The total 2013 sales numbers for the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One video game consoles are out.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced that as of the end of 2013 it had sold over 3 million Xbox One game consoles in 13 countries around the world.
Its competitor Sony has sold over 4 million consoles as of December 28th, Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Andrew House's noted at this year's Consumer Electronic Show.
While it might sound like Sony has a huge lead right now, the reality is a bit less simple.
Right now, it looks like neither company is able to ship enough units to catch up with demand. In its press release yesterday, Microsoft noted:
"Since our launch, demand for Xbox One has been strong, selling out throughout the holidays at most retailers worldwide. We are continuing to work hard to deliver additional consoles to retailers as fast as possible."
Considering the fact that the PlayStation 4 is being sold in nearly four times as many countries as the Xbox One yet managed to sell only a million more consoles, it stands to reason that Sony could also be selling more consoles if not for limited supply, hence the console not even launching in Japan (its home country!) until February of this year.
And though a 33% unit sales lead may look like a huge advantage now, we're talking about a relatively small number of units given the life spans of game consoles.
Looking back at the past generation, the Xbox 360 launched an entire year before the PlayStation 3 in the United States. Despite that advantage, the difference in their total worldwide sales today is negligible:
With that said, the divergence in the philosophies about what a game console should look like may have a long-term sales impact of which we're only seeing the first evidence.
The PlayStation 4 was designed with gamers in mind, according to Cade Metz's Wired profile of Sony's Mark Cerny, the guy in charge of the PS4's development. To that end, the company went to game developers and asked what they'd like to see in a new console to create better game experiences. That's how the PS4 came to be built with souped-up PC parts that are easy to program for.
The Xbox One, on the other hand, was designed for integrating everything in the living room. It has an input for your cable box so that it can control your TV. It has gesture- and voice-based controls for everything from watching movies to surfing the web. But it's slightly less powerful than the PS4 and costs $100 more thanks in large part to the inclusion of the Kinect, a camera that's fun for games like "Let's Dance" and not for much else.
Either of these philosophies could work. Sony could end up bring in all of the hardcore gamers and making a ton of money from its cut of games sales — the primary money-maker for both companies, who each take a loss on the sale of their respective consoles. Or, Microsoft could find itself with a hit in the form of attracting the potentially larger market of people who kind of like gaming but want a cool way to do that and everything else in the living room setup.
Of the two, Sony is the one who seems to be hedging its gaming bets the most. As The Verge's Sean Hollister reports, Sony is launching a cloud service called "PlayStation Now" that will serve as its own Netflix for gaming. Users will be able to play PlayStation 3 titles — and presumably games built on Sony's multi-platform PlayStation SDK — on a range of devices, from cell phones and tablets to the company's newer consoles and Bravia televisions.
If "PlayStation Now" takes off, Sony might not even need to launch a PlayStation 5 in the next 4-6 years. It could simply offer its platform to publishers and developers and save the losses that it would normally incur with a console.
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