For some it came as a big surprise. To others, it was to be expected. The Xbox One has outsold the PS4 for its third month in a row as it has fought tooth and nail for market share.
The Xbox One has built momentum quickly in a way that has defied all odds. Some are wondering how such a radical shift could happen so suddenly. Although the answer is simple, it includes multiple factors, each of which we'll discuss below.
A Sleek New Model
The release of a new model, the Xbox One S, has been the primary catalyst for significant growth in Xbox One sales. Sold at $299, the console has been seen as sleek and efficient. Its smaller frame and lower weight have directly addressed long-standing concerns that the original Xbox One was bulky and unwieldy, and its reduction in fan noise as well as heat has further improved the user experience.
The attractiveness of the new model has made marketing far more effective. Its sharp lines and sophisticated, polished white finish have caught the eyes of consumers leading to many feeling compelled to place one in their shopping cart.
4K Blu-Ray Support
It's like the early days of DVDs and Blu-Ray all over again: 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray players are pricey and in-demand following major growth in the 4K TV space. Microsoft has supported this trend by delivering a device that is a complete solution for 4K media consumption.
The Xbox One S is a fully featured 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player that offers an experience comparable to the industry's most well rated solutions. Made better, its hardware allows it to be a much more complete solution than its competition, capable of playing modern HD games. This would make you think that it's much more expensive, but that's no the case. Its MSRP is the same if not lower than offerings by the biggest brands in the industry.
Sony has confirmed that neither the PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro will support 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray playback, a fact that has resonated with astounding negativity within the PlayStation community. It appears that this selling point of the Xbox One S will continue into the future.
The tables have turned. Although Sony began this generation with consumers on their side, a series of questionable business decisions have produced some concern among gamers. It still holds great brand equity, but is on the ropes with a lot of gamers who aren't happy about recent news such as the increase of PlayStation Plus' pricing, the lack of 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray playback in the PS4 Slim/Pro, and the underwhelming specs of the PS4 Pro.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has introduced the following:
- Backward compatibility
- Frequent OS updates
- PC ports with cross-buy
- Xbox One Elite Controller
- Improved Xbox Live quality of life
- Good communication
While none of these factors alone are impactful in a major way, together they have built positive mindshare among consumers. This has gone a long way toward distancing the company from the negative reputation it earned in 2013 when the Xbox One debuted.
Following a dry early Summer, Xbox One has become home to several of the most attractive games of this Fall season. The most obvious of them is Forza Horizon 3, which is one of this year's highest-rated games sitting at a 91 Metascore. It isn't often that a racing game receives such critical acclaim, and in-fact it's one of the five highest rated games of its genre in history. This positive reception has been echoed through consumer reception, making it one of the most impactful releases of 2016.
Forza Horizon 3 would soon be supported by the release of Gears of War 4. Sitting at an 85 Metascore, it's been regarded as an outstanding multiplayer shooter. High quality third-person shooters aren't common in this industry, but Gears of War has once again demonstrated that it can make waves.
Microsoft is also the marketing partner for Battlefield 1, which is on-track to become a best-seller. Early Access is currently available only to PC and Xbox One gamers, which has made some PS4 owners think twice about where their loyalties lie. This will become a major factor for this Holiday season as a $299 Battlefield 1 Xbox One S bundle will become available, giving Microsoft a big third-party title to align itself with.
Although the Xbox One S and PS4 Slim don't necessarily contain a noticeable hardware upgrade, they do both support HDR. However, the Xbox One S hit the market first, making it the first HDR supporting console in history.
As we've come to learn from early impressions and testing, HDR makes games look much better by significantly increasing the range of color that can be represented on-screen. This means a better image at no extra cost, something that is a major selling point for consumers.
The only element holding this factor back from being even greater is that an HDR supporting TV is required to make use of the technology.
Pricing Is Everything
Last but not least is the sheer affordability of the Xbox One S. At $299 it is the least expensive current-gen console next to the Wii U. It's actually the same price as the PlayStation 2 was at launch. This MSRP is considered the golden price point, one where a console goes from being viewed as a luxury to an affordable piece of hardware that most families can budget for.
Pricing is a huge factor in the electronics market, and for the Xbox One to be sold at $50 less than the PS4 makes it an easier sell to many consumers. They have spoken with their wallets.