If you happen to visit forums or social media discussions dedicated to console video games then you have probably seen one or two users proudly declare that the PS4 is leading in worldwide sales. If we are going to be honest then you have probably seen this announcement a lot.
You see, there is a hidden meta game buried deep within the pasttime of console video gaming. This game is so obscure that most people have no idea it is being played or that they themselves have a role in perpetuating it. Once confined to school playgrounds and shadowy corners of video arcades, the widespread availability of the world wide web has brought this game to the forefront of gaming forums. For the most passionate fans this secret game trumps the actual video games you can actually buy and play on your chosen console.
It’s a numbers game. It is no longer enough to simply buy a video game console and enjoy playing games on it. In order to play the hidden game you must must argue vehemently with people whose tastes might be different than yours. You must convince others (or yourself) that the system you bought is better than anything else out there and to do that you must argue about numbers. Any kind of numbers will do so long as your chosen console has more of them than the others. Sales numbers are a particular favorite of these people because they can be verified and there isn’t much fans of other systems can do to argue against them. The name of the game is one-upsmanship.
It is not as if trumpeting sales numbers has changed many opinions. I doubt PlayStation Vita owners have changed their minds about the handheld simply because Nintendo sold more 3DS systems. Sega Genesis owners still enjoyed their console despite the fact the SNES ultimately sold more and even relatively obscure systems like the Neo Geo and the 3DO have their devotees.
Don’t get me wrong- I am not going to say that sales don’t matter. Microsoft obviously wants to sell as many Xbox One consoles as they can. A system’s install base can impact where a developer chooses to launch their game first and it helps with marketing deals such as the timed DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. In some cases a console sells so poorly the manufacturer has no choice but to discontinue it. Fortunately for us, the Xbox One does not have this problem.
When comparing sales of two competing products it is common to portray the item that sells less as losing. It is an effective marketing point and Microsoft knows it. This is likely a major reason why Microsoft has announced they will focus on Xbox live usage instead of console sales as their metric for success. After all, the company hasn’t been too shy to boast about great sales numbers in the past. As I wrote above, it’s all marketing. With that said, in the world of business the company that is in second place is not necessarily losing. The fact that McDonald’s sells more hamburgers than anyone else doesn’t mean your preferred burger joint isn’t successful. In the case of Microsoft’s video game console you might be surprised to find out the Xbox One is actually selling well. It is still outpacing it’s predecessor, the Xbox 360. In fact, the Xbox One sales in the United States appear to be similar to the PlayStation 3 when you align their launches and that was by all accounts a successful system. Microsoft is still bringing in third party deals. We are still enjoying features like backwards compatibility. The games like Recore, ScaleBound, Quantum Break and Crackdown 3 are still coming. The Xbox Ones future looks great to me.
None of what I write here is intended to diminish the success of the PS4. I own all of these systems and I would much rather see consoles succeed than fail. Congratulations to Sony. I hope all PS4 owners enjoy their games and I mean that sincerely.
The fact remains that I will spend more time playing on the Xbox One this holiday season simply because it’s game lineup is more appealing to me. Games are the reason why I buy consoles, after all.