It's been a close battle, but the war is just beginning.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) announced on Wednesday that it has sold more than 2 million Xbox One units in the new gaming platform's first 18 days of availability. This isn't a figure that merely covers the number of consoles that have been made and shipped out to retailers. It's the number of systems sold through to consumers in its 13 launch markets.
A week earlier we had Sony (NYSE: SNE ) reveal that it had sold 2.1 million PlayStation 4 boxes through North America and Europe. Sony's promising console had a one-week head start, so this is about as close as a dead heat as one could get. Both companies had previously reported clearing a million units during the first 24 hours of availability.
The milestones make it clear that neither company is going to repeat Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY ) failure from last year. The Japanese gaming icon sold just 400,000 systems during its first week of availability, ultimately falling well short of its goals for the fiscal year. That figure looks even worse when you consider that the Wii U sold for less than the PS4 or Xbox One.
You will be hearing a lot from both camps in the coming weeks and months. Each company will claim that it is the victor. You saw that happen late last week when both tech giants massaged November's data from industry group tracker NPD Group to fit its agenda. With the extra week, it wasn't a surprise that Sony won the month with record first-month sales. However, Microsoft found a way to translate the same report into a feather for its own victory cap by proclaiming that the Xbox One was "the fastest-selling console on the market" based on the month's final few days of sales when PS4 availability was scarce.
It doesn't matter. There doesn't have to be a single winner. However, for brand-specific fans or those wagering on the fight for market dominance, we may as well wait four weeks until NPD Group shows us how December played out. That will be the first complete month that both systems are on the market. We may even find that the Wii U isn't exactly dead, as Nintendo is also bragging about a spike in sales since the release of its latest Super Mario game.
Nobody has to lose. Everybody can win. If you don't believe me, check out how all three companies are gloating in interpreting the same set of numbers for November.
Now let's look at the ultimate battle for market supremacy for 2014
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