A few months after the launch of the latest generation of game consoles, Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) PlayStation 4 is well ahead of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Xbox One in terms of sales. The PlayStation 4 has been in the lead from the start, but the gap seems to be widening as Sony struggles to ship enough units to meet the massive demand from gamers. The PS4 is currently hard to find at stores, and Sony has stated that this situation will persist until sometime in April. Meanwhile, the pricier Xbox One has plenty of availability.
The latest numbers put the PS4 at 5.8 million units sold, 2.3 million more than the Xbox One's 3.5 million units. Can the Xbox One catch up, or has the PlayStation 4 cemented its status as the dominant game console of this generation?
Price matters, and so does quality
The PlayStation 4 costs a full $100 less than the Xbox One, selling for $399 at retail compared to $499 for Microsoft's console. This price difference is largely due to Microsoft's decision to include the Kinect motion-sensing hardware with every console, forcing gamers to pay extra for the peripheral. Microsoft's goal was to give game developers a reason to support Kinect, guaranteeing that every Xbox One console included the device. But the decision seems to have backfired, with the higher price driving gamers to Sony's console instead.
While the price is a big reason the PS4 is outselling the Xbox One, graphical quality may also be a contributing factor. While nearly every game released or announced for the PS4 runs at a resolution of 1080p, with most churning out 60 frames per second, the Xbox One has had trouble keeping up. One example is the best-selling Call of Duty: Ghosts, which runs at 1080p on the PS4 but only 720p on the Xbox One. Even Xbox One exclusives, like the soon-to-be-released Titanfall, haven't been able to hit 1080p.
While this may simply be the result of developers taking time to get used to a new console, and visually it may not even make much of a difference to most people, it certainly makes the PS4 look like a more powerful system. Couple that with a lower price, and it's no wonder that the PS4 is outselling the competition.
Titanfall could provide a boost
Exclusive games are the biggest differentiator between game consoles, and while each system has its fair share of exclusives so far, Microsoft has one of the biggest games of the year all to itself. Titanfall, set to release on March 11 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC, is poised to become one of the biggest games of the year, and it will almost certainly help drive sales of the Xbox One. The open beta for the game, which ran from Feb. 15 to Feb. 19, attracted around 2 million players, and Titanfall could end up being the first "must-have" game for either console.
Microsoft is selling a Titanfall Xbox One bundle, which includes a copy of the game, for the same $499 that the console itself goes for, effectively giving the game away for free. While this bundle should help sell more consoles, it risks upsetting early adopters who bought the console in anticipation of Titanfall.
Sony has got some big exclusives of its own coming soon, so any sales boost for the Xbox One may be short-lived. Infamous: Second Son, an entry in the popular Infamous series, is set to release exclusively on the PS4 on March 21, and most other hotly anticipated games set to launch this year, like Watch Dogs and Destiny, are coming to both consoles.
The bottom line
Given the price difference between the two consoles, the PlayStation 4 is unlikely to relinquish its lead unless Microsoft cuts the price of the Xbox One, either directly or by selling a version without Kinect. The Titanfall bundle acts like a price cut to a degree, but with the PS4 having an advantage, at least for now, in terms of resolution, the higher price of the Xbox One is difficult to justify. Sony has a winner on its hands with the PS4, and it seems that the company is well on its way to dominating the living room once again.
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