In just over five weeks of availability at the end of 2013, Microsoft sold more than 3 million Xbox One video game and entertainment consoles to consumers in 13 countries. This is a record-setting pace for Xbox sales, placing the device on a solid footing as it heads into the New Year.

"[The year] 2013 was an incredible year for gamers, entertainment fans, our industry, and Xbox," Microsoft Corporate Vice President Yusuf Mehdi wrote in a corporate blog post. "With Xbox One, we saw the most epic launch for Xbox by all measures. We are humbled and grateful for your loyalty and delighted by the millions of hours of gameplay and entertainment enjoyed on Xbox."

According to NPD, the Xbox One was the fastest-selling video console in the United States during the console's November launch month, despite the fact that the Sony PlayStation 4 hit the market a week earlier. The Xbox One remained sold out or nearly so at retail locations worldwide through the holidays, and the firm claims it is continuing to work hard to deliver additional consoles to retailers as fast as possible.

Sony and Microsoft have been engaging in a war of words all year, with both firms announcing their new consoles in the first half of the year. Since then, Sony appeared to have the early advantage, effectively countering Microsoft's curious PR blunders around the E3 trade show announcements and jumping to a lead, at least in public perception. But the actual console sales battle has been far less damaging for Microsoft, with the Xbox One matching the PlayStation 4's day-one sales milestone and then basically pulling ahead after a few weeks in the market despite the Xbox One being offered in fewer countries and for less time.

Sony will no doubt issue its own PlayStation 4 sales milestone in the current days. But the real story will be told over the long run, and this year will be pivotal to the success of both consoles. Neither the Xbox One nor the PlayStation 4 launched with any truly compelling and exclusive game titles in late 2013, but the 2014 release cycle should help both companies differentiate, with Xbox One users looking forward to such games as Titanfall, Watch Dogs, and, most probably, Halo 5.