Sony on Tuesday announced that it has sold more than 5.3 million PlayStation 4 consoles, meeting its publicly announced goal to sell more than 5 million units by March. But with the Xbox One falling further behind its next-gen rival, Microsoft is now pinning its first-year hopes on a new and unproven game called Titanfall. And the company is pushing hard to make the game a success even before it's released next month.
"We are extremely grateful for the continued passion and support of PlayStation fans," Sony's Andrew House noted in a prepared statement. "The PlayStation 4 system's momentum just keeps growing stronger."
That's a fair statement: Although it was initially unclear whether the PlayStation 4's sales advantage over the Xbox One through the holiday period was sustainable, the PlayStation 4 went on to outsell the Xbox One 2-to-1 in the United States in January, Sony says, quoting NPD data. The 5.3 million figure is as of February 8, and it represents sales to consumers, not just sales into the channel.
This is all the more impressive when you consider that the PlayStation 4 has yet to launch in Sony's home market of Japan. It will launch there on Saturday alongside about 25 game titles, many of which are specific to that very important market.
Falling behind early in the next-gen race, Microsoft has seemingly put all its eggs in one basket: a new game called Titanfall that will be offered only on Xbox One (and on Windows-based PCs). Developed by a newcomer company called Respawn, Titanfall combines the frenetic and violent multiplayer mayhem of Call of Duty with a futuristic setting that includes, most notably, giant mechanical robots, called titans, that players can control. (The name refers to the way the titans are delivered to the player: They fall from the sky.)
"Every Xbox fan has been dying to know more about Titanfall," a recent Xbox Wire post notes. And the corporate blog has been plugging away with a steady stream of new posts about the game for the past few weeks in some mad bid to build excitement. An invitation-only closed beta gave way to a public beta last weekend, and most people do seem to be pretty impressed.
How big is Titanfall to Microsoft? It has pushed up the release of the March 2014 System Update for Xbox One specifically so that it will be delivered before Titanfall arrives. And Microsoft worked with Respawn on a redesigned version of the Xbox One wireless controller.
But Titanfall is just a single game, and though it's possible that Respawn might have a Gears of War-level success on its hands, it's a bit early to be hoping for Call of Duty or Madden numbers. And Microsoft's PlayStation 4 problems probably have more to do with pricing than games, anyway. Its console costs $100 more than the PlayStation 4. To get consumers to upgrade, the firm will need to lower prices and deliver a lot more new games.