Sony's PlayStation 4 is crushing Nintendo and Microsoft - now execs explain the master plan
Today, Sony announces that it's sold "almost" 60 million PlayStation 4 consoles to customers since its launch in 2013.
To underscore the point, it revealed a few new stats, too:
- Sony has sold 1 million PlayStation VR headsets since its launch in October 2016.
- One in five PlayStation 4 consoles sold since November have been the new, souped-up "Pro" model.
- "Horizon Zero Dawn," the flagship PlayStation 4 exclusive, has sold 3.4 million copies.
Microsoft no longer reveals sales of the Xbox One, but recent estimates peg it at below 30 million sold. And while the Nintendo Switch, which launched in March, is too new to compare, Nintendo had sold around 14 million Wii U consoles since 2012.
In other words, Sony is taking a victory lap ahead of E3, and taking its fans along, too: From June 9-17, Sony will be holding a "Days of Play" promotion, with big sales on PlayStation software and hardware. Sony is even using the event to launch a gold-colored PlayStation 4 console, which will sell for $249.
Business Insider sat down with PlayStation global sales and marketing head Jim Ryan and Sony Interactive Entertainment America CEO Shawn Layden to talk about Sony's blockbuster 2016, the revitalized competition with Microsoft and Nintendo, and the master plan for the year ahead.
'That's the way we like to do things'
Sony had a very busy fourth quarter last year. On October 13, 2016, Sony launched PlayStation VR, a $399 headset that attaches to the PlayStation 4 console - its play to beat Facebook's Oculus to conquer virtual reality in the living room.
One month earlier, on September 7, Sony introduced the PlayStation 4 Slim, a refined version of the original console, and the PlayStation 4 Pro, a version with more robust graphical capabilities.
"That's the way we like to do things," jokes Layden.
Now, almost eight months after that hardware blitz, Ryan says "it could have scarcely gone better" - an assertion backed up by those sales figures. He also says high demand has led to shortages of the PlayStation VR and the PS4 Pro console. But Sony has ramped up production, and he expects they'll be easier to find going forward.
Darren Weaver/Business Insider
The PlayStation 4 Pro has found early success for a very simple reason, says Layden: There's a "constant desire of every developer to make their games look better." The console games with the most impressive graphics are landing on the Pro, he says, and gamers are coming along for the ride.
And when it comes to virtual reality, Ryan says the company is "intrigued" by where it stands with the PlayStation VR, even as he acknowledges that one million headsets sold is hardly a dent in the PlayStation 4's 60 million-strong customer base.
"We would not describe one million units the same as mass adoption," says Ryan. "But we would call it a good start."
'We won't be frightened of what they do'
Sony may be way out front, but Nintendo and Microsoft have both indicated a revitalized willingness to compete.
Ryan says it's too early to really gauge the Nintendo Switch's success, but that "there's room in the market." When it comes to Microsoft, however, Ryan is a little more skeptical.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has promised that its forthcoming "Project Scorpio," slated to launch this holiday season, will be "the most powerful console ever." That's a not-so-subtle indication that Microsoft is planning on something even beefier than the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Ben Gilbert / Business Insider
Still, when it comes to the burgeoning market for super-powerful game consoles, Ryan says Sony is "building a strong position" with its early sales. So while Sony welcomes the competition and looks forward to hearing more about Project Scorpio at E3 with the rest of the world, it's not exactly keeping the PlayStation team up at night.
"We won't be frightened of what they do," says Ryan.
Because ultimately, it's all about the games, and Ryan thinks Sony has the edge. The "vast majority" of Xbox One games are also available for PlayStation 4, notes Ryan - and PlayStation 4-exclusive blockbusters like "Horizon Zero Dawn" and the forthcoming "Uncharted: The Lost Legacy" tip the scales.
What comes next
In a broad sense, Layden says the way for PlayStation to grow is by expanding the traditional notion of the video game industry. As the leading console maker, Layden says the next real frontier for PlayStation lies in enticing people who might never otherwise play games.
"We have to also create new segments, new genres," says Layden.
An early example of this can be found with "MLB: The Show 17," the latest in Sony's baseball series, explains Layden. Originally, Sony's inclination was to market it "as a game," he says. But when they started pitching it instead as a kind of ultimate experience for MLB fans, he says, it became the best-selling entry in the franchise.
Now, the PlayStation VR provides a new opportunity to take that even further. Since virtual reality is so new, there's no accepted way of doing things. That means there's a real chance to reexamine what works and what doesn't, opening the door for new innovations that can encourage new players.
"[PlayStation VR is] not a peripheral, so to speak; it's a whole new medium," says Layden.
The goal for Sony, then, is to push on both software and hardware: With excellent exclusive games, Layden says, Sony can drive the market forward by showing developers what's possible. Those games, in turn, will sell more PlayStation 4 consoles and PlayStation VR headsets, enticing developers to make more games.
"Our part of the bargain is to provide the install base," says Layden.
Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.
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