Console Wars: PlayStation 4 tops February sales figures, Xbox One looks on the bright side

The PlayStation 4 takes the top spot on the sales charts again for February according to The NPD Group. As we predicted last month, February wasn’t going to be easy for Microsoft to win in terms of console sales against Sony. Not only is it easier to maintain a lead – which the PlayStation 4 has had for the last four months – rather than retake it, but having exclusive value propositions makes for persuasive selling points. And PlayStation 4 definitely has the exclusives.

Let’s remember that the PS4 is the only console to offer virtual reality and did so to great effect with the acclaimed Resident Evil 7 at the very end of January. No doubt many of February’s PS4 consoles sales were for that experience alone. On top of that, Sony also managed to snag Team Ninja’s action game Nioh and the heavily advertised Horizon Zero Dawn. In contrast, the only exclusive Xbox One had to offer is Halo Wars 2.

Like monthly sales, it’s easier to get exclusives when you’re the best-selling console. Game publishers want to maximize game sales, so it doesn’t make sense to put out a platform exclusive game unless the publisher is convinced that the game will perform well in terms of sales. I’m assuming that a console manufacturer can also negotiate a deal with a game publisher for a platform exclusive release. If that’s the case, then Microsoft needs to hire better dealmakers who can offer more attractive incentives. Otherwise, third-party exclusives will continue to be a lopsided affair.

Mike Nichols, Corporate Vice President of Xbox Marketing, typically releases an upbeat statement to accompany the NPD Group report. This time around, the statement was much more subdued, highlighting an 11% growth in game hours year-over-year as well as a 35% growth in unique multiplayer users over this same period last year. He also called out Halo Wars 2, For Honor, and backwards compatible Grand Theft Auto IV for helping drive engagement with the Xbox One.

I can only imagine that console sales figures were dismal for Microsoft since there was no mention of year-over-year sales growth even if it didn’t beat Sony’s. Instead, they had to fall back on game hours, which is a metric that isn’t typically touted to show dominance. It might have been better for Microsoft to have stayed silent this month.

Looking forward, March game releases appear to all be multi-platform, so the Xbox One has more even footing to combat the PlayStation 4. However, with the release of the highly anticipated Nintendo Switch, it will be interesting to see which console’s market share the Switch cuts into. For Microsoft, Project Scorpio can’t get here fast enough.