Explosive Switch and PS4 sales show third-party exclusives are king

Explosive Switch and PS4 sales show third-party exclusives are king

Nintendo and Sony this week posted sales figures for the Switch and the PlayStation 4, respectively — and the two consoles are cleaning house. If you’re looking for a reason why these two consoles have rocketed to the top so quickly, you can probably put it down to both consoles‘ sterling lineup of exclusives.

Sony‘s PS4 hit the milestone of 100 million consoles sold in the last six years. It’s hit that milestone faster than any other console except the Nintendo DS (Ars Technica provided some handy numbers for reference). One of the things it’s boasted over its rivals is a list of exclusives from launch. BloodborneUncharted 4Spider-ManGod of WarHorizon Zero DawnPersona 5 — the list goes on for a bit.

The Switch is also posting excellent numbers. Nintendo updated its hardware numbers, listing the sales of the Switch as 36.87 million units. Considering it’s only been on the market a third as long as its fellows, that’s also an admirable number. The Switch has more exclusive games than you can shake a stick at — just in the next few months, we’ll be getting Astral ChainLuigi’s Mansion 3, and Pokemon Sword & Shield.

Meanwhile, the Xbox One is trailing its competition — by how much, we can’t be certain, as Microsoft hasn’t released sales numbers for the One in quite some time. But the console is estimated to have less than half of its Sony counterpart. And its list of console exclusives isn’t exactly as impressive as its rivals. There’s the usual Gears of WarForza, and Halo — but they’ve been so spaced out during the console‘s six-year lifespan that they haven’t done much to bolster sales. Sure, there’s been the occasional surprise, such as Cuphead, but most of those were simultaneously released on the PC.

I do think the sales also prove you need third-party exclusives more than anything. Not that I expect anyone to remember, but the Wii U is technically in the same generation as the PS4 and the Xbox One. The Wii U had a number of first-party Nintendo games, but nothing much in the way of third-party titles. And the first-party titles it did have weren’t anything to write home about: no new Legend of Zelda, some bargain-basement 2D Mario. Also, while the Switch has several of Nintendo‘s usual suspects, (Smash BrosZelda, etc), it’s also brought in dozens of third-party games to bolster its appeal — including exclusives like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3.

The takeaway from this, I hope, is that the next generation of consoles will invest just as heavily in console exclusives. So far the focus on the upcoming consoles has been about how they’ll incorporate the likes of VR or game streaming. But the sales of the current generation would seem to support the idea that it’ll be exceptional exclusive games, not the tech, that sell Project Scarlett and the PS5.

Still, as impressive as the sales figures are, the two consoles still haven’t cracked the top five on the list of best-sellers (if you count handhelds, which I do). They’ll both have to compete with their predecessors — the Wii, GameBoy and DS in Nintendo‘s case, the PS1 and PS2 in Sony‘s. The Switch might eventually reach such lofty heights, but the PS4‘s meteoric rise is almost certainly going to be dampened when it’s replaced in a year or so.

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