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Microsoft, meanwhile, sees some slowdown as it falls behind Sony, Nintendo in sales

The NPD Group, Inc. -- a top market research firm -- has released its latest console sales report for the month of May 2014.  With the exception of one small surprise (more on that in a bit), the message is the same -- Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758) PlayStation 4 continues to dominate sales while Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Xbox One remains a feisty, but struggling challenger.

I. Nintendo, Sony Win Big as Microsoft Struggles

The company's press release did not contain specifics on how many units each company sold, but it clearly indicated that Sony's console continued to dominate sales for a fifth straight month.

As of March 31 official sales numbers put Microsoft at 5 million units sold, Sony at 7 million units sold, and Nintendo Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7974) Wii U has sold 6.17 million units.  Nintendo's console launched in Nov. 2012; Microsoft and Sony's consoles went on sale a year later in Nov. 2013.
Sony PS4 controller
Sony has thus far controlled this generation of the console race.

Of the trio of console makers, Sony has thus far seen arguably the greatest success wooing third party content, while Nintendo has had the worst luck in courting developers.

The last year has been a rocky one for Nintendo, which suffered largely due to its slow response at publishing new titles in its most popular franchises, like Kirby, Mario, Mario Kart, Smash Bros., Zelda, and Donkey Kong.  It has been forced to cut its forecasts multiple times and saw sales drop early this year.  Now its looking reinvigorated.

Due to that, while Sony held the sales crown in May, Nintendo might be the biggest winner of last month for breaking out of its nearly year long slump.  Its return to growth was driven -- by its own accounting, even -- by the much anticipated release of Mario Kart 8.  Mario Kart 8 sold roughly 1.2 million copies, good enough for second place in the NPD Group's May 2014 top selling video games list.  The NPD Group report that many of those sales have come from the bundled copy, helping to drive Wii U console sales back to growth, as well.

Mario Kart 8 has been the fastest selling Wii U title in the console's young history.  It was in third place in U.S. sales (versus second globally), showing gains in a market where Nintendo struggled throughout much of late 2013 and early 2014.

Wii U Bundle

Nintendo's 3DS title Kirby:Triple Deluxe also performed admirably, earning ninth place on the list.  According to the NPD Group, the Nintendo 3DS outsold the Xbox One (let that one sink in, for a moment), earning the ranking of second best selling system for the month (behind only the PS4).

The best-selling game in May was Watchdogs, the new techno-thriller from France's Ubisoft Entertainment SA (EPA:UBI).  It was a relatively disappointing month for Microsoft in terms of content sales.  After Titanfall scored the top spot in sales last month, this month the Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA) title plummeted to eighth place in sales, behind newer releases.  Sony, meanwhile, scored a surprise hit with its exclusive MLB 14: The Show title, which launched for the PlayStation 4 (PS4), PlayStation 3 (PS3), and PlayStation Vita (PSV).

Speaking of the PlayStation Vita, Sony's portable -- while outsold by Nintendo's 3DS -- saw some progress of its own.  A Borderlands 2 PSV bundle has sold well.  The bundle introduced the American market's first major revision of the handheld.

II. A New Gaming Golden Age

Overall hardware sales rose to $187M USD for the month, up a whopping 95 percent from May 2013 ($96M USD).  Driven by 15 percent growth in video game point and subscription cards, interactive gaming toys, and gamepads, video game peripherals and accessories saw a modest 8 percent sales rise.

Game sales were also golden in May.  Downloadable content on consoles, smartphone games, and social network gaming continues to be a massive lucrative, but poorly understood channels.  In-game microtransactions, subscriptions, mobile apps, and social network game spending totaled $787M USD (est.) for the month of May.

That's well ahead of the $274M USD in software sales that the console and portable market saw (up 57 percent).  PC games, meanwhile sold an estimated $10M USD for the month.  Consoles and portables also saw $124M USD (est.) in rental and used game sales.

WatchdogsWatchdogs was not only the top-selling game for May, it also drove Ubisoft past rival EA in total sales.

In total, the NPD group estimates consumers globally may have spent nearly $1.5B USD on the gaming industry's wares.

Comments NPD Group analyst Liam Callahan on the booming month of May:

The last time overall new physical channel growth saw a month-over-month increase of this magnitude was June 2008, with a 53 percent increase... May 2014 marked the highest selling May data month for video game point and subscription cards on record.

