Sony is the king of console manufacturers at the moment. It is highly unlikely that the PlayStation 4 will be outsold by the Nintendo Switch, the Xbox One, or any other console currently on the market. By the end of the 2017 holiday season, there will likely be 70 million sold PlayStation 4s out in the gaming world. That’s a big number.
However, that number is not as big as 83.8 million or 155 million. Those are the sales figures for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2, respectively. Now, there is time for the PlayStation 4 to outsell the PlayStation 3 – it likely will – but it likely will not outsell the PlayStation 2. That’s not Sony’s biggest issue. It’s hardly an issue at all, actually. In fact, Sony’s biggest issue has nothing to do with the past or the present.
No, Sony’s biggest problem is the future. Specifically, it’s their vision of the future.
The PlayStation 4 was released in 2013. Since then, Sony’s biggest releases in terms of technological concepts have been PlayStation VR, PlayStation 4 Pro, and PlayLink. If you needed to be reminded of each of these releases, that’s likely because each of them is plagued by some kind of shortcoming that has rendered it largely forgettable in the eyes of the mass consumer market.
Granted, that statement is most controversial in the case of the PlayStation 4 Pro. The problem is that it’s tough to say just how successful Sony’s mid-generation PlayStation upgrade has been. Sony hasn’t released the numbers. What we do know is that Microsoft’s Xbox One X is currently charting higher than the PlayStation 4 Pro’s sales figures in most regions within the same initial time period. Mind you, the Xbox One X is more expensive and the Xbox One is not nearly as popular a console as the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One X is also a significantly more ambitious console upgrade from a technological perspective.
PlayStation VR and PlayLink don’t require as much defense. Sony has devoted a lot of time recently to hyping PlayStation VR. While their VR device may be a best-seller, it’s a best-selling device in a technological field that’s future remains uncertain at best. In fact, it’s almost impossible to say what the best-selling VR game is. Those numbers are not regularly released. As for PlayLink – Sony’s attempt to blend smartphone and console gaming – it seems even Sony has forgotten about the program.
These aren’t the first times we’ve seen Sony fail to innovate via hardware concepts. From PlayStation 2’s tacked-on online network to the PlayStation 3’s failed motion controls, Sony has invested a lot of resources in concepts that ultimately sit on store shelves or are pulled from shelves entirely.
So why is the PlayStation 4 the best selling console on the market? Well, you certainly can’t overlook the quality of its software. The PlayStation 4’s library is strong. It arguably boasts the strongest library of any modern console.
However, the PlayStation 4’s success should also be traced back to the initially high price of the Xbox One, the Xbox One’s failed “innovative” concepts, and Nintendo’s inability to realize the potential of the Wii U and properly promote it. Sony smartly took advantage of the mistakes of others, and the PlayStation 4 is king because of their decision.
Microsoft and Nintendo are smarter now. They’re not going to make the same mistakes again. They already aren’t. Instead, they’re going to learn why they lost and innovate as needed in order to win again.
The question is: “If Sony can’t capitalize on those mistakes, do they have the ideas needed to compete?”