The numbers tell the story so far, and the story is not a good one for Microsoft
. Online shopping portal BuyVia makes the numbers very clear, and both demand and interest in the PlayStation 4 is outstripping that of the Xbox
One. But there may be a new development on the horizon that could give Sony a bit of a crimp in its rapid gains, and give Microsoft some new hope.
The BuyVia numbers are unmistakeable, really: in the period between November 25 and December 14, over 150,000 users went looking for a PlayStation 4 on BuyVia. By way of comparison, 45,000 users turned to BuyVia to find an Xbox One. Those who actually pulled the trigger on a game purchase, however, were a bit closer than the numbers imply: 57 percent of buyers turned to PlayStation 4, while 43 percent turned to the Xbox One. BuyVia's founder, Norman Fong, suggested that the perceived scarcity of the device may have helped fuel the differences; people regarded the PS4 as harder to find, and thus when it was available, pulled the trigger lest the choice be made for them, and possibly not to their benefit, later in the form of “sold out” messages. This is possible, but not necessarily the case.
But there's something of a new development on the horizon that may give Microsoft a bit of a hand. Not only are there the standard refinements, post-launch shakedowns and similar matters to consider—especially if a price cut comes along, the Kinect goes optional, or both—but new word has emerged suggesting that Microsoft may have a shot at the Chinese market, one that Sony may not be able to get. Reports suggest that Microsoft may, in late 2014, join up with a Chinese firm to bring the device to Chinese shores. The firm in question, BesTV, currently has a joint venture with Microsoft, and reports from BesTV subsidiary Funshion says that the company is working on marketing and advertising campaigns specifically related to the Xbox One.
The Chinese government banned gaming consoles back in 2000, owing largely to their ability to corrupt youth—though consoles are available via the black market—but this in turn has pushed PC gaming
to new levels in the field, showing there's plenty of interest in gaming regardless of what the Chinese government actually thinks about the matter.
But there are some who believe that this may not come to pass, and indeed, it may not. There are plenty of gray areas involved in terms of the Chinese laws surrounding what products can and can't be made and sold in the country, and some have already suggested that the joint venture in question may end up making a product specific to the market. But consider if it actually comes to pass.
The Chinese market is gigantic. As huge as the United States market is, the Chinese market actually surpasses it, in terms of sheer population, by somewhere around a factor of three to one. If Microsoft can get access to this market first, it may well be able to tap that massive population of pent-up gamer who's been holding out on a supply of PC games and whatever mobile device games make it in. That's a huge possible gain for Microsoft, and the kind of thing that might put it ahead of Sony for good.
This round of the console wars has really just begun, and there's the better part of a decade between now and the next round. Just what will come out in the interim remains to be seen—E3 is still a good seven months out—but it could be a very exciting time indeed for gamers as Microsoft looks to regain its crown, and Sony looks to hold the territory it's gained in the interim.