Update: When this story was first posted, there was an axis scale/bar size error in the chart above that made the PS4 sales appear smaller than they are. Ars regrets the mistake.
Last week we waded into the somewhat murky waters of console sales reporting. Our estimate was that Sony had at least 59 percent of the market share in the battle between the PS4 and Xbox One. Since then, newly released numbers, plus a fresh look at some assumptions about the Xbox One market, have caused us to revise Sony’s share of that market upwards. We now think it is between 65 and 67 percent.
The revised numbers come in part from Sony’s quarterly report, which shows that a staggering 13.5 million PlayStation 4 systems have shipped in the period from the system’s launch late last year through September. That’s significantly more than 10 million systems sold to consumers through mid-August, suggesting PS4 sales increased significantly in September. Perhaps the high-profile release of Destination and the PlayStation exclusive content has something to do with that.
(A note on “shipped” vs. “sold to consumers” above: While this isn’t an apples to apples comparison, retailers tend not to order consoles unless they plan to ship them to consumers in the next month or so. To adjust for the number of shipments, remove the estimated sales figures of up to a month across the board, or consider the “shipments” figures roughly equal to the “sold to consumers” figures about a month later. in shipment numbers).
Gaining insight into the total number of Xbox One shipments remains more difficult. To recap, we know that five million Xbox One units have been shipped worldwide through mid-April, and 3.5 million combined shipments of the Xbox 360 and Xbox One from April to September.
In our latest analysis, we were extremely generous to the Xbox One, assuming that Xbox 360 sales were down to a third of their 2013 levels, meaning the bulk of the combined sales went to the newer system. The intent was to show that even with the most optimistic assumptions for Microsoft (and the most pessimistic for Sony), the PlayStation 4 still had a solid market share lead.
Looking back, though, we probably went a little overboard with our generosity to Microsoft. Looking at sales trends from previous years and previous end-of-life systems, it’s safer to assume that Xbox 360 sales this year will be somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of 2013 levels. That means Microsoft shipped between 1.15 and 1.8 million Xbox 360 units in the six months from April to September, meaning there were 1.7 to 2.3 million Xbox One shipments in that time. That gives us our final estimate for total Xbox One shipments through September: 6.7 to 7.35 million.
Earlier this week, we also got updated numbers from Nintendo showing that the Wii U has shipped 7.29 million systems worldwide since its launch in late 2012. September period compared to a year ago (thanks, mario kart 8).
It also puts the system at a rough lifetime-to-date sales par with the Xbox One, suggesting that wary third-party publishers are indeed willing to give the Wii U’s consumer base a second look now that the system is selling better, as Nintendo argued. would happen at E3. However, if we dive into the recent sales numbers, we can see that the Wii U still doesn’t have the momentum it needs to keep up with Sony and Microsoft.
Based on our Xbox One sales estimates and the Wii U shipment numbers provided by Nintendo, the Wii U sold somewhere between 47 and 66 percent, as did the Xbox One during the April to September period. It is possible that this ratio will change with the release of Wii U exclusives such as during the holiday season bayonet 2 And Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. But the Xbox One has well received exclusives like Sunset Overdrive And Forza Horizon 2 to boost its own holiday sales. Based on current trends, we expect the Xbox One to surpass the Wii U’s installed base relatively quickly.
Anyway, sales of both the Wii U and Xbox One have been absolutely eclipsed by the PlayStation 4 in recent months. The PS4 has shipped about 63 to 68 percent of all “current generation” consoles in recent months. That’s significantly better than the (still impressive) 48 to 49 percent of shipments Sony can claim over the lifetime of the current console generation. In fact, shipments of six million PlayStation 4s from April to September are only slightly below lifetime shipments for the Xbox One or Wii U, and that should tell you something about how well Sony’s system has been doing lately.
Even with the updated numbers, our overall analysis of the state of the console market is largely unchanged for now. With at least a third of the market for two consoles, the Xbox One still has enough of a presence that developers and publishers shouldn’t feel comfortable ignoring it. But Sony’s dominance over the past six months should worry Microsoft. If those sales trends continue – or get better for Sony during the holiday season – the Xbox One could easily find itself in the same sales position as the original Xbox (and GameCube) did during the PlayStation 2 era.