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Gaming Console Sales Data Is Mostly Noise


From the Buzz & Banter: Microsoft could be closing the gap vs. Sony, but it's just too early to tell.


Market research firm NPD reported February US video game industry sales today, indicating that the Sony (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 4's lead over Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One diminished a bit.

The numbers were reported in a bit of a funky way: NPD merely said the "Xbox One sold over 90% of what the PS4 sold in terms of unit sales."

But Microsoft itself announced that it sold 258,000 Xbox units, which implies PS4 unit sales of about 286,000-287,000, or possibly a bit lower.

NPD also noted that in dollar terms, Microsoft actually beat out Sony because of the Xbox One's higher price.

So is Microsoft coming back in any major way?

It's far too early say -- just as it's far too early to declare Sony the ultimate victor.

Microsoft should have a solid month or two on the back of Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:EA) Xbox-exclusive shooter Titanfall, but keep a couple things in mind:

First, Sony has had trouble keeping the PS4 in stock, which can skew sales numbers lower.

Second, there likely aren't many people specifically switching from Sony to Microsoft. At this point in the cycle, the primary buyers are serious gamers, a group that tends to be brand-allegiant.

And if anything, it seems more appealing to switch from Microsoft to Sony rather than the other way around, because the Sony PS4 is much less expensive.

That makes this data point mostly noise, and we don't know if the tide is actually turning for Microsoft.

Of course, when we think longer-term, Sony and Microsoft still face a macro challenge in growing the number of gamers.

The last cycle was artificially large because of the casual game boom led by the Nintendo (OTCMKTS:NTDOY) Wii and Activision's (NASDAQ:ATVI) Guitar Hero franchise. The industry needs similar mass-market phenomena to show real cycle-over-cycle growth.

This less-sexy issue is far more important than who came out on top on one data point.

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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