The console war is on and it seems, in the UK at least, first blood has gone to Sony.
Industry news source MCV is reporting that the PlayStation 4 shifted 250,000 units in the UK within 48 hours of its launch on Friday, smashing sales records for a new console. The Xbox One sold 150,000 machines in the UK during its own launch period following release on 22 November.
The figure quoted by MCV comes from official industry sales monitor Chart-Track, which will have released it on Monday morning to subscribing publishers and retailers. It means the PS4 is now the UK's fastest selling console, beating the previous record-holder, the Sony PSP handheld, which shifted 185,000 units on its launch in 2005. It's also a long way ahead of the UK PlayStation 3 launch, which managed 165,000 units in 2007.
Furthermore, Chart-Track software sales figures for last week show that the PS4 versions of most key multiplatform releases - including Battlefield 4 and Fifa 14 – outsold other platforms; apart from in the case of number one selling title Call of Duty: Ghosts, which shifted more copies on Xbox 360.
The news will be especially sobering to Nintendo. The company's Wii U console, launched last November, managed sales of just 40,000 in its opening UK weekend. Regional year one sales for the beleaguered console have not yet been confirmed, but a retail source indicated to MCV that the figure for the UK is not much above 150,000 units. PlayStation 4 launch title Knack, which has attracted mediocre reviews, charted one place higher, at 13, than the critically acclaimed Super Mario 3D World.
So how significant is this early victory? "All the way along Sony said that it would be pushing to get as many units out for launch as possible," said MCV editor-in-chief, Michael French. "They really went for it and quite possibly managed a much higher production run than Xbox One. But the figures also reflect the very strong pre-orders and high demand for PS4, as well as the successful PR and all the goodwill that's built up for the machine."
Yet Microsoft has its own recent success to shout about. According to retail analyst InfoScout Xbox One was the best selling console in the US during the critical Black Friday with 31% of sales compared with PS4's 15%. However, InfoScout suggested this may have been down to the paucity of PlayStation 4 units remaining on store shelves after the machine's launch.
"With regards to long-term outlook, I think it's a little foolhardy to read too deeply into launch sales of the new consoles," said Piers Harding-Rolls, Head of Games at IHS Electronics and Media. "Both Xbox One and PS4 comfortably improved on sales of the prior generation consoles at launch in the UK, but that was expected because there are many more Xbox-brand console users now than in 2005 and PS4 is much more competitive on price compared to the PS3. Also people are eager for something new - it's been eight years since the Xbox 360 launched and the UK is experiencing some economic stability, so pent-up demand for both consoles has been high, even if the games on offer are not hugely compelling.
"Looking at the comparison, PS4 stronger opening sales are a reflection of the lower price and perhaps a more active and engaged set of PlayStation consumers that have been won over during 10 months of very successful product positioning from Sony. Once past this opening adoption phase and into next year, we expect games and exclusives to become the key deciding factor for adoption alongside pricing."
Whatever the case, the figures are close and supply is no doubt playing a role at this early stage. "It's not until after Christmas, when stocks are up, that you can really compare statistics," said French. "The real story, though, is that there is so much demand and excitement around these machines. It has been a long time since the last console cycle began. This has proved there is still a strong interest."
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