The PS4 vs. Xbox One battle has been raging since the next-gen consoles debuted in November 2013. Sony has laughed the loudest, with its PS4 outselling Xbox One by about a two-to-one margin last time sales data were released. Sony claimed more than 6 million PS4s shipped worldwide, while Microsoft noted 3 million Xbox Ones sold the last time it reported sales.
That was more than two months ago, though, and since then the momentum has swung in Microsoft’s favor. First, Microsoft went on the PR offensive, increasing the visibility of its Xbox executives and flooding the media with software-related data. Then the company released an Xbox One system update that resolved a host of earlier issues and technical problems and adding some multiplayer functionality and fixes.
Most recently, Electronic Arts released Titanfall, the first triple-A game for either next-gen system, exclusively for Xbox One. Although we’ve not yet heard sales results, early indications showed Titanfall to be selling like hotcakes and contributing to the sale of perhaps 1 million additional Xbox Ones.
But ask retailers, and it still appears the trend of PS4 outselling Xbox One will continue, at least in the short term. A recent study by DealNews attempts to explain why the PS4 outselling Xbox One is all but certain to continue. The reason, according to the study, is the PS4’s ability to better attract “swing gamers.”
DealNews surveyed 1,727 consumers and learned that gamers’ preference for PS4 is attributed to a complex mix of price, specs and brand loyalty.
The price finding is no surprise, as the PS4 carries an MSRP that’s $100 less than Xbox One. With that said, some retailers have begun offering a Titanfall Xbox One bundle for $449, effectively reducing the Xbox One’s price to be competitive with the PS4.
The specifications finding isn’t particularly puzzling either, as the PS4 has largely been praised by developers and gamers alike for its beefier hardware. The PS4’s 1080p visuals, for instance, have been a tangible spec for consumers to cling to when “explaining” the PS4 outselling Xbox One.
When the survey starts talking about brand loyalty things get intriguing. Not surprisingly, says the study, 42% of Xbox 360-only owners opted for the Xbox One, while 51% of PlayStation 3-only owners veered toward PS4. The top reason shoppers purchased as they did was brand loyalty (at 32% for Xbox 360 owners and 30% for PS3 owners).
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had a larger North American install base than PS3, and the last-gen console actually picked up momentum late in its life. The PS3, however, had a much larger install base worldwide, particularly in Europe, so brand loyalties in non-North-American territories would easily explain the PS4 outselling Xbox One. Yet the PS4’s biggest sales success story has been in North America, where brand loyalties would seem to point in Microsoft’s favor.
The answer to this puzzle, DealNews says, comes from a category of consumers it calls “swing gamers.”
According to the study, “there were notably a higher number of former Xbox 360 users who didn’t purchase any new console yet, claiming that the price was too high and that they were waiting for a deal. (In fact, double the number of Xbox 360 users who didn’t buy a new console cited price as an issue, compared to PS3 users who also didn’t buy one.) It would seem then that PlayStation devotees are more financially prepared to jump into the next generation of gaming because of the lower retail price, whereas Xbox owners are patiently waiting for a more affordable opportunity.”
So, is it saying Xbox owners are cheap and/or poor, and PlayStation owners are rich and frivolous with their money? Not necessarily. DealNews explains:
Interestingly, 44% of the 1,700+ respondents in our survey noted that they owned both the PS3 and Xbox 360. This is likely because those consoles have been around for so long and prices have dropped tantalizingly low in recent years. As such, this would suggest that almost half of console gamers are familiar with both platforms. And while they might still prefer one over the other, the competitor was not foreign to them, likely making it easier to “jump ship” if there was a good enough reason to do so.
Thus, we looked at how these “dual owners” behaved in the face of next-generation gaming, and as it turns out, a higher percentage opted for the PS4 vs the Xbox One. (35% vs. 23%; see the results above.) The number one reason for their selection? Specifications, perhaps latching onto the assertion that the PS4 has a better graphic output. Moreover, a slightly higher percentage of former Xbox 360 users made the switch to PS4 than the reverse; 8% of PS3 owners bought an Xbox One, while 14% of Xbox 360 users bought a PS4.
The site’s conclusion is that “Microsoft could draw more of its own budget-conscious fans into the next generation if it dropped the retail price on its latest console. But given the fact that a high number of gamers are familiar with both platforms, Sony may continue to win over those swing gamers with better specs and a lower retail price.”
If the number of retailers who have recently begun offering a discounted Xbox One Titanfall bundle expands, Microsoft could benefit from a real-world momentum swing rather than just a PR one. Indeed, it may have already done so, if those preliminary Titanfall figures are to be believed. What do you think? Will the PS4 outselling Xbox One trend continue, or will the PS4 vs. Xbox One battle begin to even out? Let us know in the comments.