As of this writing it is 2:00 am in Japan, and Sony's PS4 has been out for about 2 hours. As with any console launch, excitement has been building for weeks, and eager fans lined up hours in advance to get their hands on the shiny new box. This may be Sony’s home market, but fans here have had to wait as Sony readied more software suited to the Japanese audience. Now that it’s finally launching, Sony is going to see a nice little sales bump.
The PS4 has already had an incredibly strong launch, outpacing not only it’s closest rival, the Xbox One, but every other generation of Playstation before it. Sony sold 4.2 million units in 2013, as compared to 3 million for Xbox One — and that’s with a significant supply constriction. The PS4 also “nearly doubled” Xbox One sales in the US for January. That’s especially important, because the Xbox 360 outsold the PS3 in the US and Western Europe throughout the last generation. So the PS4 has been winning a war fought mostly in enemy territory, and today it regains some homefield advantage.
The Xbox brand has struggled in Japan since day one, and it doesn’t look like Xbox One is going to do much to reverse that trend — as the Escapist points out, even the very basic idea of “the living room,” central to Xbox One’s design philosophy, doesn’t really hold up in Japan. It’s biggest games are all geared towards the Western market, and Microsoft seems to have wisely decided to largely cede the island to its rival.
It’s still early in the console war, but Sony’s current lead becomes even more impressive when you consider how it’s been hamstrung — not only had it not yet been launched in its home market, but it’s suffered considerable supply constriction everywhere else. Furthermore, there aren’t really any games driving this adoption. The PS4 launched with two boxed exclusives and a limited lineup of smaller games, of which only the bite-sized arcade shooter Resogun really impressed critics. What we’re seeing here is pure hardware excitement. Sony will need to start releasing some games to keep that momentum going, but the fact that it’s been able to do so without a particularly impressive software library speaks volumes.
We’ll wait on numbers out of Japan as the day goes on — when companies have numbers they like to share, they’ve become fond of 24-hour launch stats, so that will probably be our first indication of how this machine is doing.