To slightly modify the chorus from The Whispers' 1980 hit single, "And the beat[down] goes on."
If you're rolling your eyes at the bad play on words, I can't say that I fault you there. But I will still argue that employing just the slightest of artistic licenses here also fits sums up the ongoing state of affairs in the current phase of the console war being waged between Japanese electronics giant Sony (NYSE:SNE) and software dynamo Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).
Simply stated, things aren't pretty for Microsoft, and they haven't been for quite some time. Microsoft certainly didn't make life easier on itself when it priced its Xbox One a full $100 higher than Sony's PlayStation, though few thought Microsoft's Xbox One would appear as such an unequivocal dud this far after its launch late last year.
But that's certainly the case as we saw from recent estimates on how Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One are selling.
Sony's PlayStation 4 stretches its lead against Microsoft's Xbox One
According to a statement recently release by Sony, Sony has sold some 7 million PlayStation 4s worldwide as of April 6. Moreover, Sony also reiterated that it's having challenges in keeping up supplies of its PlayStation 4 with demand, which supports the notion that its sales strength should continue well into the foreseeable future.
This contrasts starkly against Microsoft's Xbox One experience, which has been characterized by infrequent updates at best. Estimates vary as to exactly how many Xbox Ones Microsoft has shipped of late, but one recent estimate published by Bloomberg pegged Microsoft's Xbox One cumulative shipments at roughly 4.2 million as of early April. This is, of course, just one estimate. But the ongoing silence on Microsoft's part doesn't necessarily project confidence about the performance of its Xbox segment at the moment.
Specific numbers aside, it's hard to tell how much of Microsoft's presumed Xbox One sales issues come from its $499 pricing decision, which undeniably upset a sizable share of its constituency when it was announced last year, versus some of the more industry-wide secular trends we've also seen prove a headwind to console demand, like the rise of mobile gaming.
Hopefully, Microsoft will provide us with some kind of update about its Xbox One sales straight from the horse's mouth. Until then, though, it appears as if Sony's remains firmly in the lead of this multibillion dollar industry in which it and Microsoft compete.
One key caveat ...
This storyline, while a positive for Sony's PlayStation 4 and a negative for Microsoft's Xbox One, should be tempered slightly at least in investors' eyes.
Because for all their strategic significance as a possible entry point into the connected living room, Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 aren't the primary financial drivers at either respective company. Even as the sands shift in the personal and enterprise computing space, Microsoft's current financial performance remains largely tied to Windows and Office. And likewise at Sony, its struggling consumer electronics business plays a far more prominent role in Sony's financial outcomes as well.
Again, this isn't to dismiss the importance of this storyline. In fact, I'm actually of the opposite mind-set. Consoles could certainly play a more prominent role in shaping the future of consumer electronics, but it's important to keep in mind that this won't make or break the annual, or even quarterly performance, for either Sony or Microsoft any time soon.
At the end of the day though, Sony has become the clear winner thus far in the war for console dominance, and that appears likely to remain into the foreseeable future. Now, investors will simply need to wait and see what, if anything, Microsoft has to say about its Xbox One's progress against Sony's formidable PlayStation 4 in the days or weeks ahead.