PS4's Early Sales Lead Might Be All Smoke and Mirrors

The PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One 2-to-1 thus far in the new generation, but is this huge lead somehow illusory?

Being a PlayStation fan since the original system launched back in 1995, I'm overjoyed to see the brand back on top.

Of course, make no mistake: Last generation, the PS3 and Xbox 360 ended up basically tied in the global sales race, as both sold around 80 million units worldwide. Some sources now say the PS3 actually has the slight edge, with 82 or 83 million. During the dark days of 2007, when the reactionaries were going, "PS3 is dead," few expected that to happen...except me.

However, the 360 still dominated in North America, which is why I was pretty convinced we'd see a similar situation in the new generation. PlayStation would likely own the Asian and European territories, while Xbox would once again hold sway in the US. But I never anticipated a 10 million-to-5 million lead in less than a year.

The question is: HOW?

Sony has flat-out admitted that they don't fully understand the PS4's unbelievable performance thus far. And if you really stop to examine the situation, I can understand why: There's no obvious reason. There's no clear determining factor that anyone can point to and say, "yep, this is definitely why the PS4 is much more popular right now." At first, one could've argued that the $100 price difference seriously hindered Xbox One sales, and that argument was perfectly valid. After all, there's no doubt the ridiculously priced $600 PS3 hurt Sony when that system first launched.

However, Microsoft responded pretty quickly, dropping the price of their console to $399 in June. And yet, even in the region they're supposed to own, Microsoft still hasn't managed to top the PS4 in any monthly sales tally. The NPD reported earlier that the PS4 outsold the Xbox One for the 8th consecutive month. That's hugely significant, especially because the PS4 is dominating Europe and Japan, perhaps by an even larger margin than the experts anticipated.

The price difference hasn't allowed Microsoft to reclaim the lead. So...

Game-wise, not much going on in the realm of exclusive software

You could point to inFamous: Second Son for PS4 and Titanfall for Xbox One so far in 2014, but that's about it. And it's certain the latter game received far more hype than Second Son. Coming up, there's Forza Horizon 2 but it's unlikely that this exclusive alone will give Xbox One a significant boost in any territory. On the flip side, it's feasible that many gamers are looking forward to 2015 already and if that's the case, they're seeing Uncharted 4: A Thief's EndBloodborneThe Order: 1886 and other hugely promising games for PlayStation 4.

Still, is that really enough to fully explain the current sales gap? I don't think so. I think a lot of this is based on positive word-of-mouth and a 2013 campaign that left Microsoft face-down in the muck. Gamers are typically fickle but when it comes to major issues like last year's PS4 vs. Xbox One lead-up - during which time, PS4 won hands-down and Xbox One took a sound thrashing - they don't forget that easily. And don't forget that a lot of that positive hype has continued into 2014, what with so many multiplatform games performing better on PS4.

"Smoke and mirrors" is a negative-sounding term but it might be accurate

I don't mean to imply that PS4's early lead wasn't well-earned; I'm just saying right now, it seems sales are based more on campaigning and potential as opposed to the current reality. The current reality is that both systems are very similar; they both cost the same, they both offer many of the same games, and they're both proving relatively reliable. You could argue all day over the Xbox One's edge in apps versus what many consider a superior service in PlayStation Plus (when compared to Live) but again, those don't completely explain the 2:1 edge.

Bear in mind that these are just observations, which we're all permitted to make. ;)

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published Feb. 1st 2018
  • loll_9270
    Stop spreading fanboy lies, hatred, and FUD, it accomplishes nothing. It's not healthy to hate pieces of plastic and people who like playing video games on them. It's sad that you hate good video games for being on the wrong piece of plastic

    PS4 has many great games that gamers love. That's why it's 11+ million in sales and growing. Sony's large number of well funded 1st parties will ensure PS4 has a ton of great AAA exclusives, as many or more than PS3.

    PS4 has many features including media with more on the way in firmware 2.0. PS4 has plenty of support from Sony and developers.

    PSN is hugely improved and Sony is continually investing more into it. PSN handled the Destiny launch just fine.

    Both Forza and Driveclub are good racing games, it's only fanboys blindly hating one or the other.

    PS4 could easily handle Forza Horizon 2 and upgrade the graphics due to PS4's more powerful hardware. Driveclub would have to be downgraded to run on Xbox.

    There will be no parity if PS4's stronger hardware is being pushed. In essentially every way, the PS4's hardware is more powerful than the XBO's. If they're the same resolution, PS4 will have a framerate or visual effects advantage, or its stronger hardware isn't being pushed.

