The Holiday period covering October, November and December is traditionally the biggest time of the year for the gaming industry. New hardware is released, big AAA titles launch and, of course, there’s a flurry of deals that can make a new console or signal the beginning the end for an older one.
2017’s Q4 is shaping up to be one of the biggest in years. For the first time since the Wii’s heyday, we have a bonafide three way dogfight for console supremacy thanks to the Nintendo Switch. Even though all three manufacturers will point to the Switch not exactly begin a straight competitor to the PS4 and Xbox One, with its handheld capabilities and lower power, there will be plenty of people who would have originally bought one of Sony or Microsoft’s offerings now considering a Switch.
Without further ado, here’s our breakdown of what will certainly be a close battle for 2017 console supremacy and our prediction for which console will reign victorious.
The reigning champion
The PlayStation 4 has been a phenomenal success since its launch four years ago. Following on from the relative disappointment of the PS3, the newest PlayStation had a lot of ground to catch up on Microsoft, but it has done so with aplomb. Now the undisputed king of the UK console market, the PS4 is now available in two revamped versions - the PS4 Slim and the PS4 Pro, both of which launched around a year ago.
Though the Xbox One closed the gap on the PS4 slightly last year, it remained the UK’s biggest selling console, largely thanks to the two new versions of the consoles. This year has been another good one for Sony. Major new IP Horizon: Zero Dawn proved popular with critics and gamers alike, while exclusive marketing rights to two of the year’s biggest cross-platform games, FIFA 18 and Call of Duty: WWII, gave the PS4 some added prominence.
However, what remains to be seen is whether effectively standing still will be enough to keep the PS4 ahead. Nintendo have come roaring back onto the scene, while the Xbox One X could ultimately have a major impact upon the appeal of the PS4 Pro. Perhaps the biggest unknown of Q4 is how Sony will respond to the threat to their flagship console. Dropping the price could look like an admission that the X has the Pro beaten in terms of power and status as the ultimate gaming machine, but it could also effectively undercut the £450 RRP of the X. This means there could be some amazing PS4 deals on the market.
The long-time rival
In the last generation of consoles, the PS3 suffered such a problematic launch that by the time it finally got going, the Xbox 360 was already in the lead and out of sight. This time around, it was Microsoft’s turn. The Xbox One didn’t struggle as much as Sony’s previous console but various issues surrounding its launch did put it on the back foot early on and it’s playing catch up ever since.
Gradually, the Xbox One has eroded the dominant gap between itself and the PlayStation. However, this year has seen the system come in for fresh questions about the lack of console exclusive games, an area in which Sony and particularly Nintendo hold a major advantage in.
What does bode well, however, is the Xbox One X, which launches on November 7th. Though the console has few exclusives, what it does boast is the ability to play third party cross-party games better than any other console. The high price may hold it back somewhat, but news that pre-orders for the console were the fastest ever for an Xbox, plus the fact that one in every five PS4s sold is now a Pro suggests there’s plenty of appetite for Microsoft’s console gaming behemoth.
The (old) newcomer
Nintendo’s history with gaming may stretch back much further than either of Sony or Microsoft’s, but this year has felt like they’re brand new on the scene, such has the impact been of the Switch. The Wii U sold so poorly - in 2013, its first full year, it was outsold not only by the PS4 and Xbox One, but even the Xbox 360 and PS3 - that Nintendo basically haven’t factored in the console conversation since the Wii was taking the world by storm.
Not everyone expected that to change when Nintendo announced the Switch, a bold-yet-risky console/handheld hybrid that divided opinion, and almost nobody - Nintendo included - expected it to perform as well as it has. The Switch launched in March, and by the end of June was nearing 5 million units sold. The Wii U, by comparison, managed under 14 million over its entire five year life span.
Though sales of the console have cooled considerably in the last couple of months, per our own sales data, much of this is due to the console’s price, which so far has barely budged but could have a chunk lopped off for Black Friday promotions and beyond. Add in the release of several major titles in the coming weeks, including Super Mario Odyssey, DOOM and Skyrim and the Switch could easily break the 10 million sales mark worldwide.
Each console has something going for it in the race to be the big winner this Christmas. The Switch is the exciting new kid on the block, offering something that we’ve never seen before. The Xbox not only has new hardware, but new hardware that can honestly claim to be the most powerful console ever. The PS4 has the historic advantage and the largest existing player base, and Sony’s reticence to enable cross-play means that for many, playing with their friends online simply requires a PS4.
However, even with the slowdown in sales we’ve monitored in recent months, we predict that the Nintendo Switch will emerge victorious in the battle for Q4 supremacy. Stock levels appear robust enough to cope with the Black Friday onslaught and with three major game releases in the coming weeks, worries about the consoles long-term support from gaming companies have generally been answered. The PS4 will sell well thanks to its marketing tie-ins and the One X may well surprise a few people, but both Sony and Microsoft’s consoles are now several years in; Nintendo have time on their side.