Is the PlayStation 4 More Popular Just Because it’s Cheaper?

The PlayStation 4 continues to lead the next-gen sales charge, but is it only because it's $100 cheaper than the competition?
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As we all know by now, the PlayStation 4 led the next-gen hardware sales tally for the third straight month in March.

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Sony also announced that global sales of the system have hit 7 million. Microsoft hasn’t provided the public with a total sales update since announcing the Xbox One had sold 3 million units as of December 28, 2013. The common belief is that the PS4 is ahead by at least a few million units.

But perhaps most telling is that the PS4 is even ahead in North America. This is a region that was absolutely dominated by the Xbox 360 last generation, often outselling the PS3 by a 2:1 and even 3:1 ratio at times.

So, what’s the reason for such a turnaround?

Of course, price is a very big factor

These aren’t exactly cheap machines and if gamers can save a hundred bucks, they’re likely to leap at the opportunity. I think Microsoft underestimated Kinect’s appeal because most gamers I know don’t put it at the top of their priority list. And many are annoyed that they’re being forced to buy the accessory when they pick up the Xbox One. With a $500 price tag, that’s basically what you’re doing: Paying for the system and Kinect.

Sony had originally planned to do something similar; i.e., include the PlayStation Camera with the PS4 and charge $500. They did the right thing by keeping the camera optional, though, because it meant consumers could jump into the new generation for only $400. When you start factoring in games, accessories and warranties, the base price always rises rapidly, so you want to begin with the lowest base price possible.

Many analysts seem to agree that the #1 reason for the PS4’s early lead is indeed its lower cost of admission.

Outside of price, are all things mostly equal…?

Let’s face it, neither console had a great software launch. Both had top-tier third-party multiplatform titles but the AAA exclusives were lacking. The PS4 had Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack but critics and gamers alike agreed that both titles fell shy of expectations. As for the Xbox One, it had a few exclusives that fell shy as well (Dead Rising 3, for example) but then again, it also had Forza 5, which was arguably the best launch title across both new systems.

No matter how you look at it, though, it doesn’t appear that either system had the advantage in terms of software. If you look at things now, the situation hasn’t changed much: The Xbox One now has Titanfall but don’t forget that the PlayStation 4 got the well-received and very popular inFamous: Second Son in March as well. Most other games are multiplatform so again, I’d say the consoles coming out mostly even.

Maybe it’s the power quotient

I’ve said in the past that I don’t care which system is more powerful, especially when we all know that both consoles will produce games that look remarkably similar in the years to come. I will give the edge to the PS4 because PlayStation exclusives have always been head-and-shoulders above the competition (IMO), but that’s about it. The vast majority of games will be multiplatform, and the overwhelming majority of those will be mostly identical across the PS4 and Xbox One.

That being said, there are many who simply want the console that has more capability. Right now, on paper, that appears to be Sony’s machine. Let’s not forget all those headlines of games that technically perform better on PS4, whether they display at full 1080p as opposed to 900p or run at 60 frames per second as opposed to 45. These are headlines that might convince the power-hungry to pick up the PS4 instead of the Xbox One.

But is that really enough to warrant this sales lead?

Of course, it’s a combination of factors…but right now, price might be the MOST important

No one factor dictates the results we’re seeing. However, I think it’s feasible that the PS4’s much more attractive price tag is what’s allowing it to claim victory in the early months. I think we all knew Sony’s console would trounce the Xbox One in just about every other major territory around the world (Europe, Japan, Asia), but North America has always been in dispute. 2013 wasn’t a great year for Microsoft in terms of headlines, and Sony undoubtedly benefited. They’re still benefiting from that fiasco, I believe.

All in all, though, $400 compared to $500 is a very big difference in the eyes of many consumers, and that just might be the primary driving point.

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