    Factual PS4 Hardware Advantages: +6 CUs, +540 GFlops (40% greater) or more (1.3TF to 1.84TF), +16 ROPs, +6 ACEs/CQs, better GPGPU support (volatile bit and onion+ gpu cache bypass bus), better performing CPU, faster unified memory, and less OS overhead.

    No amount of API updates is going to make up for that hardware gap.

    Exclusively 1080p 60 FPS console games on PS4: MGS V, CoD Ghosts, FFXIV, Tomb Raider, MLB The Show 14, Resogun, Trials Fusion, Diablo 3 (higher framerate), Project Cars, Metro Redux, TLOU Remastered, more.

    Sony's ICE team, Naughty Dog, and Santa Monica Studios will fully utilize PS4's stronger hardware, so it will stay ahead in graphics performance.

    Driveclub, The Order, Uncharted 4, etc. are technically superior as they run on more powerful hardware. Normal, unbiased, sane people recognize PS4 exclusive games look better, which makes sense given they're running on more powerful hardware.

    Destiny is a well regarded and very succesful game.

    PS4 is selling on price/performance, better PR and global appeal, long term 1st party support, large number of 1st party studios, more total games and dev support including Japanese and indie devs, wider variety of games, improved PSN since the PS3 days, and PS+ value. It's seen as the best console for multiplatform games.

    All 3 consoles have good exclusive games, and pros and cons, it's only fanboys blindly hating one or the other.

    As expected by anyone knowledgeable and sane, tier 2 launches are doing almost nothing for Xbox sales. It's sad this is the result after 10+ months of "wait for Xbox to launch in more countries" from fanboys. Some big plates of crow are ready to be served.

    PS4 and Xbox sales can be compared right now and PS4 is outselling Xbox more than 2:1. PS4 will outsell Xbox in China like every other country on the planet, and Xbox sales in China will do little. PS4 is keeping its 1st place in global sales.

    Sony is making a profit on PS4 hardware, the gaming division is well funded, profitable and in an overall net profit. Sony is not broke or going bankrupt.

    1st/2nd party studios include Japan Studio, Polyphony Digital, Naughty Dog, SCE Bend, SCE San Diego, SCE Santa Monica, Sucker Punch, Pixel Opus, Evolution Studios, Guerrilla Games, Guerrilla Cambridge, SCE London, Media Molecule, Ready at Dawn, Quantic Dream, etc.

    As expected by anyone knowledgeable and sane, tier 2 launches are doing almost nothing for Xbox sales. Including the rest of the tier 2 launches on Sept 23. PS4 will still be outselling Xbox 2:1 by the end of 2014.

    PS4 will easily outsell Xbox globally in Sept 2014, and every month in 2014. Xbox might take a few NPDs in the USA but globally no chance.

    2014 YTD sales:
    Wii U: 1.8m
    Xbox: 2.3m
    PS4: 6.4m

    Xbox is struggling to stay ahead of the Wii U this year, PS4 is miles ahead of both.

    PS4 will outsell Xbox in China and the Asian region like every other country on the planet.

    XB1 will sell less than 360 long term. Shrinking console market + PS4 eating up Xbox marketshare = less sales. Simple and obvious to anyone paying attention. 360 is on track to outsell XB1 time adjusted sometime in 2015.
  • nick_8052
    Fact of the matter is ,.. ps4 is outselling xbox one 3:1 every week ,..In Europe the average is 7:1
  • ryan_8075
    Fact of the matter is PlayStation has launched in 30 more territories than xbox has. Microsoft is a much more profitable company than sony is in every aspect. Sony is about to belly up any day now. Xbox has probably like 50 million live subscrbers while sony isnt a fraction of that. Sonys awful internet sercice is always laggy and drops connection constantly
  • ae_8093
    Nice try fanboy. Microsoft is profitable because of Windows and Office and Azure. XBox division has consistently been BY FAR the least profitable division of Microsoft, and that's on a good month, when it's not actually losing money. Also, seeing has how Sony is beating Microsoft in every territory it's been released, you've made even less of a point.

