Sony's console has out sold Xbox 360, but what do the numbers mean for the coming generation?

PS3 sells 80m units since launch

More than 80 million units of the PlayStation 3 were sold before the console’s seventh birthday earlier this month, claims Sony.

This is a small win for Sony, since Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 a year earlier than the PS3 and only hit the 80 million mark last month.

The PlayStation 4 arrives in stores next week, so the news that the PS3 outsold its main rival is certainly timed well for Sony’s interests.

To focus on the core console slugging match misses the reverse of the coin though, and it must be noted that Nintendo’s Wii, which launched at the same time as the PS3, has sold 100 million units worldwide.

Nintendo created a sensation when it launched the first motion-controlled console, but over time sales dwindled and the company has already ceased production.

The outgoing consoles may have lived up to the promise that the first shall be last, but a generation before that, Sony’s PlayStation 2 was one of the first out of the gate and managed to sell 155 units before production was discontinued this year.

EA predicts that the PS4 and Xbox One will collectively ship more than 10 million units by next April.

For easy maths, assume that’s 5 million sales split down the middle, and that the figure would be reached at the end of April – six months on the market.

That comes out to about 10 million sales a piece for the year, which isn’t a bad start, but it certainly doesn’t put Sony or Microsoft on track to beat the PS2’s record.

It also means that despite the rhetoric thrown around, EA doesn’t seem to expect the upcoming console generation to equal the sales figures of the current, and the PS2 alone will probably beat out the combined figures of both consoles.

That might be bad news to some, but reports claim that Sony and Microsoft have managed to at least minimize the loss at which the first run of consoles will be sold, which suggests they’ve planned for the shrinking market and will still be able to turn a profit.

The last generation had to deal with a lot of new competition and disruption from the explosion of mobile gaming, the advent of motion control with the Wii, and the return of PC gaming through Steam, and things still haven’t settled down.

Wearable computing will certainly become more mainstream in the next ten years – or else fall flat – and Valve’s vision of a home-based hive mind has more implications than just bringing PC gaming to the living room.

Sales will probably decline for the next console generation as they did for the last, but either company could just as easily ride the wave of change to make it a huge success.

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