2017 was an incredible year for the video game industry. As discussed in the latest DFC Intelligence Worldwide Video Game Forecasts reports, game software sales soared past the $100 billion mark, a year before originally predicted. Much of this was because of greater than expected growth in mobile games and Asian markets. However, the core PC and console markets also showed healthy sales. The results of our recent Video Game Consumer Survey, indicate a strong interest in console systems, led by the PlayStation 4.
On the PC side of the equation, the battle royale genre became the latest mega-hit with games like PlayerUnknown’s Battleground and Fortnite. Meanwhile, on the console side, we not only had the successful launch of the Nintendo Switch, but also the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One X. However, the one system that had the strongest sales was the original Sony PlayStation 4, which had its best year ever.
Going into 2018, our goal was to better understand the attitude of core console gamers. In February, DFC partnered with Bowen Research to survey over 800 console gamers in the United States. The results are now available and have provided excellent guidance for our forward-looking forecasts.
It should be noted that the survey specifically focused on older gamers. The minimum age was 13, but the reality was most respondents were in their 20s and 30s, or older. This is a key demographic for future growth. A system like the Nintendo Switch appeals to a younger audience and we wanted to see if it has potential for older consumers. Also, we wanted to understand how much importance sophisticated game consumers put on high-end graphics and processing power. Obviously, systems like the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro are betting that a large number of consumers will pay significantly more for a system that will play games in 4K.
Of course, looking at sales for the high-end systems this theory is definitely in doubt. However, low sales could be due to the limited installed base of 4K television systems. This survey went into major detail around the features of each console system and offered respondents the opportunity to give their likes and dislikes for each individual system. The results proved very enlightening.
To summarize some key overall results:
- The PlayStation 4 in general is extremely well regarded
- Better pricing, a much better library and higher overall rating = The Sony PlayStation 4 Pro is clearly seen as superior to the Xbox One X
- The game library for the PlayStation systems really outpaces the Xboxes/Nintendo Switch
- The penetration of 4K monitors is not a major impediment to adoption of Xbox One X
As mentioned, respondents that said they had some knowledge of a specific game system were asked to give open-ended comments of their likes and dislikes. Not surprisingly, each system has a strong and vocal fan base. This was especially true of the Nintendo Switch. It seems you are either a Nintendo person or you’re not. The strengths of the system include outstanding games like Mario and Zelda with portability as a huge plus. Weak graphics/power are not a problem for Nintendo fans, but are a problem for others. Non-Nintendo fans found the system underpowered and expensive. It should be noted that 85% of Switch owners also had a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One system. In other words, for core gamers, the Switch is a secondary system. Only 39% of PlayStation 4 owners also owned an Xbox One (45% of Xbox One owners owned a PlayStation 4).
In terms of sales, the Xbox One has really struggled outside the United States. However, even among the base of core U.S. console gamers, the Xbox One is struggling in terms of consumer perception. The price of the Xbox One X was pounded. Meanwhile, the less expensive PlayStation 4 Pro was seen as equivalent in both power and graphics. In terms of overall rating, the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro came out on top by a healthy margin. The Switch came out above both Xbox One systems which was somewhat of a surprise given the older core demographic that was surveyed.
The Xbox One has underperformed DFC forecasts the past few years. The recent DFC forecasts once again lowered the overall outlook for the Xbox One and raised forecasts for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. The results of this survey do not indicate any need to adjust those forecasts.
In coming weeks, we will provide more analysis of survey results. We also hope to conduct more surveys around specific issues and welcome any feedback or suggestions. If you would like to purchase the full survey, including the data with an interactive Excel Dashboard you can order it directly from DFC Intelligence here.