The past 18 months have not been the best of times for Microsoft's Xbox One. Before launch, the console caught flack for its 'always on' policy and its focus on all media (rather than just gaming) and the troubles continued for a while.
The price remained one of the most controversial aspects of the Xbox One as it retailed for $100 higher than the PS4 due to the mandatory Kinect add-on, a policy that wasn't reversed until June. As a result of this and a few other factors (resolution and performance comparisons between the two), the Xbox One has trailed behind the PS4 in terms of sales for 10 straight months. But, after an aggressive pricing strategy from Microsoft, the console was the best selling system in the United States and the United Kingdom during the month of November.
Learning that they'd ended the PS4's success streak, Microsoft's victory lap began even before NPD's data came out, with Xbox Marketing's Corporate Vice President, Mike Nichol releasing the following statement:
"We are committed to making Xbox the best place to play, with this year’s best games, the best community of gamers to play with, and terrific value. And we are amazed by the excitement Xbox fans have shown to start off this holiday. November set a new record for sales of Xbox One, and Xbox One was the best-selling console in the US and UK. Response to the holiday lineup of games on Xbox One was incredible, with Xbox One fans buying more games in November in the U.S. than any other gen eight platform and enjoying over 357 million hours of gameplay globally. In fact, more fans logged into Xbox Live across Xbox One and Xbox 360, and enjoyed more entertainment, than any other month in the history of Xbox. We love to see the excitement from our fans and are grateful for their passion, support and contributions to the Xbox community."
Unfortunately NPD's data doesn't specify the amount of units sold (and so we can't know how wide the gap between the Xbox One and the PS4 was) but it does tell us about the health of the console market. Firmly doing away with statements that "console gaming is dead!", the sales of current-gen consoles were actually up year on year by 3% which indicates that more people are buying the PS4 and the Xbox One now more than they were at launch as prices drop and the game libraries grow.
November's numbers be largely be attributed to a wealth of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and discounts. Microsoft was especially generous with its bargains, as not only did it knock an extra $50 off the Xbox One's price but they were also offering the console with a hefty selection of games and with a variety of bundles. Sony didn't didn't counter with their own price drops for the PS4 (this was only done by some retailers on their own) which is also a contributing factor to the Xbox One's sales lead last month.
However, while Microsoft will be delighted with a win over their competitors (especially a win in the UK where the PlayStation brand has always been strong) it also poses some important questions. For example, how does Microsoft sustain this lead when the Xbox One price cut ends in January and after Sony held their own PlayStation Experience event last week to tout new exclusives coming in 2015?
It has been suggested that Microsoft will extend the price cut promotion past its January 3rd ending date, right up until the Halo 5 beta ends later in the month. That's plausible as although Microsoft would lose money per Xbox One unit sold, they have a multi-billion dollar war-chest that they aren't afraid to reach into when necessary.
For now though, the promotion is doing wonders for the Xbox One's sales and as indicated by that pre-emptive statement, Microsoft is all too happy to relish in the success.