Sony has certainly enjoyed the current console generation so far. Due in part to great marketing, including a few out-of-the-gate blunders on Microsoft’s part, the PlayStation 4 has come to far surpass the Xbox One in terms of sales numbers.
But if 2016 has shown us anything, it’s that Microsoft isn’t ready to declare who the “winner” of this generation is just yet.
In fact, judging by the strategic moves put into action by Phil Spencer and the Xbox team recently, there’s a good chance the Xbox One might make the sales gap less noticeable in coming years.
We’re already seeing this happen as, according to data from The NPD Group, the Xbox One became the highest selling video game console in the United States for the month of September.
Seven reasons why the Xbox One has been outselling the PS4
Microsoft’s gaming machine is on a hot streak after also outselling the Nintendo Wii U and PlayStation 4 in July, August, and recently September.
Even though these months are usually when people do less buying to save cash for holiday spending, it’s still the push Spencer and co. need to make the Xbox brand more attractive.
The following are the X main reasons why Xbox One was able to dethrone the PlayStation 4 the last few months:
1. Holiday Exclusives
Both companies have had a great year so far when it comes to exclusives. Sony released Street Fighter V, Ratchet & Clank, and other notable titles, including the long-awaited Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Meanwhile, Xbox One gamers saw many big titles pushed back to 2017 but still had games like Quantum Break and We Happy Few to enjoy.
However, many PS4 fans will remember Holidays 2016 as the time Sony delivered one notable console exclusive (The Last Guardian) to focus on pushing the PlayStation VR.
Microsoft, on the other hand, will have four big exclusives to sell that released in the final four months of the year— ReCore, Forza Horizon 3, Dead Rising 4, and of course the widely-praised Gears of War 4.
2. Xbox and Windows 10
Microsoft has been hard at work integrating important Xbox features into Windows 10. Their efforts are paying off as gamers have praised the ability to play big titles like Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 on both PC and their Xbox One.
Other big features include the option to stream games from your Xbox One to Windows 10 tablets and PCs, crossplay between Xbox and Windows gamers, and access to things like your friends list and messages on your desktop.
Sony does have its own PlayStation Now service that allows the streaming of classic titles, but it hardly compares to the reach Microsoft has by finally making use of their control of Windows. Now also pales in comparison to the much better Backwards Compatibility program that allows Xbox One owners to play a growing number of Xbox 360 titles.
3. Aggressive marketing
With the launch of the PlayStation 4, Sony made all the right moves to make sure their new console appealed to gamers. But by 2016, many would agree that Sony has gotten comfortable with their console lead, allowing Xbox to strike with strategic marketing. This includes playing up what Xbox offers that Sony doesn’t, including early full mod support for certain titles.
Growing hype for Project Scorpio is another reason Sony might start feeling some pressure, especially with the PlayStation 4 Pro’s mixed reception.
Microsoft’s enhanced strategy has also involved providing an impressive variety of bundles, including many for the new Xbox One S, as well as price cuts on the original console. They’ve also done a great job of advertising their lineup of 2016 exclusives while playing up the strengths of Windows 10 and the Xbox One S, including 4K Blu-ray playback support— a feature the PlayStation 4 Pro will lack.
4. Gamers waiting for PlayStation VR and PS4 Pro
Originally announced as Project Morpheus at GDC 2014, Sony’s virtual reality device would eventually adopt the name PlayStation VR. The most affordable VR device finally hit the market this month to mostly positive reviews, even if none of the launch titles make it a must-buy just yet.
One reason being thrown around to explain lower PS4 sales recently is that people were merely saving their cash to prepare for PlayStation VR.
However, it’s more likely that people interested in buying a PSVR already own a PlayStation 4. Instead, lower PS4 sales are probably due to people waiting for the arrival of PlayStation 4 Pro, which was revealed early September and launches November 10th.
The enhanced console will offer more power under the hood, including HDR support, more storage space, better PSVR functionality, and more.
5. Backwards compatibility and Games With Gold
The free backwards compatibility update every Xbox One owner received was well worth the wait with games like these on the list:
- The Witcher 2
- Halo Wars
- Halo Reach
- Gears of War 1-3
- Alan Wake
- Dark Souls
- Fallout: New Vegas
- Left 4 Dead 2
Although PS4 owners have PlayStation Now, there are no signs of Sony eventually providing their own answer to Microsoft’s successful program.
Backwards compatibility and Games With Gold both add a lot of games to the ever growing Xbox One library. Considering these are both great features Microsoft added to Xbox One goes to show that they are serious about keeping their gamers happy.
6. Improved online service and interface
Even though it’s sad to see fewer triple-A games support couch multiplayer over the years, there’s no denying the popularity of online gaming. It’s great being able to play with friends and opponents from all over the world, but only when the service is working.
Knowing that gamers are worried about hacks and other problems ruining their online experience, Microsoft has doubled down to make theirs safer and more reliable.
Their efforts appear to be paying off after a recent study by IHS Markit declared Xbox Live as the better service in terms of speed, reliability, and overall quality.
Microsoft has also implemented several updates to the Xbox One user interface this year, starting with a revamped dashboard in late 2015 that promotes community features and speed via a quick menu. The changes have made the user interface a massive improvement over its original state at launch.
7. Xbox One S
What better way to boost sales than with a console that’s superior in almost every way to the original?
Even though it isn’t a major hardware upgrade, Xbox One S is enough of an improvement to attract new buyers. This includes a sleeker design, boosted visual performance, 4K streaming and 4K Blu-ray support, and more.
But like we’ve already mentioned, Microsoft’s success between July and September might be attributed to buyers waiting for what Sony has in store for us this holiday season.
The release of PlayStation VR and Playstation 4 Pro this month may just turn the tide back in their favor. Only time will tell if these last three months were either a small setback for Sony or the start of Microsoft’s comeback.