Most people would agree that selling 100 million units of anything is impressive. Apple, Microsoft, and every other technology manufacturer out there aspires to achieve such widespread appeal with every new product. Though the odds of reaching that threshold are next to impossible, Sony managed to accomplish the feat with its PS4 recently.
The machine surpassed 100 million units sold in five years and seven months and is now considered the fastest-selling home console ever. As Sony and its PlayStation division celebrate the accomplishment, it’s time to explore what exactly set the system up to attain such tremendous success.
How PS4 sales hit 100 million units | Reasonable launch price
One of the biggest things that the PS3 had going against it back in 2006 was its steep launch price. The 20 GB hard drive model costed $500 while the 60 GB model costed a whopping $600. As a result, the console didn’t enjoy strong sales from the get-go and Sony lost money on each unit sold through 2010.
The company clearly learned its lesson with its next home console, as the PS4 was competitively priced at $400 — significantly less than its closet competitor, the Xbox One. Similarly to the PS3, Sony took a loss of around $60 per unit in order to reduce the machine’s price at retail. The tactic paid off wonderfully, as the machine sold over 10 million units less than a year after it launched.
How PS4 sales hit 100 million units | The messaging was on point
Since the PS4’s reveal during 2013’s PlayStation Meeting until today, Sony has focused its messaging almost exclusively on video game fans. The lead architect behind the system, Mark Cerny, discussed how the machine was made with developers in mind and how Sony reached out to studios like Bungie in order to build a console they could easily craft games for.
At E3 2013, Sony doubled down on its commitment to service video game fans by stating that the PS4 will allow consumers to play used games and single-player titles offline. It was a direct response to Microsoft’s policies with the Xbox One and apparently convinced many people who didn’t own a PS3 to switch sides during the eighth console generation. The machine’s slogan, “This is for the players,” resounded with the audience it was targeting. For returning PlayStation users, the announcement of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End a day before the PS4’s release was icing on the cake.
Sony continued to cater to devoted fans throughout the console’s life cycle. Two years after the machine launched, long-awaited titles like The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Shenmue 3 were announced during the company’s E3 2015 showcase. Users eager to play the final installment in Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham trilogy or the next Call of Duty game were treated to exclusive content. After a long hiatus, PlayStation Experience returned and invited PlayStation fans from all over the world to try out a wide array of unreleased games for the first time ever.
While some fans today aren’t too pleased with how Sony is censoring content on its platforms, the goodwill that the company has managed to accrue since 2013 remains mostly intact.
How PS4 sales hit 100 million units | The competition fumbled
When the Xbox One was unveiled a few months after the PS4, Microsoft focused on the console’s multimedia and social capabilities instead of taking a page from Sony’s gamer-centric approach. Many fans were put off by the messaging, and although the company showcased a variety of exclusive software for the machine a month later during E3, it refused to backtrack on its policies regarding used games and periodic online check-ins.
On top of this, a Kinect sensor had to be plugged into a user’s Xbox One at all times in order for it to function, thus raising concerns that Microsoft was planning to spy on its fans in order to sell data to advertisers. The company reversed a lot of these controversial decisions before Xbox One’s launch in November 2013, but the brand image had sustained a hefty amount of damage in the months leading to its release.
Another close competitor, the Wii U, still struggled to find an audience by the time the PS4 hit store shelves. Though it was meant to appeal to “core” video game fans, many saw the system’s GamePad as a gimmick similar to the Wii’s motion controls. Additionally, the console’s lackluster graphical capabilities and processing speed failed to attract studios to develop for it. Nintendo’s marketing efforts were also poor, as the company failed to clarify whether or not the machine was an add-on for the Wii right out of the gate.
How PS4 sales hit 100 million units | Lots of exclusive software
Sony has delivered on the PS4’s promise of being the “best place to play” by offering users quality exclusives every year since launch. Infamous: Second Son, Until Dawn, Bloodborne, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, and Marvel’s Spider-Man are a few great PS4-only titles that have released so far. Even with the machine entering its last years on the market, more games like Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima, and The Last of Us Part 2 are set to make their debut exclusively on Sony hardware.
The commitment to developing exclusive Game of the Year contenders ensured that people knew where all the strongest software was being developed, which also called back to Sony’s original “player first” message. It also didn’t hurt that almost every title was a single-player game; something players are always hungry for.
With the next PlayStation console arriving sometime soon, Sony should try to replicate the expansive catalog of first-party software that PS4 owners enjoy. Sequels to some of these critically acclaimed titles are bound to attract current users over to the company’s next machine. Combine this with gamer-centric messaging and a sensible launch price, and the PS5 might have a shot of surpassing 100 million units sold too.