer and purchasing a One, assuming it has released in their region. And when the console is out in the rest of the world, hopefully not for a ridiculous price, we might start to see a better picture of how the Xbox One performs.
I could now bring this back to game sales figures and talk about how it frustrates me when companies the likes of Square Enix and Electronic Arts look at initial sales figures and then condemn a game for not doing well even if it will consistently sell copies for years, but perhaps that’s a story for another time.
I think I’ve made my point.