    There's your precious XBox profit:;h=512
  • Frankenstein_8690
    MS botched the reveal of XB1 with DRM and always online no trade policies that scared everyone away. they reversed the policies before launch and the price drop has helped. The XB1 is selling well. Sony watched where MS messed up and went on a tactical smear campaign with the PS4 at E3 that year. Then finally the hardware disparity has created a bit of an illusion as far as overall what console is more "powerful". PS4 has better GPU/RAM, XB1 has a faster CPU and throughput capability. XB1 likely wont catch PS4 worldwide but I believe it will become competitive in the US.
  • Frankenstein_8690
    "You could argue all day over the Xbox One's edge in apps versus what many consider a superior service in PlayStation Plus (when compared to Live)"

    lol yeah when ddos'd PSN is down all day and night, LIVE was ddos'd also and was down for like 5 minutes. Games with gold is coming up to par with PS+ IGC and the stability and reliability of LIVE for mp is superior still.
  • jesse_5581
    very simple....the reason that ps4 has won, I repeat won this generation is 100% caused by stupid Microsoft shooting themselves in the foot constantly leading up to launch of systems,,,,,first with not being able to share games....then having to have system online to even play games...then coming in at $100 more than ps4 with weaker hardware...Games are not stupid you ( microsoft ) cannot pee on gamers and call it rain LOL
  • drunkenspy
    "This entire article is based around this one statement "Sony has flat-out admitted that they don't fully understand the PS4's unbelievable performance thus far."

    I don't understand why everyone is fighting haha."

    I think you'll find that myself, and many others, are just tired of fluff articles that don't discuss games, rather keep beating on the dead horse.

    It would be nice to see an article of substance, not just opinion pieces that don't bring new information to the table. It honestly seems like authors (I use that word loosely) are just writing anything to meet a quota, rather than something new or of actual interest.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    This entire article is based around this one statement "Sony has flat-out admitted that they don't fully understand the PS4's unbelievable performance thus far."

    I don't understand why everyone is fighting haha.
  • th3d3an
    And how much did ms pay you to right this since they buy off everyone else? numbers dont lie ms is getting their arse handed to them nuff said ps4 is leaps and bounds better period.
  • Andrew LB
    "Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians' illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a distracting burst of smoke. The expression may have a connotation of virtuosity or cleverness in carrying out such a deception."

    Now that i've defined the term, lets go into a few cases of this being done by Sony which has clearly had an effect on consumers since many here don't seem to understand the facts.

    1. Intrusive DRM- Even today I keep reading people post about how Microsoft attempted to impose intrusive Digital Rights Management on consumers for all sorts of nefarious purposes. While it is true that they had a plan to use DRM on the Xbox one, the company announced this to the public and was met with clear disagreement. Due to this uproar, Microsoft made the smart business decision and removed the DRM via a day-1 mandatory update. This kind of response should be a good thing and Xbox owners largely agree that the company made the right decision.

    The "smoke and mirrors" or deception was how Sony responded to these events. According to SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, Sony had THE EXACT SAME DRM planned for the PS4 and when they saw the public reaction to the Microsoft announcement, they deceived the public by not only staying silent on their DRM and it's subsequent removal by launch, but the deception kicked in because they actively promoted the false accusation that Microsoft wanted to limit gamers rights and how they would never do such a thing to the "true gamers" who buy their systems. This message stating that Sony is all about gamers permeated every article by gaming journalists and forum post on gaming websites for almost 6 months and did considerable damage to the Xbox one.

    From Eurogamer:

    This proves unequivocally that Sony used "smoke and mirrors" and deceived the gaming public, where even today most people believe the initial lie is the truth. News about Microsoft's DRM hit every gaming website, but when Sony admitted that they had plans to use the same DRM... very few actually covered the story. It's a lot like when major media organizations report a false story for weeks that does massive damage to a company only find out later they were wrong, so they print a retraction in small type on page 41 where nobody will read it. A great example of this was how the American media all but destroyed Audi because of a womans claims that car all by itself ran over her children in the driveway due to a defect. Two years later after the full investigation was conducted, the Mother was deemed "at-fault" for running over her children and Audi cleared of any fault. But the damage was done, and it took 10+ years for Audi to even begin restoring their good name in America. The exact same thing went down just a few years ago with the Toyota Prius. But this time it was an intentional act by the US Government and willing green energy supporters who screwed Toyota in order to increase Chevy Volt sales because the car was such a disaster.
  • Twerm
    People were put off by the XB1-DRM stuff, and even though they changed their minds, there's always the possibility they could revert back to their original plan later on once sales have increased.
    Also MS didn't really give the XB1 a 'price drop' they removed a piece of hardware and sold it at a lower price - as would be expected if you've removed something. It hasn't had a price drop in the traditional sense of buying the same amount for less money they've just produced another bundle option.
    Aren't all XB1s app behind the paywall of XBL too? where as PS+ is only required to play multiplayer, all the PS4s apps can be used without purchasing a PS+ subscription
  • KRS_2864
    REASON FOR SALES OF PS4: Games dont forget so easily XBOX ONE FIASCO - DRM, always on, Don Matric - all what he said, Kinect lies (console cant work without useles kinect), corporation bullshit, ea partnership mamy more. All this 180 turnaround wasnt becouse "the lsiten to games", but becouse console wasnt selling. I was huge 360 fan and pum so much money in it (i bought 4 consoles - rrod 4 times, graphics 2 times). Had like 100+ games and MS keep shit on my face with xbox one which 60% funcsions wont be avalible in my country. So now i point my finger at them and bought ps4 (like 2 month ago) and i m very very pleased (but objectivly speaking psn << xlive). Now i play ps4, and xbox 360 time to time - still love it (but with this love was alot of pain).
  • Obvious_4793
    PS4 is more powerful and a better gaming system,

