PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X – The early console war winner

As expected by analysts, Sony’s PlayStation 5 is currently winning the sales battle in the next-generation console war.

The PS5 and its rival – Microsoft’s Xbox Series X – were both released in November 2020.

Even though the latter had about a week’s head-start, it is clear that the long-standing appeal of the world’s most popular gaming console brand has not waned.

According to data from VGChartz, Sony managed to sell just under 4.2 million PS5 consoles by the end of 2020, compared to only 2.24 million Series X|S units.

The former’s success may be down to the trust garnered among console gamers with its PS4 consoles and its extensive list of exclusives – something which is severely lacking in the Xbox corner.

However, two months in, the sale tallies are impressive for both consoles when measured against the last generation.

Six months after their launches, the PS4 and Xbox One had managed respective sales of around 7 million and 5 million consoles.

For Sony, the US market has been a big a boost this time around, with the PS5 becoming both the best-selling console in a launch month and the top-grossing console in a launch month in that country.

Sony’s position

Interestingly, the PS5’s launch has been Sony’s worst in its home country of Japan – with only about 240,000 units sold in the first six weeks after its launch.

Current reports suggest that Sony no longer values the Japanese market, with Jim Ryan taking over Sony Interactive Entertainment and moving the division’s head offices to California.

The slump in sales could also be related to an overall console shortage, which in South Africa has meant that multiple batches of pre-order stock of the console repeatedly sold out in minutes.

The company has a plan to ramp up production to manufacture 18 million consoles this year, and if all those were to be sold, it would push Sony beyond the 20-million mark in 2021.

The company has set itself the ambitious goal of hitting 100 million sales over the console’s lifetime.

The latter may not be as unrealistic as it sounds, given that by November 2020, Sony had already sold more than 114 million PS4 systems.

A different strategy

While Microsoft would probably prefer its figures to be a little bit closer to Sony, the company is likely not too fazed given its overall strategy for the Xbox brand.

Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer has previously said that he does not want his team to be focused on console sales.

“The primary outcome of all the work that we do is how many players we see, and how often they play. That is what drives Xbox,” Spencer told The Guardian.

“If I start to highlight something else, both publicly and internally, it changes our focus.”

“Things that lack backwards compatibility become less interesting. Putting our games on PC becomes a reason that somebody doesn’t have to go and buy an Xbox Series X. I’ll hold fast to this,” Spences reiterated.

It is for this reason that Xbox publicly discloses player numbers and not console sales, he added.

“That’s the thing I want us to be driven by, not how many individual pieces of plastic did we sell,” Spencer stated.

As part of this drive, Microsoft is pushing its Xbox Game Pass subscription service across multiple platforms to attract more players, even allowing for streaming mobile games via the included Project xCloud feature.

Sales forecast

For many console fanboys, however, the numbers will do the talking.

Market statistics platform Statista has provided a forecast of what PS5 and Xbox Series X|S sales could like in the next four years.

According to its data, Sony will consistently outsell Microsoft during this period, with the gap between the consoles growing larger each year.

It has estimated that Sony will sell 17 million PS5 units in 2021, compared with 12 million for the Xbox Series X|S.

However, by 2024 the PS5 will be outselling the Series X|S nearly by a factor of 2:1 with 66 million shipments compared with 37 million.

The graph below shows Statista’s expected sales for the two consoles until 2024.

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PlayStation 5 vs Xbox Series X – The early console war winner