As seen in prior months, the lift in hardware sales was driven by console hardware, which increased 137 percent in May 2014 (vs. May 2013).  While much of May 2014's hardware growth was due to Xbox One and PS4, there was also year-over-year growth for the Wii U, and PS Vita.

Collectively, May 2014 launches sold 800 percent more in dollar sales than May 2013 launches did their respective launch months. New launches represented 50 percent of dollar sales this month, which compared to only 9 percent for new launches in May 2013.

Ubisoft may not exactly be beloved by gamers as it at times is at odds with its audience, but many gamers would be pleased to know that on the success of Watchdogs, Ubisoft is estimated to have deposed EA as the world's biggest gamemaker, in the month of May.  (EA is regularly rated the "worst company" in regards to how it treats consumers.)

III. Sony -- PS4 is the "Leading Next Gen Console"

Looking ahead, June should bring more glad tidings for the gaming industry.

Sony released a cheery statement on the NPD numbers.  Senior Vice President of PlayStation Brand Marketing Guy Longworth commented:

PlayStation continues to be the best place to play for innovative IP, as PS4 was the preferred platform for May’s biggest releases, including Watch Dogs and Wolfenstein: The New Order, and held four of the top five spots for next gen software sales. PS4 is the leading next-gen platform for sports, highlighted in May by the best-selling sports game, MLB 14: The Show.

Microsoft, after releasing comments emphasizing the positives on the last two months' NPD reports (where it got beat, but still one in some regards, such as with Titanfall's strong sales) was uncharacteristically silent, and has yet to release a comment on Xbox Wire.  It's unclear whether Microsoft will bother to say anything, given that it's virtually impossible to spin this month's sales figures in its favor.
A new Kinect-less SKU could boost the Xbox One in June. 

The Xbox One maker is likely looking forward to next month's numbers.  It's hoping that the new cheaper Kinect-less $399 Xbox One SKU, will finally manage to stem the tide of Sony's victory march.  If it can not, we're likely witnessing the two console giants reverse their roles of last generation, when Sony saw slow sales of the unprofitable PS3 and Microsoft saw booming sales of its Xbox 360.

However, it's a bit premature to come to such conclusions.  Holiday 2014 will likely decided decisively the winner(s) and loser(s) of this generation of consoles.  For now, though, anything could happen.

Sources: NPD Group, via Twice

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By Mitch101 on 6/17/2014 5:05:42 PM , Rating: 2
I think the One being outsold by the 3DS is an indicator that the consoles need to start price dropping sooner than later. What has been reached is nearly all the people who can afford a $399/$499 game console or those willing to spend that much.

RE: $299.00
By inighthawki on 6/17/2014 5:24:37 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, the Xbox One costs too much compared to the PS4. The Kinect-less model should sell for $350 (maybe even less), and the Kinect version for $100 more. Without the Kinect, the Xbox One doesn't have very many killer features that can justify an equal price tag with PS4 while having inferior gaming performance.

RE: $299.00
By room200 on 6/17/14, Rating: 0
RE: $299.00
By quiksilvr on 6/17/2014 7:18:51 PM , Rating: 5
RE: $299.00
By Aloonatic on 6/18/2014 2:41:54 AM , Rating: 2
So, from that list I'm left with the question...

Are some developers not bothering to try to get more out of the PS4 (the games where they resolution and frame rate are the same) or are some developers not bothering to try to get more out of the Xbox One?

RE: $299.00
By BZDTemp on 6/18/2014 3:31:22 AM , Rating: 3
Loads of developers are certainly not bothered too much about optimizing for the different platforms. This hurts everywhere and when coupled them going for the lowest common then it hurts the PS4 (and the PC's for those games that are not console only).

I have a foot in both the console and PC world and whenever a game is on both console and PC I prefer the later (cheaper, mods, higher resolution, keyboard+mouse...). Some games like say the Far Cry series have done a good job taking advantage of the more powerful PC's, while others go so far has carrying over their dumbed-down GUI to the PC :-(

RE: $299.00
By room200 on 6/18/14, Rating: 0
RE: $299.00
By therealnickdanger on 6/18/2014 7:28:02 AM , Rating: 1
Silly or not, it's true. Microsoft made decisions early on to make Xbone less about games and more about everything else. This decision guided all aspects of their hardware design, which they are now stuck with. They made a series of bad decisions for consumers (privacy, licensing, Kinect, Gold requirements, price...) and they are being punished by the market. Microsoft has slowly been addressing all of these problems, but it's too little too late.

