The NPD Group last week announced that Halo 5: Guardians set atop the gaming charts for October, despite its Xbox One exclusivity. The latest installment of the long-standing sci-fi shooter has given the Xbox One a much-needed boost, but Microsoft’s latest console is still well behind rival Sony’s PlayStation 4.
Overall, the console market saw marginal gains in October as combined sales of hardware and software reached $805.9 million, about a 2 percent increase year over year, NPD said.
Sales of accessories helped offset marked drop-offs in legacy hardware sales and waning shipments of existing portable hardware, the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS family.
For Microsoft, however, October was a good month. Halo helped the Xbox One outsell the pack-leading PlayStation 4 for the month, going by inferences based on Sony and Microsoft’s coded language on their respective hardware’s shipments.
Halo 5: Guardians, October’s top game, led a 2K-heavy top five that included NBA 2K16, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Madden NFL 16 and WWE 2K16.
Halo 5 has been a tremendous success for Microsoft and the Xbox One, setting the mark for the fastest-selling Xbox One game to date, said EEDAR analyst Matthew Diener.
“In short, Guardians is a great, successful game, but — unfortunately — Microsoft may be struggling a bit to keep the momentum rolling,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Their other major Xbox One exclusive this fall, Rise of the Tomb Raider, saw great critical reviews (Metascore of 86 with 79 positive reviews) but had the unfortunate timing of launching alongside Fallout 4.”
Halo 5 blasted off to success thanks in large part to a months-long marketing campaign, noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“The combination of ads, placement in shows and movies is unprecedented and at the core for the initial demand for the offering. [I] just watched the latest Halo movie, which wasn’t bad actually,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
Hits for the Holidays
Marketing can only take a game so far, and a game can only take a console so far.
It’s no secret that the PlayStation 4 has built a huge lead over the Xbox, noted EEDAR’s Diener. So now it’s on Microsoft to figure out ways to make up that lost ground.
“A robust stable of exclusives is one way to go about that — and, certainly, the Xbox One has a few promising exclusives coming in 2016 with Scalebound, Quantum Break and Crackdown 3, but another option is to reposition the Xbox One as a more core system,” he said.
Appealing to the eSports crowd is one way for the Xbox One to distinguish itself from the PlayStation 4.
The traditional home to all things Call of Duty until recently, the Xbox has been a force in the eSports sector. Microsoft may need to continue appealing to the eSports crowd in order to distinguish the Xbox One from the PlayStation 4, Diener said.
“There’s evidence that Microsoft is feeling this approach out with the launch of the eSports-friendly MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) Smite on the Xbox One this summer and the launch of its eSports controller,” Diener said. “But even here Sony can’t be counted out, as it already has console-exclusive rights to Street Fighter V, which should see a good amount of traction in the eSports community.”
PlayStation’s Points of Interest
Despite holding a lead it’s expected to maintain throughout this console generation, PlayStation 4 could be overtaken by Xbox and whatever’s next for Nintendo. The PlayStation 4 has a “surprisingly sparse” lineup for the holiday season, Diener said.
“The fact that Sony is leveraging the cross-platform Star Wars Battlefront as a major system seller this season is quite telling,” said Diener “But Sony also has an extremely strong lineup of exclusives and console exclusives planned for 2016.”
Those exclusives include The Last Guardian, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Street Fighter V and No Man’s Sky, he said. That doesn’t include more niche exclusives such as Nier: Automata, The Witness, Persona 5 and The Tomorrow Children.
“The unexpected upside to the lack of PlayStation 4 exclusives this holiday season means that PS4 owners can catch up on platform exclusives that they might have missed from the past year,” Diener added, “like Bloodborne, Until Dawn and Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.”