Xbox One and PS4 Consoles in the Woods -01

Sony has a pretty clear lead over Microsoft right now – Microsoft’s last announced milestone was 12 million Xbox consoles sold while Sony reported in at 18.5 million early this year. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, we should expect that lead to continue through at least 2018.

The firm released its Connected Home Devices report, which says that the system is “on the path to reproduce the success of the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo Wii.”

By 2019, Strategy Analytics expects Sony to sell 80 million PlayStation 4 consoles compared to just 57 million for the Xbox One. The current pace of the system is much closer to that of the PlayStation 2, which had sold 20 million units by this point in its lifespan, than the PlayStation 3, said the firm.

“Core gamers have moved faster to this current generation than in any previous generation,” said the firm’s Senior Analyst, Eric Smith in a report from GamesIndustry International. “The main difference in this generation is that casual gamers who bought a Wii are remaining largely on the side lines as free-to-play casual games and midcore games on tablets and smartphones have captured this segment of consumers.”

Smith’s statement in part addresses the sharp difference between the Wii U and PlayStation 4 as compared to the Wii and PlayStation 3.

Not all analysts are in agreement, though; marketing research firm Newzoo is just such an example. In an interview with GamesBeat, Newzoo CEO Peter Warman said that he’s “not convinced that PS4 will continue its lead over Xbox One,” and sees a future closer to that of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 where the gap between the two is negligible. He added that the number of units sold, on its own, doesn’t tell us very much and that information like the number of gamers per console is more interesting. Neither Microsoft nor Sony is worried about discounting from their totals the number of consoles that end up in storage or are bought as replacements, for example. Active players buying games are more important.

A lot can happen in four years. Things like price drops, system refreshes and big exclusives can all help sway favor one way or the other. The PlayStation 4 has plenty of momentum, however, and the PlayStation 4 looks more and more like a repeat of the PlayStation 2, so it’s not hard to see the pendulum swinging in Sony’s favor.