Gaming

The PS5 may have outdone every other console launch in history

Both in terms of units sold and total dollar value.

A Sony PlayStation 5 home video game console, taken on October 29, 2020. (Photo by Olly Curtis/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Future Publishing/Future/Getty Images

Sony’s PlayStation 5, the Big Chungus of video game consoles, is off to a great start. In the U.S., the console is the fastest selling for its first five months on the market.

That information comes from The NPD Group, a retail analysis firm that uses brick-and-mortar and digital sales figures to monitor trends. The information could be imprecise, however, and we don’t know the exact number of consoles that Sony has sold since it launched in November 2020.

Caveats — Even though the PS5 has done well for a console launch, NPD reports that Nintendo’s Switch is still selling more units overall, taking the number one spot in terms of units sold for March 2021 and the entire first quarter as a whole. The PS5 has the lead in terms of dollar value for the three-month period, but it also costs more.

In the final three months of 2020, Nintendo sold 11.5 million Switch consoles as momentum for the four-year-old console has remained strong.

The Switch launched in 2017 and shortly after, Nintendo said it was the fastest-selling console in the United States. But that metric accounted for its March 2017 launch and the subsequent holiday season. And the 4.8 million units the company reported covered all of the Americas, which includes Canada and Mexico. Since we don’t have hard sales numbers for the United States, it’s hard to validate that the PlayStation 5 is the new winner.

Headwinds — The recent launches of the PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series S/X faced headwinds due to industrywide shortages in high-end chipsets and graphics cards. The Switch uses older chipsets on a manufacturing process that’s not facing the same demand, so it’s been able to restock supply much faster. If people could actually buy the PS5, maybe it would have outsold the Switch in March.

Still, the numbers are further confirmation of what we already knew: the video game industry has boomed during the pandemic as people continue to spend more at home during the pandemic instead of, you know, going on vacation or doing anything else. According to NPD, March alone saw U.S. video game sales of $680 million, beating the prior high of $552 million in 2008.