Sony’s PlayStation 4 remains top dog among the latest generation of consoles after March sales figures showed it continuing to outpace Microsoft’s Xbox One.
Sony revealed earlier this week it had sold more than 7 million PS4 units worldwide, while Microsoft said it had shipped 5 million Xbox Ones to retailers to date.
Microsoft reported sales of 311,000 Xbox Ones in the U.S. in March, while Sony sold an estimated 370,000 PS4 units. The PlayStation 4 led hardware sales for the third month in a row in March, the NPD Group said.
Microsoft was unable to take the lead despite the success of its much-hyped Titanfall, which was expected to help Microsoft sell units of the console, particularly because the game was packaged into some console bundles at no extra cost.
While Titanfall was the top-selling game in the U.S. in March, it was unable to help the Xbox One overcome the PS4.
“I haven’t looked underneath a lot of these figures in terms of the demographics, but I would say probably that the PlayStation demographic is more broadly based,” Susan Schreiner, an analyst at C4 Trends, told the E-Commerce Times.
“I think there’s very few games out there that can drive those kinds of major numbers,” Schreiner noted.
That said, there is still opportunity for Titanfall to drive console sales, she said.
Hardware sales for March were up 78 percent over March 2013, from US$222 million to $395 million. The increased sales were driven entirely by console sales, which were up more than 100 percent, mostly due to the PS4 and Xbox One.
Through their first five months at retail, the PS4 and Xbox One have sold more than double that of their previous generation consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, in the same time frame.
“Overall, on this generation, the initial sales to this point are very robust in comparison to previous cycles,” said independent games industry analyst Billy Pidgeon.
“PS4 did have a strong advantage, and it’s going to take Xbox One a bit to catch up,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “They may in fact overcome PS4, but I think they’re going to remain pretty evenly distributed in the first half of the cycle.”
The success of the Xbox 360 in the previous generation may have some lingering effects on those invested in the Xbox ecosystem who are in no rush to upgrade to the latest console.
“PS3 was not very strong and took a while to sell in while 360 is still a viable platform. That’s a good thing, not only for Microsoft but for third-party publishers, because there’s a much larger install base,” Pidgeon pointed out.
“If that install base stopped being active, that would be a really negative thing for Xbox, I think. I also think that the continued viability of the 360 base creates a bit of a drag on the upsell of the One. That’s not to say there aren’t hardcore early adopters who have both 360 and One active,” he acknowledged.
“As there are still plenty of games on the 360 that still look great, there is less incentive, and some people do wait longer,” Pidgeon continued. “There has been a strong upsell on the next generation overall. The 360 is somewhat of a drag on the Xbox One uptick, but there are positives to that as well.”
In total, U.S. consumers spent $1.025 billion on new physical games, hardware, and game-related accessories in March, according to NPD data. That figure is up 3 percent from the same month in 2013.
U.S. software sales slumped, however, with consumers spending $406 million, down 27 percent from $555 million in March 2013 sales. The figures only cover new games sold at physical stores, and not used titles or those purchased through digital platforms like PlayStation Store and the Xbox Marketplace.
After Titanfall, the PS4 had the second-best selling game of the month with Infamous: Second Son. Multiplatform titles South Park: The Stick of Truth, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Dark Souls II also feature in the top five.
Of those, neither South Park: The Stick of Truth nor Dark Souls II is available for PS4 or Xbox One. Titanfall also was available for PC in March, while it was released for Xbox 360 earlier this month.
“I see Titanfall as having a longer-term effect because, although it certainly could have had an immediate effect on Xbox One, it was polluted by the strategy of putting it out on PC at the same time — which I think was a good strategy — and then also putting it out on 360,” Pidgeon said.
“It certainly sold a lot on all of those platforms,” he observed, “but I do think that versions picked up on PC and 360 may lead to additional sales of the Xbox One.”
“The Xbox customer, from what I’ve been able to ascertain, is somewhat different to the Sony customer,” C4’s Schreiner added. “In order to reach across the aisle, I think Xbox will need to take a closer look at its offerings.”
Sales of video game accessories were up 4 percent from March 2013, from $216 million to $224 million. Overall, new physical software sales — for console, portable and PC platforms — were down, from $602 million to $432 million.
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