How PS4 Became the World’s Most Popular Game Console

Don’t look now, but the PS4 is shaping up to be a historically popular video game console.

Sony has confirmed that over 80 million PS4s have been sold since the console’s launch in 2013. They’ve even suggested the PS4 could reach almost 100 million sales by the end of 2019. Should it hit that 100 million figure, it will become only the sixth console to do so.

That brings us to a very important question: “Why is the PS4 so incredibly popular?”

It might sound like a simple question, but it isn’t. Even Sony has said they can’t quite explain it. Yet, a rational look at the matter reveals some pretty simple – yet powerful – truths. These are just some of the reasons the PS4 is the world’s most popular video game console.

More Exclusive Games Than the Competition

Exclusive games might not actually be the biggest reason that the PS4 succeeded – more on that later – but it’s hard to think of a console that had such a clear lead in exclusive games over its competitors.

Bloodborne, Until Dawn, God of War, Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn…the PS4’s list of exclusives so happens to almost double as a list of the absolute greatest games of this console generation. As the years went on, it became incredibly easy to recommend the PS4 to any gamers that were on the fence simply because of the strength of its library.

At a time when the “value” of exclusives is being debated, the PS4 showed that having many of the best games means quite a lot.

A Fair Price

Xbox One Launch Price (Fully-Loaded): $499

PS4 Launch Price: $399

We hate to break a console war down to its simplest form like that, but the fact remains that price matters. Put two consoles of relatively similar abilities next to each other on a shelf, and we guarantee you that the average consumer is going to go with the cheaper one nine times out of ten.

Sony’s ability to consistently keep the PS4’s price below the Xbox One’s for most of its run was a key part of its success.

Easy Brand Recognition

Here’s another aspect of the PS4’s success that many hardcore gamers probably never thought of.

The PlayStation 4 is an instantly recognizable brand name. It’s the clear sequential successor to a brand of consoles that has been in the public consciousness for over 20 years. The Xbox One isn’t quite that. The Xbox name is certainly recognizable, but much like the Wii U, there’s enough room for confusion in the mind of the average consumer to make them hesitate when they see it on the shelves.

Again, it sounds like such a little thing, but little things add up in a console war.

The Japanese Connection

Without making sweeping generalizations, it’s fair to say that the Japanese gaming market has historically been wary of purchasing Western gaming consoles. There are many reasons that is the case, but they matter less than the raw sales data.

While Sony was almost guaranteed to surpass the Xbox in terms of Japanese console sales, Sony has done a tremendous job of both catering to that Japanese audience and using their Japanese relationships to encourage the development of exclusive games from the East.

The fact of the matter is that Sony’s Japanese connection makes them hard to beat.

Sony Stayed on Message

Right from the start, Sony has stated that the PS4 is a console all about the games and made for gamers. While a part of that message was a shot at Microsoft who were pushing controversial multimedia features, it soon became the rallying cry of Sony’s loyal fanbase.

Microsoft eventually found their footing, changed their tune, and focused more on games, but the damage was done. A respectable percentage of the PS4’s lifetime sales came during that time when those who followed the industry had reason to pause regarding Microsoft’s intentions. Sony, meanwhile, stuck to a simple message that remains powerful to this day.

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Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd covers the gaming industry including indies, consoles, PCs, iOS and Android apps, as well as topics related to entertainment and technology. He also writes for IndieGameSource and DenOfGeek, and has his own blog at PixelCritique.com.

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