At the end of the day, it's a weaker console for more money (or the same minus Kinect). The performance gap between them will only widen with time as the PS4 sells more units and becomes the primary development console. The Xbox 360 enjoyed this role in the last generation, with the PS3 often left with sub-optimal performance even though it was more powerful. But this time, the more powerful console will be better optimized.

In either case, they're both a huge waste of money. Put a $400 graphics card in your PC and you can game at 1080p 120fps or start dabbling in 4K.

RE: $299.00
By Mint on 6/18/2014 6:15:29 PM , Rating: 2
The PS3 was not more powerful. It had a far inferior graphics architecture, and you could see this on the PC where the G7x cards got smoked by unified architecture cards with the same theoretical performance as newer games were released.

Cell's CPU superiority was not only hard to realize, but it just isn't that visible in the final product. Virtually all algorithms can be pared down to use half the CPU power and even seasoned gamers won't notice the shortcoming. The lower real-world polygon throughput and fillrate of RSX was much more visible.

This generation it's the opposite, as XBO has the weaker graphics, and it's visible. By comparison, its 7% higher clock rate (and thus superior CPU power) has a negligible effect. It's not as bad as 720p vs 1080p as some claimed (that would require PS4 to have over 2x the graphics power), but it's noticeable.

RE: $299.00
By inighthawki on 6/17/2014 8:22:10 PM , Rating: 2
You for real? I mean, I like Xbox One as much as the next guy, but pretending it's on equal footing with the PS4 is straight denial.

RE: $299.00
By room200 on 6/18/2014 6:31:49 AM , Rating: 3
I don't need to "pretend" about anything. I have no horse in this race because I don't own either of these and I'm probably gonna skip this generation of consoles. My unbiased assessment is that I don't see much of a difference between the graphics of either of these "advanced" consoles, and 99% of people won't either esp. as they are not plying 2 different consoles side by side.

RE: $299.00
By tayb on 6/18/2014 9:32:56 AM , Rating: 3
There really is no discernible different right now and there probably won't ever be for cross platform titles. The PS4 is a more powerful console so in a few years I expect to see PS4 exclusives looking slightly better than Xbox One exclusives. But in the end the graphics don't matter all that much to me, gameplay matters.

Whichever console ends up having the superior first party game lineup will sell more units. The end.

RE: $299.00
By Argon18 on 6/18/2014 12:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
"But in the end the graphics don't matter all that much to me, gameplay matters."

Agreed, just as in the movie industry, killer graphics are being used to offset weak plot. The Avatar movie for example, killer visuals, turd of a plot, crap character development, etc.

The last tier 1 console I bought was a PS3. No plans for the PS4 or One. I did just buy a $99 Ouya console however, and I'm loving it. Killer value.

RE: $299.00
By nikon133 on 6/18/2014 5:09:48 PM , Rating: 2
There will be, I think. Current games are still not pushing hardware capabilities to the limit, on average... we are still in first year of this generation's life, and not much further than half of that year... At some point, next Unreal or Crytek or... engine will become so powerful and demanding that even PS4 will have to back down to 720p in order to keep framerate and eyecandy at sufficient level. Where will XBO back down, when we come to that?

RE: $299.00
By althaz on 6/17/2014 8:26:09 PM , Rating: 3
It does have a lead in terms of exclusive titles - well it has more than one that don't suck.

That said, most people who buy consoles play mostly multiplatform games and those games simply look (a bit) better on the PS4. The PS4 will likely win this generation, but so long as it's close so no company rests on its laurels, who really cares?

RE: $299.00
By nafhan on 6/18/2014 10:53:43 AM , Rating: 2
Or maybe it's an indicator that the Xbox 360 still has a lot of excellent games, and that the One... doesn't. Regardless of the cost of the console, I'll probably pick up an Xbox One or PS4 once there's a decent library of games in the sub $20 range.

Somewhat related: I've got an Xbox 360 and I've been getting a free game every two weeks thanks to the "games for Gold" (or whatever it's called) thing. About half have been games I don't already have.

