Earlier this week, Sony revealed the latest sales figures for the PlayStation 4. This generation’s best-selling console has now sold 91.6 million units. That’s certainly a lot, and it all but ensures that the system will eventually cross the 100 million mark.
But what does this mean? What does it mean for the next system from Sony, and how does it fit into the grander scheme of things? Where does the PS4 sit in the all-time best-selling video game console charts?
Let’s toss around some numbers:
The PlayStation 4 has at this point sold about 30 million more units than Nintendo NES system, which sold around 61 million units since its release in 1983. It’s more than doubled sales of the Xbox One, which is estimated at around 40 million units. Someday the Nintendo Switch may overtake it, but right now that console has sold just under 23 million units—albeit more rapidly than the PS4’s opening salvo.
The PlayStation 4 has sold nearly 10 million units more than the PlayStation 3, which released in 2006, but still hasn’t reached the sales heights of the PlaySation 1 (102 million units) or PlayStation 2 (155 million units). While it seems increasingly likely that the PS4 will ultimately become the second best-selling Sony video game console ever, there is almost no conceivable outcome where the PS4 beats the PS2.
It does seem possible at this point that it could become the third best-selling system of all time, beating out the Game Boy/Game Boy Color’s 118.69 million units, but there is still a very long way to go to reach that figure and I’m not sure the PS4 has that long of legs.
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A great deal depends on the PlayStation 5, which will likely release in 2020 (though that’s just a guess at this point). One deciding factor for many consumers may be whether or not the PS5 is backwards compatible with PS4 games. If not, some consumers may decide not to purchase the PS4 and hold out until the PS5 releases, likely in the holiday season of 2020, nearly two years out.
On the other hand, if Sony goes the backwards compatible route, meaning all your PS4 catalog will carry over to your PS5, consumers may decide to purchase a PS4 now and hold off on a PS5 purchase longer, knowing that their catalog of games will be safe, unlike the transition from PS3 to PS4. Pressure from Microsoft’s excellent and widely praised Xbox One backwards compatibility program make this scenario more likely.
In November of 2018, Sony revealed that the PS4 had sold 86.1 million units. Now, just a couple months later the system has sold 91.6 million units, meaning an additional 5.5 million were sold over the holiday season. In 2017, 5.9 million units were sold over the holiday, and in 2016 6.2 million units. We should expect another 5 million or so over 2019’s holiday season.
However, even though holiday unit sales have dipped slightly each year, the number of PS4 units sold year-over-year has increased, at least between 2013 and 2017. Via Statista, PS4 sold:
- 4.2 million in 2013
- 14.41 million in 2014
- 16.75 million in 2015
- 18.41 million in 2016
- 21.2 million in 2017
That’s a total of 74.97 million before 2018. If you subtract that figure from 91.6 million you get 16.63 million units in 2018, which indicates a definite slowdown of PS4 sales as we approach the end of this console generation.
Assuming we drop closer to 2014 levels in 2019, that still puts the PS4 at around 106 million by the start of 2020, topping the PS1 and just 12 million short of the Game Boy. Of course, 2020 will see its own PS4 sales even with a PS5 on the near horizon, and the system will likely continue to sell, if much slower, once the PS5 releases. Another 12 million units does not seem far-fetched, especially given the strength of the PS4’s game catalogue, with upcoming exclusives like Days Gone and The Last Of Us Part II (though the former will almost certainly release on both PS4 and PS5).
Here are the top 10 best-selling consoles of all time:
- PlayStation 2 (2000) – 155 million units
- Nintendo DS (2004) – 154.02 million units
- Game Boy/GBC (1989/1998) – 118.69 million units
- PlayStation 1 (1994) – 102.49 million units
- Wii (2006) – 101.63 million units
- PlayStation 4 (2013) – 91.6 million units
- Xbox 360 (2005) – 84 million units
- PlayStation 3 (2006) – 83.8 million units
- PlayStation Portable (2004) – 82 million units
- Game Boy Advance (2001) – 81.51 million units
In any case, the next time we hear Sony talk about the PlayStation 4’s sales will almost certainly be when it crosses the 100 million mark. That should happen by the end of the summer, or maybe some distance into the holiday season. If I had to wager, I’d bet we hear about the PlayStation 5 before that happens. We’ll call this my first prediction of 2019.