There were a few miffed reactions around the web earlier in the week when Sony announced that the PlayStation 4 has now sold a staggering 18.5 million units globally. A slip-up in the November NPD reports, coupled with a lack of truly meaningful exclusives over the holiday period, prompted some to ponder whether the platform holder was even telling the truth about its format's extraordinary sales figures. Indeed, it's becoming increasingly clear that many in the message board bubble don't have a clue why the console is popular in the first place – and to be fair, even Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida has admitted that the organisation is a little shocked by all of its success. So, why is the device proving such a commercial juggernaut, then? Well, we've included a few of our theories below.
For the Players
There may be plenty of complaints being pointed at Sony's first-party output, firmware updates, and online stumbles right now, but the tone that it set at the PlayStation 4's announcement party has remained consistent since day one. During that PlayStation Meeting event in early 2013, everything that the company talked about related to games; it was laser-targeted at the type of people that frequent websites just like this. In doing that, it's been able to utterly dominate mindshare among the hardcore, which has filtered out into the general public. Your average Joe Bloggs may not follow the industry especially closely, but he'll be aware of the perception that the Japanese giant's beefy black box is the best place to play. The company's worked hard to maintain this, of course – through clever advertising campaigns – and missteps by the competition have played into its hands, but word of mouth has been extremely kind to the console thus far.
The Biggest Brands
The insinuation that the PS4 has no games has become a meme at this point – regurgitated over and over much like the PlayStation 3. While there was a case to be made with Sony's previous platform in those first twelve months, though, it bears no real reality right now – and the sales figures prove as much. The organisation announced alongside its updated hardware number that it has moved 81.8 million pieces of next-gen software so far, which amounts to a very, very respectable four titles per person. The fact of the matter is that exclusives don't matter quite as much as people think, with only a handful of brands – the likes of Gran Turismo – really serving to sell systems. It's the fact that the Japanese giant's box is already host to multiple Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, FIFA, and Madden entries that's prompting high sales, then, as these are consistently the industry's most popular brands. Couple this with the messaging and hardware advantages, and it's hardly surprising that consumers are coming in their droves.
A lot of the advertising for the PS3 was atrocious, especially in those early days. Sony's gone back-to-basics with the PS4, but it's worked well. One thing that it's been successful at is revisiting nostalgia for the brand. The platform holder whipped gamers into a frenzy prior to its PlayStation Meeting unveiling, showcasing video footage of formats gone by. It continued that theme with successful PlayStation Memories promotions, all of which helped it to dominate mindshare. This definitely helped among the hardcore, but it's done incredibly well outside of the enthusiast arena, too. Partnering with new properties like Destiny and Watch Dogs has served it incredibly well, as it's been able to promote both titles as pseudo-exclusives. A year-round focus has enabled it to maintain momentum as well, with the console having something new to shout about in almost every quarter in 2014.
The Indie Effect
It's clear from our social media accounts alone that a significant number of people don't like indie games. Considering the hype surrounding titles like RIME and No Man's Sky, however, we think that the issue tends to stem from a certain type of indie game – primarily the obligatory sidescrolling platformer with 8-bit graphics. While we're sure that many would argue that the PS4 has played host to too many of these titles, though, we do reckon that the console's benefitted from the onslaught of software that it's secured since launch. To be honest, we've struggled to review everything at times, and there's barely been a week where the system hasn't landed something new. Not all of these titles appeal to all tastes, of course, but with such a wealth of software to select from, it's much easier to hit critical mass. This constant flow of software has also, again, enabled the machine to maintain mindshare.
We now know that PlayStation Plus, when it was originally introduced a few years ago, was part of a cunning plan by Sony. The manufacturer launched the service as an optional extra, and attained members based solely on its added value. By the time that the PS4 was announced a couple of years ago, it had managed to hook a significant number of subscribers through the Instant Game Collection – and so, very few batted an eyelid when it was announced that you'll need to pay to play online. To be fair to the company, it's come good, with the firm giving away over $1,000 of software in 2014, justifying the expenditure outside of online gaming. This has helped pave the perception that the PlayStation maker's paid membership is a much better option than Xbox Live Gold, and outside of complaints regarding the overall stability of the PlayStation Network, we doubt that there are many that would disagree.
Global Brand Appeal
This is perhaps the one that so many struggle to grasp: there's a world beyond the USA and the UK. Sony has always had incredible presence with PlayStation in continental Europe, and this even continued through the PS3 era. While the likes of Britain and America turned its back on the box until the very tail end of the generation, the platform quietly performed very well in nations like Germany, France, and Italy, which ultimately enabled it to attain a very competitive 80 million units install base – despite the Xbox 360 stomping it in Microsoft's main territories. This time around, the Japanese giant is way more competitive in all regions, and that's enabling it to not only block the strides that its Redmond competitor made in the previous generation, but also kick on in nations where the PS3 was on top. The fact that the PS4 is weakest in Japan right now – where it's about to pass one million units – is somewhat telling.
All Together Now
While each of the above points are compelling in isolation, we reckon that it's the cohesive combination of all of these assets that's making the PS4 such a force to be reckoned with. The console currently has mindshare, marketing, and much, much more on its side – and it feels like the system's only really set to get into its stride this year. A pricing advantage certainly helped it early on, but it's currently the most expensive console, so we expect another serious spike when the manufacturer does eventually decide to drop its MSRP. Until then, the platform holder simply needs to keep following its current path, because short of a colossal clanger, we just can't see it surrendering this perfect storm that it's created for itself. We've no idea where the device will ultimately end up, but when you consider that it's almost sold a quarter of its predecessor's install base in a just over a year without Gran Turismo, Uncharted, or God of War – well, it puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
Do you agree with our theory on why the PS4's selling so well, or do you think that we've missed something major in our analysis of the situation? What do you think has been the primary motivator for the machine's success, or do you reckon that it's a combination of things? Let us know down below.