During an earnings call earlier this week, EA chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen disclosed some financials regarding the install bases for the two major competing consoles currently on the market, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. The findings were not favorable for Microsoft, with Jorgensen suggesting that Sony had moved about 73 million consoles that fiscal year as opposed to Microsoft selling approximately 30 million, according to Variety, meaning that Sony moved over two PS4 units for every Xbox One sold.
With pundits speculating that Sony has clearly won this generation of the console war – though some dispute that there is even a war between the brands to begin with, arguing instead that it is an instance of iron sharpening iron and promoting friendly, spirited competition – it seems hard to disagree given such a massive gulf between the two install bases as they currently stand. Jorgensen’s math on the earnings call suggests that the amount of PlayStation 4 consoles sold globally stands at 73.6 million as opposed to 29.4 million Xbox One units.
Speculation as to why the gulf exists runs rampant and takes many paths. The relative under-performance of Microsoft’s IP offerings such as Halo Wars 2, Forza Motorsport 7, and Gears of War 4 in contrast to Sony’s exclusive God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Ni No Kuni 2, the Yakuza and Uncharted franchises, and the fact that the hugely anticipated The Last of Us 2 will only be available on Sony’s hardware is a primary line of reasoning.
The much stronger appeal to a not insignificant JRPG and anime game demographic of gamers from Sony is a contributing factor; these games are almost entirely nonexistent on Microsoft’s gaming machine. The online marketplaces are very competitively priced, both costing roughly the same for an annual or monthly subscription and offering the same rewards to those who do choose to subscribe in the form of free games and avatars.
Regardless of the underlying reasons for the gap in sales penetration, there can be little doubt that as the eighth console generation – a generation spanning from the WiiU to Xbox One to PlayStation 4 to Nintendo’s new Switch hybrid – comes to an end, Sony and perhaps Nintendo will be the primary victors.
A Microsoft spokesman did reach out to Variety to dispute the disparity in sales numbers offered up in the earnings call by Jorgensen, claiming that they were inaccurate, going on to refocus the narrative on the deep level of engagement and growth that the Xbox Live service is experiencing:
“The projections are inaccurate… Regardless, we are focused on delivering amazing gaming experiences to players on all devices and engagement is our measure of progress. We just announced a record start to the year with Xbox Live monthly active users up 13 perent to 59 million.”