FTC declares console war winners

PS4 vs Xbox One
(Image credit: Sony/Microsoft)

If you've been waiting for some official statement to mark the end of the last few console wars, the Federal Trade Commission has you covered, as the group has now declared the winners in the battles of Xbox 360 versus PS3 and Xbox One versus PS4.

In advance of this week's hearings on the Xbox Activision deal, lawyers representing the FTC filed their proposed 'findings of fact' - a document that essentially lays out the facts of the case as the FTC understands them. The document lays out the history of the case, including some details on the years of competition between the gaming divisions of Sony and Microsoft.

The public version of the document, which we've reviewed, is heavily redacted to protect the trade secrets of the companies involved, but it has two particular notes that are extremely funny to see in an official court record. The FTC says that "in the United States, Microsoft won Generation 7 with the Xbox 360 pitted against the PlayStation 3," but adds that "Sony won Generation 8 with the PlayStation 4."

The FTC isn't specific about what metrics it's using to talk about the 'winners' here, but it's almost certainly console sales. Publicly reported console sales numbers do indeed suggest that Xbox 360 beat PS3 in the console race in the US - though the PS3 narrowed the gap substantially in worldwide sales, and by some accounts, ended up ahead of 360 by the end of the generation. As far as PS4 and Xbox One, well… yeah, Sony won that one. There are no caveats there.

You'll note that Nintendo isn't mentioned anywhere here, and that's by design. This section of the FTC's findings of fact is headed "PlayStation and Xbox are Fierce Competitors, and Nintendo is Differentiated," arguing that the Switch's hybrid nature, its reliance on first-party games, and its underpowered performance make it quite different from PS5 and Xbox Series X. The FTC estimates that the "Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are at least 26 times (i.e., 2600%) more powerful" than the Switch.

In Microsoft's own proposed findings of fact, the company doesn't get so granular about who won each generation - instead, it says that "Xbox has consistently ranked third in consoles behind PlayStation and Nintendo," and argues that Xbox "lost the console wars."

Essentially, Microsoft's arguments put the console wars as a three-way dance that it's losing, while the FTC's arguments say that Sony and Microsoft are in a closely contested head-to-head competition. Of course, those two perspectives line up with each side's belief on whether or not the Xbox Activision merger would be a major anticompetitive blow to the industry. The courts are going to have to weigh in on one side or the other soon enough.

Microsoft expects the next generations of PlayStation and Xbox to launch around 2028. 

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.