It’s been nearly half a year since the newest generation of video game consoles, namely the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One, became for consumers*, and so there’s no better time to see how well the machines and their products have been faring, sales-wise. In particular, we’ll look at the numbers for console exclusives, multiplatform games and the consoles themselves.
*While Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U, is considered part of this new generation of consoles, it was released nearly a year prior to Sony and Microsoft’s products and caters to a much different audience, thus excluding it from the conversation for the most part.
The PlayStation 4 had a week’s lead on its competitor, releasing on November 15th to the Xbox One’s November 22nd. Leading up to its release, the PS4 had been positively received by the gaming press and other outlets, as well as industry figures such of id Software’s John Carmack (now with Oculus) and Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford. This pre-release hype was reflected in the system’s sales: IGN reported that over a million PS4s were sold its North American launch day. Later European sales were not as high, but the Independent reported that it sold 250,000 units in its first 48 hours, making it the fastest-selling video game system in the United Kingdom. Partway through February, Sony announced that they had sold over 5 million PS4s in North America and Europe since their respective launch dates.
Prior to its release, the Xbox One was the target of a fair amount of criticism, aimed primarily at its high price point, its forced inclusion of the Kinect camera and microphone peripheral, and restrictive digital rights management and always-online requirement. While Microsoft ended up going back on its DRM and connectivity policies, the Kinect, the primary reason for the Xbox One costing $100 more than its predecessor, remained mandatory. Microsoft later told news outlets that they sold over a million Xbox Ones in the console’s first 24 hours of release, and as of late January nearly four million.
Activision’s Call of Duty franchise has been one of the biggest moneymakers in the gaming industry since the series’ original developer Infinity Ward released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007. Its second most recent entry, 2012’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II, sold nearly 8 million copies on its launch day according to VG24/7, which until the release of Grand Theft Auto V in last September was the biggest entertainment launch of all time. Naturally, Activision went all-out in promoting the most recent entry, Ghosts, including premiering a new Eminem song, “Survival,” in one of its trailers and offering special bundles with gaming mainstays Doritos and Mountain Dew. Unfortunately, Call of Duty: Ghosts has been one of the weakest-selling games in the franchise so far, reportedly selling only a million copies for the newer Xbox console. Activision CFO Dennis Durkin explained that sales were likely split due to the game being available for both older and newer consoles simultaneously.
Faster-paced and certain more swashbuckling than its predecessors, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, like Call of Duty: Ghosts, was made available for both of the new consoles as well as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Upon its release, Black Flag sold considerably well, especially in the U.K. where, according to VideoGamer, it was the best-selling game in its first week of release, beating out even EA’s Battlefield 4. Sales were down compared to Assassin’s Creed III, but publisher Ubisoft, like Activision, attributed the fall in numbers to the audience being split between newer and older generations of consoles.
The recently-released Titanfall is perhaps the Xbox One’s biggest success thus far. Developed by Respawn Entertainment, which was founded by former key players at Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward, Titanfall is a multiplayer-only first-person shooter that pairs fast-paced running and gunning with the ability to summon and stomp around in towering, machine gun-toting mechs, or “Titans.” While not a launch title, having only been released a month ago, Titanfall has not only already sold over a million copies, but apparently has helped to move over a million Xbox Ones as well, according to a post video game industry insider Pete Dodd made on the NeoGAF forums. It likely helps that the game and Xbox One can be purchased together in bundle, and at no greater cost than the console by itself. Critically, the game has been praised by most major gaming news outlets, earning a 9/10 score from GameSpot and 10/10 from Electronic Gaming Monthly, and it currently holds an 86 aggregate score on Metacritic.
On the PS4 side, Killzone Shadow Fall, the latest in the Sony-exclusive Killzone franchise, has been one of the biggest successes for the PS4, launching with the new console in mid-November. In early March, Sony announced that Shadow Fall had sold over 2.1 million units, a positive contrast to the above average reviews it had received from gaming publications such as GameSpot, Joystiq and EGM.
All in all, neither console seems to be selling poorly, despite fears that the Xbox One would lag due to the criticisms it received prior to its release. Both consoles have bestselling exclusive games, with even Titanfall’s delayed release hurting neither the game nor the system—in fact, Xbox One sales seem to be excelling because of it alone. And while sales on big cross-platform games have been down from their predecessors, it appears to be the natural consequence of being available for both old and new consoles at the same time, splitting sales in half. It would appear that the two giants will need to release more exclusive games before any major difference can be determined.