If you go just off of what Microsoft has to say about the January sales numbers released by the NPD group, you might get the idea that Microsoft is king of the world, especially with a headline like "Xbox One Leads US Game Sales in January." The real picture, though, is a bit more complicated.
It's certainly true that the Xbox One is doing quite well – Xbox Corporate Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Business, Yusuf Mehdi wrote a big post over on Xbox Wire tooting the console's horn. It's selling nearly two and half times faster than the Xbox 360. The Xbox platform overall is sitting atop the heap, making up 47% of software market share. The Xbox platform even holds five of the top 10 spots on the game console game list – Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts (on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One), Grand Theft Auto V, and Minecraft -and the Xbox One boasts an attach rate of 2.7 games per console.
But it's important to note that the two big numbers there – the overall software sales and top ten listing – both had the caveat of being representative of the Xbox platform overall. Not just the Xbox One, but the Xbox 360 and its 80 million console install base.
The numbers shift quite a bit when we look at just the next generation consoles. According to those NPD numbers, as reported by GamesBeat, Sony is still holding a solid lead.
Of the top ten selling games, each game that appears on next-gen consoles is selling faster on PlayStation 4 except for Call of Duty: Ghosts. Sony spokesperson Guy Longworth says that the PlayStation 4 version of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is outselling the Xbox One version 2:1, helped no doubt by word of a notable difference in framerates between the two versions (it's worth noting here that I bought the game on Xbox One and the framerate didn't affect my playthrough).
On the hardware side, the PlayStation 4 has an edge over the Xbox One; neither side is revealing exact numbers, but Sony was happy to report that PlayStation 4's sales are nearly double that of the "nearest next-gen competitor," according to Sony Computer Entertainment America Marketing Vice President John Koller.
Gaming hardware sales are generally up, while software sales are generally down. NPD analyst Liam Callahan notes that last January was a five-week month, and that skews the numbers; retail game sales appear to be down 21%, but the real number is closer to 1%, and hardware sales appear to only be up 17% but when normalized move up to 47%. These numbers are strictly retail, though; the software numbers don't reflect any changes to purchases on the PlayStation or Xbox marketplaces or, of course, places like Steam.
It's hard not to feel misled by Microsoft's post. Of course, they're not going to post about how they're second best, but to say in their headline that Xbox One specifically leads the pack when it's the Xbox platform is a bit shady and disingenuous. With that said, the system is still selling briskly and easily beats both of the last generation platforms in rate of consoles sold. The post did have some other numbers, though: people have gotten in 740 million hours of Xbox One use since its release two and a half months ago, or roughly 85,000 years. 685 million speech commands have been used, which is something like 100 speech commands per second since launch.
With March setup to be a big month for both consoles, we're looking forward to seeing where these consoles are sitting in a few months.