With both the PS4 from Sony (NYSE:SNE) and the Xbox One from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) available for purchase, the next generation of console gaming has finally arrived. In a previous article I gave a few reasons why I thought the PlayStation 4 would ultimately prove victorious, with Sony besting Microsoft in the battle for the living room. While it's only been a few weeks, my initial impression is that Sony is on track to do just that.
A warm reception, and some issues
Both consoles received generally solid reviews from the big game and tech sites, and there's a nice list of critical and user reviews at engadget. The PlayStation 4 got a slightly higher average score than the Xbox One, 8.0 compared to 7.8, but it's not a big enough difference to draw any conclusions.
The PS4 launched at a price $200 lower than the PS3, as Sony has learned a lesson about keeping prices down. Reviewers noted its compact form factor, sleek design, and quietness; from a aesthetic perspective, it seems that Sony hit it out of the park. The OS on the PS4 is faster and more responsive, and the controller is a huge improvement over the PS3.
The Xbox One launched at $500, a full $100 more than the PS4, although it includes the Kinect motion capture system. The console is bigger than the PS4, with a boxy design that puts function ahead of form. The OS looks a lot like Windows 8 with tiles representing the various options, and the console can be voice controlled via the Kinect.
New consoles typically come with some technical issues, and the PS4 and Xbox One are no exceptions. Some PS4's had a damaged HDMI port, preventing the console from outputting an image to the screen. Heavy traffic during the the North American and European launches of the system caused the PlayStation network to go down, something that was especially frustrating because a downloaded patch was required to be able to use many of the features.
The Xbox One launch had issues as well. Faulty Blu-ray drives were reported by some users, making playing games impossible. To Microsoft's credit, the company is sending out replacement consoles immediately instead of waiting to receive the broken one. It seems that neither console had any widespread problems, with the major issues limited to a small number of customers. On Amazon, 22% of PS4 reviews were one-star, mostly due to hardware issues. The Xbox One had almost exactly the same percentage of one-star reviews, suggesting that neither console outdid the other in terms of technical problems.
Selling like hotcakes
Of course, the real measure of success is sales, and both the PS4 and Xbox One came out swinging. The PlayStation 4 launched one week earlier than the Xbox One, and Sony reported that it had sold one million consoles in the first 24 hours. When the Xbox One launched a week later, Microsoft also reported one million sales in the first day. The comparison isn't quite fair, however, because Microsoft's console launched in thirteen countries on day one while the PS4 only launched in two, the U.S. and Canada.
Sony later revealed that it had sold 2.1 million consoles through Dec. 1, two days after the separate European and Australian launches (with the number including 700,000 consoles from those two regions.) Microsoft launched in Australia and many major European nations on day one, so it appears that the PS4 is really outselling the Xbox One at this point. It bears mentioning that the PlayStation 4 won't launch in Japan, Sony's home market, until early 2014; Sony typically dominates Microsoft in the land of the rising sun, however.
Sony has set a goal of selling 3 million consoles by the end of the year, and 5 million consoles by the end of March 2014. It's looking like these estimates may end up being on the conservative side. While the Xbox One is certainly selling well, the first few weeks seem to point toward the PlayStation 4 being in higher demand. As of this writing, Amazon has the Xbox One in stock. No such luck for the PlayStation 4.
The bottom line
The PlayStation brand is extremely important to Sony, and the initial success of the PlayStation 4 is encouraging. The Xbox One's higher price, due to the forced inclusion of the Kinect, is likely turning gamers off from the console. While both consoles are selling well, the PlayStation 4 appears to be in the lead.