I actually own both consoles.....
By dxf2891 on 6/18/2014 1:14:18 PM , Rating: 2
and even though the PS4 has better, more powerful hardware, it's the XBOne that gets more playing time. Firstly, due to the network (Xbox Live is infinitely better than the PSN) and secondly there's is no killer multiplayer game to PWN you friends on for the PS4. As limited as it is, at least XBOne has Titanfall. The formula is simple, make a console with decent games that allow you to humiliate and belittle your friends and colleagues on by embarrassing them on their gaming prowess, lolbvs!!!!

By nikon133 on 6/18/2014 3:39:20 PM , Rating: 2
I keep hearing that about Live vs. PSN... but it's not universally true. PSN was missing some features, but core functionality was solid. I ended up playing much more BF3 on PS3 than on PC, though I had both versions. Connectivity, in-game audio... even number of available servers... were better on PS3. Portal 2 had co-op with PC enabled, something I used a lot, playing with my PC friend. MAG had 256 players fights, quite an on-line achievement for last gen. In all my online time on PS3, I never felt I was missing something really important... and it was free.

I don't know how is PSN standing against Live today. Sony has/is/will be adding functionality and services, like games streaming, screenshots and gameplay videos sharing, friends inviting. Not sure where is MS driving Live, but I'd expect they both have upped their games... But if someone has found good comparison, please share.

By OnyxNite on 6/18/2014 3:56:29 PM , Rating: 2
You are not representative of the console buying public. Titanfall is a good game but it's not the great system selling savior MS hoped it would be. It's all the way down to #8 in sales and that is COMBINED. The fact that they combine sales of all versions is the only reason it was #1 in the first place. Infamous: Second Son for the PS4 outsold Titanfall for the Xbox One only. Titanfall dominated because they added in PC sales and Xbox 360 as well whereas Infamous is PS4 ONLY. Titanfall is the ONLY game in the top 10 that is on Xbox One but not PS4. Every other game is either on both or neither. When games are available on both the PS4 version is outselling the Xbox One version almost 2:1, not just by some small percentage. It's so bad that on the week ending June 7th Watch_Dogs for the 360 outsold Watch_Dogs for the Xbox One. So sure, maybe you play your Xbox One more than your PS4 but if that's true you are clearly in the minority. Hopefully the price drop, the removal of the pay wall, and allowing developers to use the extra 10% formerly reserved for Kinect will change things next month. It's really not good for gamers as a whole to have one company run away with this generation. At this point though it's questionable if MS can even catch Nintendo (with their year lead) let alone catch up to the PS4.

By degobah77 on 6/19/2014 8:52:47 AM , Rating: 2
Same here, if a game is available on PS4 and XBox, I get the Xbox version. The PS4 gets minimal play, while my XOne is turned on every day. And whatever graphical difference there may be is indistinguishable when actually playing a game.

Also, Infamous: Second Son was a terrible let down.

By Reclaimer77 on 6/19/2014 6:06:01 PM , Rating: 2
Titanfall is just the same old sh*t though. Limited maps. Limited player caps. Basically COD with mechs, yawn.

Planetside 2 is coming to the PS4. The PS4 will have the best shooter AND the best MMO on the console market, hands down.

By p05esto on 6/18/2014 2:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not happy with either system, both are underpowered. We have tons of 4K TVs out there now, imagine in a year or two. Neither system can push anywhere close to this resolution. Neither system is good at playing movie files, can't browse via DLNA, crappy interfaces, games are not that drastically better over last generation, hardly any games to even speak of.... bla bla

RE: neither
By OnyxNite on 6/18/2014 4:11:21 PM , Rating: 2
I agree both systems are underpowered but that is the natural result to the comparatively low spec Wii dominating in sales last generation (via excellent gameplay) and the most tech advanced PS4 costing so much to recoup the R&D (Cell) and bleeding edge tech (Blu-Ray drive) that they had to price them at a significant loss just to move them off the shelves.

Consumers have taught console makers that tons of R&D isn't worth the risk. Developers have made clear they don't want to learn complex new things, they want familiar hardware. So now we get slightly modified PCs. Minimal R&D is required for the console makers, familiar hardware for developers, everyone's happy now right?

That said the movie playback, DLNA, and UIs I believe will improve via software updates, it's still pretty early. Also games WILL get a lot better then last gen games but they aren't going to come close to PC games. Right now games are held back by the fact that most of them are still being made for the prior gen as well. When games go full next-gen (No PS3 or Xbox 360 versions) things should get better and actually the > 4GB RAM on the new consoles is even going to drive PCs to FINALLY start developing 64bit native games.

