Since the PlayStation 3 began clocking consistently behind the Xbox 360 in U.S. sales many years ago, Sony’s been reticent about NPD’s monthly sales reports, letting Microsoft crow and basically sidestepping the “who sold more” game.
After all, it’s primarily a marketer’s game, the PS3 and Xbox 360 remain neck-and-neck on the world stage, and in the end, these monthly sales spats only matter if that worldwide gap is significant or the long term prognosis for a platform is grim.
That’s doesn’t seem to be the case for either the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, both of which have sold vigorously since their November launches — and, according to both Sony and Microsoft, at record levels when compared to respective last-gen numbers. So take this breaking but still-early-in-the-game sales statistic lightly: the PlayStation 4 outsold the Xbox One in the U.S. by nearly two-to-one in January.
Sony’s John Koller, in a rare moment of mathematical disclosure, confirmed as much (citing NPD figures) on the PlayStation Blog, telling Sony social media manager Sid Shuman (incidentally a sometime editor of mine from long ago): “The response has been fantastic. In the US, PS4 was #1 in sales for next-gen consoles in January, nearly doubling the nearest next-gen competitor. And PS4 remains the cumulative leader here based on today’s report from the NPD Group.”
NPD itself writes only that “PS4 led overall hardware sales this month, followed by the Xbox One.” That’s NPD deemphasizing numerical specifics to placate its paying clients (which, I assume, include Sony and Microsoft), not the millions watching like fantasy leaguers surveilling their picks.
Moreover — and NPD doesn’t mention this in its report, but it’s important if you care about revenue — Microsoft sold more software than Sony when you fold in PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game sales for the month. Specifically, Microsoft says it sold 2.27 million units, and that those units accounted for 47% of all video game software sales, across all platforms, Nintendo’s included, in January. That’s off a U.S. attach rate Microsoft says equals nearly three games per console since the Xbox One’s launch. Assuming software’s the real cash tap, you could argue Microsoft had the more profitable January.
But that attach rate isn’t as cheery as it’s made to sound: whereas the original Xbox’s launch attach rate in North America was a slightly lower 2.4, the Xbox 360 managed a tie ratio of nearly four games in its opening months. (I don’t have Sony’s PS4 tie ratio handy.)
The next significant battle point: the PlayStation 4’s Japan launch on February 22 (Microsoft’s hasn’t given a launch date yet for Xbox One). Japan’s another Sony stronghold, and no one’s expecting that to change this go-round. If Microsoft starts to fall noticeably behind as the year progresses, of course, keep your eyes peeled for a price drop, at which point all bets are off.
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