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According to Sony‘s Worldwide Studios VP Michael Denny in an interview with GamesIndustry, PlayStation 4 now has a global install base of over 25-million, with just below 30-million units shipped in total. That’s around 10-million more than any other console in this generation.
But why is the PlayStation 4 selling like hotcakes while the other two consoles flounder? What’s the device’s appeal? And if it’s Sony’s brilliance, what exactly about the console is it that’s so appealing?
We’ve shot around a few ideas and possible reasons in the office after the Paris Games Show briefing, and came up with five distinct possibilities. These theories are in no way set in stone and we’d love for you to get involved with your own beliefs.
So let’s get talking
1. The Ghost of the Xbox 360 past
If you were an Xbox 360 owner who didn’t experience the Red Ring of Death, you’re extremely lucky. According to GameInformer (via Consumerist) over 53% of Xbox 360s were defective, with other consoles like the PlayStation 3 (10%) and Nintendo Wii (over 2%), seeming remarkably well put together. Considering the Wii was meant to be abused, as well.
It’s an incredible number, considering that Microsoft pushed over 80-million of these devices to date. Of course, it was generally the first Xbox 360 that succumbed to its heated fate more often than the later versions, but it did leave the console’s name with a bit of a reputation.
We’re not sure how it affected those scorned users’ purchasing decisions, but it’s definitely worth noting when discussing the slow sales rate of the Xbox One compared to the PlayStation 4. The PlayStation 3 didn’t have as many issues, and none were as severe. But this also begs the question: why on earth are Wii owners not buying the Wii U?
2. The Xbox One’s troubled formative years under Mattrick
Microsoft did a shoddy job of marketing the Xbox One in its pre-natal years, with Don Mattrick at the helm. The idea of an always-on console that listens to everything you say, and records your every move with a creepy camera perched above your television isn’t something I’d consider buying into.
And if you’re not too sure what I’m talking about, here’s Mattrick’s interview before Microsoft’s big E3 2013 showcase courtesy of GameTrailers:
Essentially, this reads as follows: if you don’t want an always-logged-on internet console, buy an Xbox 360.
Realising he made a massive mistake after the huge public outcry, Mattrick scrapped the idea.
Of course, a few months after that since Mattrick left Spenser and company in charge, the machine has grown into a brilliant home entertainment console especially with its new integration with Windows 10 devices. But arguably, the damage was already done even before the console was available for public purchase.
3. The demand for higher-resolutions
After launch, both consoles were scrutinised heavily in terms of graphical quality, resolution and frame rates, with the PlayStation 4 running most titles at 1080p. The Xbox One tends to scale some titles down to 900p, including The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Project CARS, and even Destiny. (Edit 1) Although the latter title now runs at 1080p/30fps.
Although the average gamer probably won’t notice the difference between the quality of the two unless they’re played side by side, there is at least a marked contrast on paper. Arguably, consumers will go for the more fruitful number, but not when it comes to the next point.
4. The comparatively cheap initial price PlayStation 4 price point
Here’s the real kicker. The PlayStation 4 launched a week later than the Xbox One in North America, but for US$100 less. The Xbox One was US499 when it was born, but later experienced a number of price drops, including dropping the forced and failed Kinect bundle altogether.
Don Mattrick defended the premium, as quoted by GameSpot back in June 2013:
We’re over-delivering value against other choices I think consumers can get. Any modern product these days you look at it [and] $499 isn’t a ridiculous price point. We’re delivering thousands of dollars of value to people, so I think they’re going to love it when they use it.
Of course, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, both retail at US$349. The Nintendo Wii U has also since dropped to US$299.
5. The relatively compact PlayStation 4 design
Finally, the design of the console compared to the Wii U and Xbox One had a great deal to do with it we believe.
While the Wii U was smaller, its GamePad remains a clumsy way to play games that don’t explicitly need a touchscreen. The Xbox One itself was also a lot larger than the PlayStation 4. The latter could also stand vertically, or horizontally, which meant more options for consumers in the end.
But this is perhaps the weakest of our five arguments.
Does 2016 signal a return to form for the Xbox One?
I’ve noted in previous articles that the Xbox One is easily the most attractive machine now, thanks to it’s integration with Windows 10 PCs, it’s future use of DirectX 12, and the number of other cosmetic improvements coming in the next few months. There’s a lot of room to grow, and with the games lineup, most notably the great ID@Xbox titles, I can’t see why the Xbox One shouldn’t see improved sales stats in the future.
But we won’t know, because the company will resist the temptation to reveal these figures to the public. While the future looks better than the past for the Xbox One, the damage has already been done, and even Phil Spenser recognises this.
As a result, the Xbox One does look like the console with the most ambitious future, but is it a little too late? Which console will you purchase this holiday season. And more importantly, do you believe that the upcoming Nintendo NX will blast both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at the stores? Let us know in the comments section.
Edit 1: Elaborated on the quoted resolution of Destiny.