The answer will either surprise you, or be abundantly obvious to you. No middle ground.
The chips are, finally, down, and we know exactly what each major platform holder is going to go into the Holiday season with. In spite of the unprecedented global economic conditions, this promises to be an unbelievably busy shopping season if you are a fan of video games – we have Sony launching the PlayStation 5 in two variants, Microsoft launching the next generation Xbox in two variants, Nintendo’s record-breaking and ever hard to find in stock Switch getting possibly its biggest launch of the year as a limited ‘release, Nvidia launching surprisingly cheap next generation graphics cards for PC gamers, and even VR gets in on the action with the new Oculus Quest 2.
Every year, we take a look at how the three major platform holders might do in the Holiday season, and now that we finally have all the information we need to do the same this year, it’s time to make predictions for how we foresee the Holiday shopping season this year panning out. This one will be one for the history books – we have two new console launches, plus a console that is selling like water in a desert. It will be an incredibly great turnout for Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo alike, no matter who ends up coming out on top – so before we get further into this, remember that. All three are going to be winners this Holiday season, and all victories will be hard won.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. First off, let’s consider that both next generation consoles are likely to sell out at launch. Every system does, because at launch, all the most loyal and hardcore enthusiast fans show up – even the Wii U and PS Vita sold out at launch (their sales slowdown wouldn’t happen for another few months following their initial release). That’s great news, of course, but for the purposes of our discussion here, it also has the implication of both these consoles being limited by supply. In other words, while they will of course sell out at launch, I cannot expect them to sell as well as they will in their inevitable peak years somewhere down the line.
Of the two new consoles, I do expect PlayStation 5 to outsell Xbox Series X and S. There are multiple reasons for this, but the most objective and empirical one is simply that it seems like Sony will have more stock available – which, continuing from the previous point, in turn means it has a higher sales ceiling than Xbox. Additionally, PlayStation is currently the stronger brand, and it has numerous strong exclusive games at launch, with Spider-Man Miles Morales, in particular, having strong mainstream appeal. If Xbox Series X and S still had Halo Infinite at launch, I do think this would have been a closer comparison (though, like I said, in the end the limit is determined by available supply, and it does seem like Sony would have had more supply no matter what).
You can expect a similar result on the current generation front, though not quite as closely fought of a match. I do think PS4 will outsell Xbox One this Holiday. This, at least, should not be a controversial statement. Not only has this been true every year since 2015, but PS4 is the more popular system, and still available on the market, unlike Xbox One, which has seen most of its SKUs be discontinued already. Plus, Miles Morales will be hitting PS4 as well, which further buoys its sales potential. Xbox One has slowed down to a crawl this year around the world, with its numbers hitting record lows for the last few months, and Microsoft themselves seem to be looking ahead now, rather than trying to salvage a console that has proven to be hard to move in desired numbers over the last few years. While I do think Xbox One and PS4 will both have competitive deals, I also think that the PS4 will be more popular for all the exact same reasons that have kept it more popular throughout this generation. Additionally, with the Xbox One mostly discontinued, I do think it will be stock-limited as well, meaning that even if it could have sold more, it probably won’t, because there won’t be any more units left to sell.
Neither the current generation Xbox and PlayStation, however, nor the next generation ones, will be the highest selling console this Holiday season. If you’re smart, you figured out where this analysis was going right at the beginning, and if you’re not, you at the very least have figured it out by now by the process of elimination. The Nintendo Switch is now selling at an unprecedented, record breaking pace, and still suffering from acute, chronic, widespread shortages – meaning the demand for it far outstrips supply (in spite of said supply coming in at the aforementioned record breaking rates). That is not going to change come Holiday season, even in light of the new console launches. For starters, the Switch does not seem to impact, or be impacted by, PlayStation or Xbox. Additionally, the Switch has the two hottest games of the year in Animal Crossing New Horizons (which at this point has become a cultural mainstay phenomenon) and Super Mario 3D All Stars Collection.
The Switch also benefits from being the most family friendly console (with shopping during the Holiday season more slanted towards that demographic than at any other time of the year), being substantially cheaper than the other systems (before even accounting for any Holiday deals, a Switch Lite is only $199), and from having an established and entrenched lineup of games that continue to sell and top charts months or even years after release – even not counting Animal Crossing or Mario All Stars, it has Pokemon, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey, all games that have longstanding commercial appeal on par with or greater than new releases, judging by the fact that they are still charting around the world to this day.
Combine this with the possibility of Holiday season deals – whether it be a bundle, or a price drop, or both – and there is no limit to what the console can sell in the coming months, except for what Nintendo can supply. Which means that it, too, will be limited by stock – though at the very least Switch manufacturing is a more mature process than the ones for either of the next generation consoles, so there should be more of it available than the PS5 or Xbox Series X.
So in the end, I expect the Switch to be the highest selling console in the coming months (much like it has been for the last 12+ months straight at this point), and continue its record breaking, market leading streak. With that said, I do stand by what I said right upfront – there are no losers here, only winners, because even if Xbox and PlayStation aren’t matching the Switch, they are still going to sell out, and in obscene numbers at that. For the first time in a while, it looks like we have a truly competitive Holiday shopping season on our hands.
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.