What a difference a console generation makes, huh? Six months into the launch of the PS3, Sony had barely cleared 3.5 million units, and today, less than five months after the PS4’s global launch, the hardware manufacturer has announced global sales of over seven million PlayStation 4 systems. That’s an impressive number, particularly given all the Debbie Downers that say consoles are dying, but it does make Microsoft’s relative silence on hardware sales feel deafening by comparison. Why aren’t we hearing similar stats about the Xbox One?
Let’s explore the most obvious assumption first--Microsoft doesn’t have any good news to share. If the company had sold even 7,000,001 Xbox Ones by this point, you can bet there’d be a press release about it. Instead, Microsoft hasn’t had much to say about Xbox One sales since announcing in January that the company had sold 3.9 million next-gen consoles (opens in new tab), a total that was already trailing behind the PS4 at the time.
The lack of an official update from Microsoft feels even stranger given that March saw the launch of Titanfall, the Xbox One’s only major exclusive for the first half of the year. The game had a huge advertising budget behind it and was reviewed well, but there’s a conspicuous absence of the usual glowing PR announcements that follow games of its size. I expected to see press releases saying “Titanfall boosted Xbox One sales such-and-such percent,” or “Titanfall is the fastest-selling new IP since blah-blah,” but I haven’t seen anything of the sort. Again, my mind naturally jumps to the conclusion that the lack of good news means Microsoft is keeping the bad news to itself.
However, the timing of this news could be something bigger than the current console wars. The PS4 vs. Xbox One battle is just part of two giant corporations that are going through massive restructuring, Sony more so than Microsoft. Sony recently made some drastic changes, including selling off its PC business along with its offices in Tokyo and New York City to try to post a profit for the fiscal year. The company even sold off its stock in Square Enix after Sony had been a major shareholder for over a decade. These are moves made by a company in need of capital and positive buzz.
This announcement of high sales for the PS4 could have less to do with Sony posturing towards Microsoft and more about Sony trying to impress its investors. PlayStation 4’s success is some of the best news that Sony has had in years, so why not shout it to the Heavens. And if it embarrasses the silent competition at the same time, all the better.
Whatever Sony’s reasoning, the ball is in Microsoft’s court now. If the Seattle-based manufacturer was holding back awesome sales news about Titanfall until now, the company needs to start shouting about it now. And if the Home of Windows is starting to trail behind Sony by a wide margin, it’d be better for MS to just be honest about the situation and embrace its underdog status. Microsoft has been digging itself out of a hole since the Xbox One was announced, and I think it’ll get out faster if it isn’t working hard to hide underwhelming sales.