Sony's PlayStation 4 continues to defy what were once, you may recall, rather tepid expectations for this round of console sales.
Who needs consoles when they have tablets and computerized phones? Who wants to pay $60 or more for games when they can have dozens for a fraction of the price on a mobile device? Who wants to sit in their living room tethered to a TV, or play games that can take 15 or 30 hours or even longer to complete?
Ten million buyers to date worldwide, that's who, a record in the time that's passed--nine months, counting November when the console launched--for any PlayStation platform in Sony history, says Sony.
And with July's NPD retail numbers out, Sony's saying the PS4 was the number one console for the seventh straight month in a row, and that it led in retail software sales as well. The Last of Us: Remastered held the number one retail sales spot in July (confirmed by NPD), which is that much more impressive when you consider it's not a new game and that it launched on July 29, so it had just three days to chart.
NPD says video game hardware sales were up dramatically year-on-year, from $99.8 million to $198.8 million, or a full 100%, offsetting declines in older console and current handheld sales. Add up Xbox One and PS4 sales to date and NPD says that compared to Xbox 360 and PS3 sales for the same period, the new consoles are trumping their predecessors by "close to 80 percent."
Retail software sales were unchanged from July 2013, though as usual, the comparison ignores digital content sales, which could put the actual figure anywhere (and almost surely higher). NPD notes that EA's annual NCAA Football installment usually launches in July, but that since the series is on indefinite hiatus due to legal squabbles about the use of player likenesses in the games, July 2014 was extra-sleepy on the retail software side.
Overall, NPD says new physical video game sales (hardware, software, accessories) grew 16% compared to July 2013.
Turning back to Sony's PlayStation 4, we're now looking at 10 million units sold through worldwide (revealed by Sony August 12) versus 5 million Xbox One units shipped to stores worldwide (revealed by Microsoft back in April). Of course, that doesn't mean Sony's outselling Microsoft 2:1, given the four month lag in official Microsoft figures, but then that's all we know publicly, so on some level, that's going to be the perception. You could argue Microsoft's reluctance to get specific is just another way of being very specific, and not knowing where the Xbox One stands on a simple units-sold-through basis is probably as bad or worse than knowing when the apparent gulf starts to look this sizable.
Is Microsoft waiting to say more until it's launched the Xbox One in more markets? Perhaps. At last count, Sony was selling the PS4 in 72 markets versus Microsoft's 13 (not as big a deal as the numbers make it sound given population distributions, but far from dismissible).
Microsoft's supposed to make up some of that shortfall this fall, and it has the Halo Master Chief Collection to help it along, but 2014 is first and foremost third-party-ville: Destiny, Assassin's Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Grand Theft Auto V remastered and so forth. This is not the year of grand and daring first party exclusives, so short of overwhelming fealty to a series like Halo or LittleBigPlanet, or interest in racing games like Forza Horizon 2 or Driveclub, fence-sitters looking to dive in by year's end are probably going to buy the system that plays those games based on their perception of where the momentum is.