If the Wii U is a failure, what is the Xbox One?

Chris Stead 30 January 2017 NEWS


As the PlayStation 4 surges past the 50 million sales mark, we question whether the Wii U is the only failure this generation.

Every race has a winner and a loser. While the race isn’t quite done, you can bet your house on both those positions in this, the eighth generation of consoles. Sony recently announced that the PlayStation 4 has surpassed the 50 million sales mark, which is an excellent achievement. It will be the winner. The Wii U, on the other hand, has managed just a tickle over 13 million and will be lucky to sell any more with the Nintendo Switch – its follow-up – out on 3 March. It will be the loser.

Sandwiched between the two is the Xbox One, Microsoft’s third console. It’s estimated to have sold 25 million units. This places it as currently the 18th best-selling console of all time, just one place above Nintendo’s previous high-profile “failure”, the GameCube. That also puts it 60 million consoles short of its predecessor, the Xbox 360, which sold 85 million units.


From a player perspective, those who own the Xbox One no doubt know it as the home of great gaming experiences, an excellent controller, a robust online infrastructure and a massive suite of broader entertainment experiences. There are great exclusives on the format, too – Forza Horizon 3, Quantum Break, Halo 5 and Gears of War 4 to name a few. But this isn’t a debate about whether the Xbox One is a quality machine with quality games, it’s about whether the console’s sales numbers – its penetration into the market – should be deemed a success or a failure.

Our detailed analysis of the console sales data for the eighth generation thus far shows that we are already seeing a significant downward curve on sales of the console. Plus, we can see from past generations that those sales will continue to taper off until the console is replaced. If the trend lines follow through, the Xbox One – should it sell through to 2019 as per a standard six-year console cycle – will tap out at approximately 42 million global sales.

If it reaches this mark, it will result in a 51% decline in install base between generations. It would also end up as the 14th best-selling console of all time, just ahead of the Nintendo 64.

If it reaches this mark…

The Project Scorpio Factor

What is Project Scorpio really? The upcoming console from Microsoft is due out before Christmas and it’s unclear whether it will simply add itself to the Xbox One family as originally envisaged, or jump ship and declare itself part of the next generation.

Nintendo is already back into the market with a ninth generation console and the message coming out from Microsoft about the Scorpio is starting to get muddled. Initially, Microsoft stipulated that Scorpio was not a successor to the Xbox One, but rather an upgraded version targeting 4K and VR users that existed in the same family. However, was that a red herring - something to distract Sony while it prepared for the release of the PS4 Pro? More recently, the developer of Ori and the Blind Forest - who has been exposed to the console - stated that it was clearly a next-gen machine.

In addition, an analysis of the currently revealed Xbox One console exclusive games shows there has been little action on the announcement front. In fact, high profile titles like Scalebound and Project Dust are dead. The Switch has double the number of console exclusive games that the Xbox One in the pipeline, and it’s not even out. This decline in announced titles is typical of consoles on their way out the door. It makes you wonder: will the sales of Project Scorpio go against the Xbox One’s generation total – like the PS4 Pro has for the PS4 - or exist as their own ninth generation tally?


Regardless, the Project Scorpio is unlikely to hugely boost the sales of Xbox-branded hardware into the market. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has stated you will need a 4K TV to see the benefits of the system, which immediately minimises the potential consumer base to elite enthusiasts. The “most powerful console ever made” will not come cheap, either.

Microsoft would have you believe it is doing away with generations. It has stopped officially reporting console sales – our estimated figure comes from global retail tracking data - and the head of Xbox games marketing, Aaron Greenberg, has alluded to the fact that future Microsoft consoles will simply be called Xbox and will be upgraded outside of generation windows. But if Sony tells a third-party developer “we sold 50 million units” and Xbox just says “we don’t talk about sales” then the games library will continue to narrow.

So is the Xbox One a failure?

Through the lens of it competition for market share against Sony, then yes, the Xbox One is a failure. With half the consoles sold to its rival thus far, and its previous generation sales total well out of reach, there’s no doubt that the console has not reached Microsoft’s expectations. In addition, when you look at third-party and indie developer support in general, but in particular with regards to exclusives, it’s also a failure in comparison to what the PlayStation 4 has received. At least for those who do own an Xbox One, it remains a great console experience.

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