Xbox One Sales Hit 5 Million Mark, Still Trail PS4 by 40%

The nuance in the 5 million Xbox One sales figure is that it's sold-in to retailers, not necessarily sold-through to consumers. What "is" a purchase?

Xbox One Console

Microsoft finally broke its silence regarding Xbox One sales results, with the news being an “eye of the beholder” kind of thing. By the end of March Xbox One sales hit the 5 million mark worldwide, according to Microsoft. That’s a significant jump since Microsoft’s previous report of 3 million consoles sold. However, that previous report had come at the end of 2013.

In addition, the 5 million Xbox One sales info was accompanied by a nuanced phrase that many people aren’t familiar with. When divulging the latest data, Microsoft said “more than 5 million Xbox One consoles have been sold-in to retailers since our launch.”

Sony, by comparison announced that it has sold-through 7 million PS4 consoles.

Certainly 5 million and 7 million are different figures, with Sony winning the Xbox One vs. PS4 sales battle by about 40%, according to these latest figures. But the devil is in the details. The difference between “sold-in” and “sold-through,” while seemingly small, is pretty significant.

Sony’s sold-through figure represents PS4 consoles actually sold to consumers. In other words, 7 million PS4s are in consumers hands as you read this.

Microsoft’s Xbox One sales figure, being “sold-in,” represents consoles that have been sold to retailers but not necessarily sold to an end user. In other words, there are 5 million Xbox One consoles out in the wild, though some uncertain number of those are sitting on store shelves rather than actively being used by gamers.

That’s where the “eye of the beholder” bit comes into play. On one hand, Microsoft has increased its sell-through figure by 67% since the last time it reported sales data. That’s a significant achievement. Microsoft acknowledged as much, saying “global Xbox One sales [are] outpacing Xbox 360 by more than 60 percent at the same point in time.”

In other words, you all love your next-gen gaming.

The flip side of that coin is that Sony’s PS4 sales figure is not only higher, but represents a faster adoption rate month-over-month than Microsoft’s Xbox One sales momentum. Microsoft is selling its Xbox One at a great rate; it’s just that Sony is selling PS4 at an even better rate.

Microsoft’s clearly taking the glass-half-full mentality, which frankly they should. There are reasons for them to be discouraged by the Xbox One vs PS4 sales data after six months, but there are meaningful reasons to be excited by the company’s progress as well.

For instance, Microsoft said “Xbox One fans are spending an average of five hours per day on Xbox One and collectively have totaled more than one billion hours of time spent in games and apps on the console.” Microsoft got a PR whooping for its “all-in-one entertainment” phrase rather than a “games-first” sort of positioning, but Xbox One owners are using the system for more than just games. Microsoft’s logic, while questioned, is clearly playing out.

In addition, Microsoft cited that “we broke new usage records with the number of unique Twitch broadcasters in the first week of availability.” Much was made about Twitch being a better experience on Xbox One than the PS4, so I won’t rehash that here. However, this comment reinforces that there are multiple reasons for Microsoft to be happy today.

Are Xbox One sales lagging behind PS4 sales? Absolutely. Considering the sold-in vs. sold-through phrasing, that lagging is likely even larger than 2 million units. But the sky’s not falling (yet), and both Microsoft and Sony are doing high-fives considering the overall sales of next-gen consoles. Whoever said the set-top game console was dying had better go look up some quotes from Mark Twain about his own demise.

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