RE: neither
By nikon133 on 6/18/2014 5:26:25 PM , Rating: 2
Another good thing with moving consoles to x86 is easily achievable backward compatibility. Regardless of what AMD or Intel parts SONY and MS choose for next gen, you can bet it will be compatible with this hardware... so it's only down to "political" reasons if manufacturers will enable compatibility or not. I think they will, if it doesn't cost them much (or anything at all) - each new gen launch is always married with games shortage, so being able to fill the gap with playable last-gen games can only be good. At worst, developers would have to release patches to boost resolution and framerates, but that shouldn't require much effort. Developers could also start releasing (and selling) HD+ updates that would go further - improved light and shadows, HD texture packs, foliage density and geometry improvements etc.

Let me put it this way. I'm not planning to get GTA5 for PS4, even if some improvements look quite nice - since I completed game on PS3, it is not worth full price. But if I could pop PS3 version of the game in my PS4, purchade HD patch for reasonable price - I believe I would do that in an eye-blink.

RE: neither
By wallijonn on 6/18/2014 7:35:43 PM , Rating: 2
Consumers have taught console makers that tons of R&D isn't worth the risk. Developers have made clear they don't want to learn complex new things, they want familiar hardware. So now we get slightly modified PCs. Minimal R&D is required for the console makers, familiar hardware for developers, everyone's happy now right?

How so? It's the manufacturers that want us to buy their newest features (voice command control, gestures). What we want they won't give us - 1080p gaming and backwards compatibility. Why no backwards compatibility? - because the hardware isn't compatible. It's not a Catch 22, it's their way of making sure they sell more consoles. (If the hardware is so powerful, why can't it do emulation?) And this gen does seem to be selling better than last gen... But many of us who already own last gen consoles are less likely to rush-to-buy the newest gen. since some features have been removed (DLNA, MP3 playback, (we won't mention the green elephant in the corner called Linux) etc.)

Chances are that if I'm so addled that I can't juggle three or four remote controllers at the same time (TV, console, amp) then chances are I wouldn't be gaming.

RE: neither
By wallijonn on 6/18/2014 7:38:30 PM , Rating: 2
The fourth remove would be the cable/satellite controller.

So what are total sales now?
By TheJian on 6/18/2014 6:18:05 AM , Rating: 2
I see no month of may sales for any of the consoles or did I just miss it? Nor do I see totals as of may 31 (that is the point of a MAY report in mid june correct?). Useless post without the data. Is PS4 at 8mil yet, MS at 6mil etc, where are we here?

"Golden Age?"
By bsim50 on 6/18/2014 7:43:06 AM , Rating: 2
"A New Gaming Golden Age - Overall hardware sales rose to $187M USD for the month..."
Hmmm. To me, a "golden age of gaming" is one of a huge flood of rapid year-on-year creative innovation in quality gaming, not just "hardware sales are inevitably up during next gen launch year". The difference in creativity, ergonomics (mouselook, etc), GFX quality, sound design, engine capability, platform (DirectX vs MS-DOS), 3D GFX acceleration, 32-bit vs 16-bit color, etc, for 1994 Doom 2 vs 2004 Half-Life 2 is several orders of magnitude greater than the average 2004 vs 2014 game difference.

"Downloadable content on consoles, smartphone games, and social network gaming continues to be a massive lucrative, but poorly understood channels."
I think people do understand them better than they used to, but a lot of "social network gaming" are still to a large extent, plain cr*p / trashy "pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap" opportunism virtually written by advertisers than game creators (as "channels" rather than products). If "Farmville", in-game ads and "Pay to win" micro-transactions are where the bulk of future gaming revenue & developmental priority trend lies, then God help us all get through this real life Idiocracy...

Xbox Vs. PS
By inperfectdarkness on 6/20/2014 7:02:01 AM , Rating: 2
Every time I see an article on this, I see the same 2-sided debate that seems to define the USA.

"There's only 2 systems" (actually, there's 3, 4 if you count PC's).

"There's only 2 political parties" (actually, there's at least 4, and a lot more if you count some of the lesser known ones).

"There's only altruism or sadism" (actually, there's also objectivism).

...Anyone else seeing the trend here?

Xbox One stuck in the past
By Nephelai on 6/18/14, Rating: 0
"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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