PlayStation 4 was the fastest selling system in the history of the PlayStation brand.
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Chris Morris
November 25, 2015

The PlayStation 4 has hit yet another sales milestone, further cementing its lead in the console sales race.

Sony (SNE) says the system’s life to date sales, as of Nov. 22, have topped 30.2 million units, making the PS4 the fastest selling system in the history of the PlayStation brand—even eclipsing the storied PS2.

That, presumably, widens the lead the PS4 has enjoyed over Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One since the beginning of this console life cycle. The question is: Just how big a lead does it have? Microsoft has not given an update on Xbox sales since March (and even then, it refused to break out Xbox One from Xbox 360). The most recent estimate of Xbox One sales is in the 14 to 15 million range.

Microsoft in October said it no longer plans to use console shipments as its primary metric for success, instead opting to focus on engagement, which it judges by Xbox Live users.

“We are sincerely grateful that gamers across the globe have continued to choose PS4 as the best place to play since launch two years ago,” said Andrew House, president and global CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. “Thanks to the support of our partners, PS4 continues to be the premier platform for game and interactive entertainment innovation.”

While 30 million is an impressive sales number by any standard, it’s even more striking when you look at the progress the system has made in the past 11 months. Since Jan. 4, Sony has sold 11.7 million additional PS4s.

While announcing a milestone the day before Thanksgiving might seem a bit strange, it’s likely deliberately aimed at people who will be on the hunt for a new video game system on Black Friday. By demonstrating its strong sales and market dominance, Sony is setting itself up as a logical choice for new buyers. That’s important, as the PS4 and Xbox One are now reaching a point in their life cycle where the marketing push shifts away from core gamers and toward the mass audience.

And with a number of exclusive titles this holiday—including Halo 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider—many thought this could be the holiday that Microsoft could begin to catch up to the PS4’s sales.

“This is the point where they have to really make the push if they’re going to gain ground,” said Eric Handler, senior equity analyst at MKM Partners.

So far, there has been no evidence the Xbox One has significantly closed that gap.

While Sony has certainly reclaimed the console sales title it lost with the PlayStation 3, which was overly complex for developers and overly expensive for players, it’s worth noting that overall console sales are higher than they were at this point in the Xbox 360 and PS3’s life cycle.

“After two years on the market, combined PS4 and Xbox One sales are 38% higher than the combined two year totals for PS3 and 360,” says Liam Callahan, analyst for The NPD Group.

Game software sales, however, have failed to keep pace, which has startled investors in the sector. October saw a 3% drop in software sales despite the release of high-profile titles like Halo 5: Guardians and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. And analysts say if November (which saw the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Fallout 4, and Star Wars: Battlefront) doesn’t rebound sharply, it will be troubling.

“If sales do not rebound in November, or if they decline, we expect investors to point to one of two explanations for the let-down: one, that the video game industry is not rebounding to the extent that had been previously expected, or, two, that full game digital downloads are gobbling up share at a much faster rate than previously anticipated,” says Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities.

 

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