Are PS4's mega-sales a sign that this is the biggest console generation ever?

Sony announced on Monday that it had sold over one million PS4s in the 24 hours following the console’s North American launch last Friday. The figure reportedly made the new console the fastest selling PlayStation in history, beating PS2’s previous record of 980,000 units sold in Japan on day one way back in March 2000. However you cook those numbers, that's a shit-load of consoles.

This marks an impressive start for PS4, especially when compared to other, more recent console launches in North America. Xbox 360 sold 326,000 units in two weeks when it launched, back in 2005, while the relatively expensive PS3 moved just 197,000 units in its first two weeks the following November. That same month, the original Wii managed to sell 600,000 consoles in the Americas in eight days. Most recently, in November 2012, first week North American Wii U sales totalled 400,000. So demand is up for games consoles.

While launch day sales are probably as indicative of strong production and supply as they are of long-term success, PS4’s North American debut certainly appears to bode well for the console market following an uncertain year in which Wii U had, as of September 30, sold under four million units globally. To put that in perspective, Sony has forecast five million PS4 sales worldwide by the end of March 2014. Microsoft’s internal Xbox One target is likely to be similar, while some expect Wii U to mount a fresh charge over the next 12 months on the back of games like Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8.

Not a year goes by without predictions that the current console generation will be the last, that it will fall victim to upstarts like social and mobile gaming, or to fresh threats from its age old adversary, the PC, such as Valve’s attempts to move in on the living room space. But the arrival of three new home consoles within a year of each other provides plenty of reasons to be positive. The current-generation has been a long one, and I--like so many gamers--am very ready for new consoles.

More importantly, the gaming audience has grown significantly during the most recent console generation thanks to feeder titles like Angry Birds and Candy Crush. This has occurred in sync with the platform holders’ creation of catch all systems designed to cater to a wide range of entertainment needs, from casual games to triple-A ones, and from films to music and social media. Xbox One and PS4 are both designed to do everything except the washing up. By the way, I'd totally buy a console that did the washing up.

Almost eight years to the day since Microsoft kicked off the previous hardware cycle on November 22, 2005, current generation console sales stand at 260 million units. The figure is made up of 100 million Wii consoles and just over 80 million Xbox 360s and PS3s apiece. The multi-functional capabilities of the new consoles could help them smash those numbers, making this the biggest console generation ever.

Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer Yusuf Mehdi told OXM earlier this year. "Every generation has grown approximately 30 per cent. So this generation is about 300 million units. Most industry experts think the next generation will get upwards of about 400 million units. That's if it's a game console. We think you can go broader than a game console, that's our aim, and you can go from 400 million to potentially upwards of a billion units [across all next-gen platforms]." Check back in, er, a few years to see if this really is the most successful generation ever...