    Xbox went for the entertainment route, which was a wrong choice. individual devices for entertainment needs are more powerful then the xbox,

    So gamers preference will be the better and stronger gaming system, hence PS4
  • Big Bobby_1120
    Getting a PS4 at launch, I never thought it'd be this painful waiting for new releases. It's not a case of waiting for AAA games and exclusives, it's all about enough games. Same case with the Xbox One. After playing Killzone, Ghosts and Battlefield on the PS4, it was last powered up in January. Going into 2015, I think it'll drag. And talk of this gen lasting around 5 years, I can believe it. The Wii U is virtually 2 years old, so give it around 3 years, Nintendo will throw out a new console. Soon after, it'll be Xbox Two and PS5. But going back to the PS4, Sony are able to sell consoles with a thin range of games. The PSP and Vita are perfect examples. Even the PS3 was a bit thin with exclusives and AAA games. Looks like the PS4 is heading in the same direction. The Xbox 360 was the best console last gen. The Xbox One needs 3 AAA games and a better price drop to bag more sales.
  • rekof
    You are crazy,.. You are talking about exclusives and say PS3 had little,.. PS3 had more exclusives a week than 360 had a year,..And xbox 360 was the worse console ever when it comes to exclusives,.. last 4 years there was basically nothing,.. only cycling trough halo forza and gears,..

    I seriously doubt you ever touched a PlayStation console,.. because what you wrote is so far from any resemblance of reality
  • Darsman
    I am sure you know that most people's take on the phrase "smoke and mirrors" is implying illusion. Sony's sales lead of the PS4 over the Xbone is no illusion. Your title being worded so makes no sense, but I believe you are aware of that. It makes sense when you are trying to push out a message in the title alone, albeit an untrue message.

    I, along with many others I'm sure, clicked on this article because the "smoke and mirrors" in the title led us to believe that you were claiming that Sony's PS4 had not sold as many as they claim. We know better but clicked anyway, although now we are just aggravated that we did.

    I actually don't see the point of this article as it really wasn't about analyzing anything. This article is about giving you the opportunity to talk about the Xbone. Yes, you talk about the PS4 but really all your did was make yourself sound unbiased, so you could mention and up sell the Xbone while down playing Sony, the PS4 and all Sony has accomplished.

    I have both consoles by the way but thats not the point. I just cant stand all the Microsoft sellout articles out there.

    Btw, if you have a PS4 then you already know why Sony is ahead. But really its not about being ahead. Sony has, against odds, year after year given its gamer's more value and variety than anyone else, at expense to themselves at times. At least respect that they paved the way for a lot of things that Microsoft and Nintendo are just starting to do now.
  • Danny01_5728
    "The current reality is" Sony is the clear winner for a lot of reasons, we dont need to analyze that just enjoy it.
  • Louis_8776
    Seems pretty simple to me. You build an early lead it's much easier to maintain and or expand on that success. As long as the product isn't flaud, general buzz and personal referral will carry you.
  • Paul_6768
    I think PlayStation is winning because they built something that is very hard to do. Something not even in the box:

  • jon_1770
    I don't get why this article was titled what it is. When you read the title the only thing you can infer from it is that sony tricked the public into believing false sales figures, but then the entire article rants about how you don't have an explanation for the legitimate sales figures that actually are not falsified in any way. Those are two separate things, and the title is not only wrong it's dishonest. Which leads me to believe you either do not know what the meaning of your title is (which we know is not the case since you reference the titles correct meaning within the article, or you are trying to mislead people by spreading rumors through people that glance over your articles title without reading the article (it's that one isn't it you dishonest high school girl? ). I could care less about the console war, but journalist integrity is an important responsibility to the public. Please think about that next time for not just your reputation, but for humanity's sake.
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