In the midst of the hysteria that has resulted from a near simultaneous launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, fans and the press alike have been more concerned with which company has the competitive edge than how the market is behaving as a whole. Natasha Lomas published her own analysis on TechCrunch earlier this week, showing the vast disparity between console sales in January 2007 and January 2014. In January 2007, around 2 million game consoles were sold. In January 2014, that number was closer to 700,000.
According to Lomas, “the console market is generally not shipping the numbers it once was. The Xbox One’s sales look especially bad compared to the previous gen Xbox 360. But even the PS2 was selling more units than the PS4 at the equivalent point in its sales cycle.”
The numbers don’t lie, but by laser-focusing on a single month, Eric Johnson at Re/code believes Lomas is leaving out a whole lot of context and as a result drawing a misleading conclusion.
First of all, the original article refers to January 2007 as the month that “the last generation of flagship consoles launched.” As Johnson points out, the Xbox 360 launched in 2005. The Wii was also on an entirely different level than its competition, breaking boundaries like no console ever had before and expanding the market beyond the typical consumer. Over a year after its launch, Nintendo can’t even give the Wii U away, which is a legitimate blow to the market, but the outlandish success of the Wii should be taken into account when considering both subsequent and previous console launches.
Johnson also took the time to stretch the timeline a little further, revealing a clearer picture of the difference between the launches. In the first three months of availability, the Xbox 360 sold under 900,000 units. The Xbox One sold more than that in its first month, nearing 2 million unit sales by January. The difference between the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 sales over the same period of time is even more pronounced.