Sony steals the show as Microsoft goes missing in action

Microsoft was a noticeable absentee at the Tokyo Game Show (TGS).

The maker of the Xbox announced in July that it was bowing out of this prestigious video game expo, leaving it dominated by Sony PlayStation consoles and games.

This is not the first time Microsoft has pulled a no-show at TGS. It did so in 2012, too.

But, to industry observers, its absence, coupled with the Xbox One's dismal sales in Japan, could signal Microsoft waving a white flag on the PlayStation 4's (PS4) home turf, where the Sony console has a stranglehold on the market.

In the first week of July, the PS4 sold 15,000 units in Japan. The Xbox One sold only 149 units.

Globally, the PS4 is also trouncing its rival. From April to June this year, Sony sold three million PS4s worldwide, compared with 1.4 million Xbox 360s and Xbox Ones combined, according to financial reports from both companies.

While there are no sale figures for Singapore, pundits The Straits Times spoke to confirmed that the console market here is heavily skewed in favour of the PS4.

Mr Soon Qishan, owner of game retailer Qisahn, said for every Xbox One console sold, he sells eight PS4s. He added that, for games, he orders 10 PS4 games to every Xbox One game.

Mr Jax Xie, founder and chief executive officer of GameTrader.SG - an online portal for people to sell and buy games - said that this year an overwhelming 83 per cent of listings on the website were for either PS4 or PS3 games, with the other 17 per cent split among consoles such as the Xbox, Nintendo DS and Wii.

In Singapore, the PS4 had a jump on the Xbox right from the start. The Sony console debuted here in December 2013, only a month behind its international debut in the United States and Europe. Singapore was even ahead of Japan, which got it in February last year.

The Xbox One was released in November 2013 in the US, but reached Singapore only 10 months later, in September last year.

Game industry observers also pointed out that the Xbox One's higher price at its launch could have discouraged gamers from buying it.

At its launch, the Xbox One cost US$499 (S$706) for a console, controller and the Kinect sensor. There was no way to purchase the Xbox One without the Kinect. On the other hand, the PS4 cost US$399 for a console and controller.

"I think Microsoft messed up on the pricing. During the launch, they tried to position themselves as a premium console, an all-in-one option," said Mr Soon.

"But consumers didn't buy that, as PlayStation's branding is stronger than that of the Xbox One, at least out of the US."

By the time the Xbox One was launched in Singapore in September last year, Microsoft had dropped its Kinect bundling, and the console and controller were available for $639, the same price as the PS4 when it made its Singapore debut in December 2013.

Now, both consoles in Singapore cost $569 but, from next month, Sony will be keeping its pricing competitive by lowering the PS4's suggested retail price to $539.

According to Mr Xie, another reason the PS4 has gained such traction over the Xbox is its healthy stable of exclusive game titles.

"PlayStation has stronger game titles, such as the Uncharted series and Little Big Planet. Xbox's main anchor title is still Halo," he said.

Lisabel Ting

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'Sony steals the show as Microsoft goes missing in action'. Print Edition | Subscribe