The highest selling platform of August was the Nintendo Switch in the United States and Japan, continuing Nintendo’s surprising resurgence off of the back of their new hybrid platform. The Switch has taken the world by storm, on the back of a fundamentally appealing concept, a relentless lineup of great games, great marketing, and a surprising amount of third party support. This is the kind of perfect storm that has led the Switch to top sales charts in North America and Japan, and put up a surprisingly stronger than expected performance in Europe too.
On the other end of the console spectrum, after a tepid year with minimal hardware sales, little in the way of mindshare, and a pretty lackluster lineup of exclusive games, Microsoft, too, is priming for a comeback with the Xbox One X, its superpowered iterative upgrade to the original Xbox One, which launches later this year as the most powerful console ever made, neutralizing a significant hardware and multiplatform game performance advantage the PS4 has held since the beginning of this generation.
By all sensible and traditional analyses of trends, one might think that Sony is hemmed in, and might see its formidable lead being chipped away at by two resurgent competitors. However, one would be wrong in this case- this is because, in spite of the Nintendo Switch’s chart topping performance, and the disruptive potential held by the Xbox One X, the PS4 has never been stronger- and it is unlikely to be fazed too much by what either of the other two systems are doing.
"Nintendo is not eating the PS4’s pie- rather, it has brought its own, equally large, pie to the table, and it is simply eating into that. The Switch’s success has expanded the market, by putting two successful ecosystems on the market, neither’s success a detriment to the other."
Let’s first address Nintendo, since they are easier to address in this case. In spite of the fact that the Nintendo Switch has routinely outsold the PS4 worldwide since its launch (and of the fact that its games have scored and sold better than PS4 games as well), the PS4 has had its best year yet in terms of hardware sales, software sales, and software reception so far- indicating, clearly, that the Switch is not competing directly with the PS4 (in fact, it is likely that many Switch owners are PS4 owners, too). This means that Nintendo is not eating the PS4’s pie- rather, it has brought its own, equally large, pie to the table, and it is simply eating into that. The Switch’s success has expanded the market, by putting two successful ecosystems on the market, neither’s success a detriment to the other.
In other words, even as we expect the Switch to continue being a barn bursting success- it is likely to continue selling out and set records, likely to enjoy unprecedented software sales, and likely to attract more third party game support as time goes on- this success will not come at the expense of the PS4, which will continue to be successful on its own terms, without having to worry about Nintendo’s hybrid. In simpler terms, the PS4 and the Switch can and presumably will co-exist on the market.
Which brings us to the Xbox One- unlike the Switch and PS4, which enjoy a complementary relationship, the PS4 and Xbox One enjoy an antagonistic one (in that the success of one comes at the expense of the other’s success). The PS4 has done as well as it has – by Sony’s own admission – by attracting users from the Xbox ecosystem into its fold. And Microsoft hopes the Xbox One X will do well by appealing to the users who picked the PS4 because it was the most powerful console on the market, and because it ran multiplatform games the best out of all available consoles.
"At this point in time, the PS4 is the ‘default’ console for most people- it has four years of association as being the console to own to play multiplatform games."
Regardless, it is extremely unlikely that the Xbox One X will actually disrupt the PS4 to any meaningful degree. This is not because I expect the Xbox One X to not be successful- I do expect it to do well, I expect it to do very well, in fact. I just think that its success will be independent of the continuing success of the PS4, which, at this point, has reached a self sustaining pitch.
At this point in time, the PS4 is the ‘default’ console for most people- it has four years of association as being the console to own to play multiplatform games like Destiny, Star Wars, and Call of Duty (an association Sony hammers home with its relentless marketing exclusivity deals for those games). It also has more owners- which simply means that, at this point, more people are likely to buy a PS4 simply because they want the system their friends already own. This is a phenomenon we have seen countless times before- with the SNES, with the Genesis, with the N64, with the PS2, with the Xbox 360, and now with the PS4. The casual buyer who just wants to play some FIFA or GTA will get a PS4 because their friend owns that too, and they want to play with their friend.
Add to those two factors the PS4’s continuing lineup of high quality exclusives- after a great showing on that front this year, the console is still due to get Gran Turismo Sport, Detroit: Become Human, Spider-Man, Days Gone, Dreams, Death Stranding, and The Last of Us 2, that we know of, in the next year or so- and the system is bound to continue to sell, especially for the more casual gamer who plays a game or two a year, and won’t spend more than a few hundred bucks on a system.
What this means is, while the $500 Xbox One X is likely to be very successful by targeting the high end enthusiast niche, and while the Switch is going to continue to be successful by appealing to everyone with a fundamentally alluring proposition, the PS4 will remain unaffected- its success is self sustaining now, and more importantly, it is self perpetuating.
So we will have three successful systems on the market, instead of just one- as fans of gaming, we should all be happy about what that indicates for the health of the industry.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.