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Best-selling video game consoles of all-time

The current generation of consoles is selling particularly well, with numbers of hardware sold soaring to highs that platform holders never even expected. Sony have just celebrated over 500 million PlayStation consoles sold worldwide, and Nintendo is moving ever closer to their goal of 20 million Switch consoles sold by the financial year ending March 2019.


PlayStation Background

ConsoleUnits SoldReleased
PlayStation 482.2 million2013
PlayStation 383.8 million2006
PlayStation 2155 million2000
PlayStation102.49 million1994
Handheld consoles
PlayStation Portable82 million2004
PlayStation Vita10-15 million2011

When Sony last reported the number of PlayStation 4 consoles sold the total was at 82.2 million. This number includes sales of the PlayStation 4 Pro, meaning that by the holiday period this year the console could have outsold the PlayStation 3.

The PlayStation 2 was the most prolific console for Sony, with 155 million units sold over its lifetime. The console was the most popular on the market at the time, boasting a massive roster of games, many of which have gone on to be remastered or rebooted on PlayStation 4, such as God of War, and Crash Bandicoot.

Sony’s latest venture into portable gaming hasn’t proved as popular as the Play station Portable, which sold nearly as well as the PlayStation 3. Again the PSP had an incredible roster of games and was beloved by all who owned one, unfortunately the PlayStation Vita was let down by a lack of great games, though it is responsible for introducing many to the Persona series through Persona 4 Golden.


Xbox Background

ConsoleUnits SoldReleased
Xbox One39.1 million2013
Xbox 36084 million2005
Xbox24 million2001

The Xbox One family of consoles is struggling to compete with the PlayStation 4, but Microsoft maintain that the Xbox One X is still the most powerful console on the market. Xbox One sales were affected by the lack of exclusive titles, with only staple series such as Halo and Gears of War to bolster it. Microsoft has worked hard in recent years to gain more exclusives, securing Call of Duty for a time, as well as the Tomb Raider reboot series.

The Xbox 360 sold more than the PlayStation 3, but it was neck and neck. The console had a number of great titles, and was the home of Call of Duty for a very long time, giving users early access to new content when it launched. When Skyrim initially launched for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it was on Xbox 360 that it found its real home, since the PlayStation 3 version was buggy and broken, leading many fans to invest in the better version of the game on Microsoft’s console.

The original Xbox was up against the PlayStation 2, and as an unproven console it was never going to beat it. However, titles such as Splinter Cell and the very first Halo game firmly established it in the gaming community, and laid the foundations for Microsoft’s current position in the games industry.


Nintendo Background

ConsoleUnits SoldReleased
Switch20 million2017
NES and Super NES Classic Editions7.6 million2016 and 2017
Wii U13.56 million2012
Wii101.63 million2006
Gamecube21.74 million2001
Nintendo 6432.93 million1996
Super Nintendo Entertainment System49.10 million1990
Nintendo Entertainment System61.91 million1983
Handheld consoles
3DS72.89 million2011
DS154.02 million2004
Gameboy Advance81.51 million2001
Gameboy + Gameboy Colour118.69 million1989 and 1998

The Nintendo Switch experienced a rough patch due to lack of stock when it first launched. Due to the low popularity of the Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo scaled back the number of units available to avoid losing too much money, but that led to shortages both online and in physical stores. The console allows gamers to take triple A games on the go like never before, and is on track to meet the sales goals set by Nintendo.

Nintendo’s best-selling home console by far was the Nintendo Wii. The console introduced a brand new controller system, the Wii Remote, and a completely different way of playing games that was heavily marketed as healthy. One of the biggest assets to the console was Wii Sports, a title that came free with each unit, and is still one of the most talked about games by gamers and non-gamers alike.

Both the NES Classic and the SNES Classic consoles are a new venture from Nintendo, both of which were limited runs of smaller units that contained a set amount of pre-loaded games. Each of these consoles has completely sold out due to their popularity, and the nostalgia factor they bring, allowing gamers to relive their childhood memories.

The Nintendo Wii U was a significant flop for Nintendo. The console was a precursor to the Nintendo Switch, but lacked the portability that has made their latest console a success. Instead the Wii U held promises of a new Zelda title which never released, and was so off putting to developers that every few games ever released for it. What the console did bring to life was The Legend of Zelda Windwaker HD Remake, which is a remastered version of a masterpiece that was originally released for the Gamecube, and cannot be played on any other consoles.

The Gamecube may not had sold incredibly well, but it was beloved by all who owned it. The console saw the initial release of Resident Evil 4, a now icon title in the franchise, as well as Metroid Prime and the original release of The Legend of Zelda Windwaker. Games from the Gamecube could also be played on the Nintendo Wii, meaning that those who owned one were far more likely to upgrade to the other.

The Nintendo 64 is the home of 3D gaming, and where gamers first saw Mario change from a beloved 2D sprite into a 3D model they felt like they could reach out and touch. Many tropes from video games today were first implemented in titles on the Nintendo 64, which shaped a lot of what is now normal in games in 2018.

In terms of handheld consoles, the Nintendo DS proved to be Nintendo’s best-selling. The handheld featured two screens, one of which was a touch screen, allowing for interesting gameplay mechanics to be used in all titles. Many games found their home on the Nintendo DS, and thanks to a wide range of different versions, from the DSi to the DS XL, there was always something for a new fan to purchase.

Current generation consoles have a long way to go before they can match the sales of some of the best-selling consoles in the industry’s history. PC gaming is a lot more prevalent and in many cases the better place to play for a number of reasons, including graphics and overall functionality.

Microsoft has already confirmed that they are working on a brand new console, set to be their release for the next generation, and there are many rumours that PlayStation 5 dev kits have already been sent out to developers from Sony. Handheld gaming seems to be dominated by Nintendo, with Sony backing away from the scene after the PlayStation Vita didn’t perform as well as they’d liked. The Nintendo Switch provides everything handheld gamers want, and there are only more triple A titles lined up to release for it.

Whether or not the Nintendo Switch will stand out from the crowd in terms of sales, as the Nintendo Wii did, is still up for debate. The console is popular but has a long way to go, and another generation of consoles to compete with, before it even comes close to Wii numbers.

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