There’s no such thing as a console war (but the PlayStation 5 is still beating the Xbox Series X)


Though this month is normally dedicated (on the internet, at least) to the annual skeleton war, every few years we redo that whole Battle of Koom Valley Sony versus Microsoft/PlayStation versus Xbox thing. There’s not quite the level of animosity and fanboyish in evidence in previous generations, because gaming’s come a long way since then, but there’s still… conflict. Rivalry. A little friendly banter, as each side, insists that it has the superior product. But there’s always a winner in every argument and it may not be who you’re expecting it to be.

Welcome to reality

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5, in terms of pricing, aren’t especially different. Both the flagship device’ll set you back R12,000 if you buy on day one. With the price out of the equation, you could also look at the raw numbers. Who, on paper, has the most powerful games console?

The answer to that is only a surprise if you haven’t been paying attention for the past few months — Microsoft’s Xbox Series X has the superior hardware this generation. This isn’t wishful thinking or a biased opinion — the Series X has a slightly speedier processor but a considerably more powerful graphics card — fielding 12 teraflops to Sony’s 10.28. A larger SSD (though Sony’s choice is quicker, by far) makes it seem like the Xbox Series X would win any console war you care to name. But…

Wars are won in cyberspace

But there’s more to warfare than just who has the strongest army. There are loads of other factors, including propaganda. And it’s here, according to a company called SimilarWeb, that Sony’s PS5 is absolutely trouncing Microsoft’s Xbox Series X just about everywhere online.

The data mostly concerns the American market, but that’s just one of a few similar battlegrounds. In terms of web traffic after pre-orders were announced, Sony’s console had a far larger increase in users heading to the company’s website looking for new gaming hardware. That doesn’t mean more sales, not really, but it does mean more interest. Sony’s website also garnered more organic web traffic over the pre-order announcement period.

Traffic to online retailers’ pages for the respective consoles told a similar story. While Microsoft’s console had its share of fans, Sony’s pages, whether it was on GameStop, Walmart, Best Buy or Target, spiked considerably higher than Microsoft’s did. Whether this is going to translate to higher sales than for Microsoft’s Xbox Series X is another story but, on this front, Sony’s winning.

The home front

We did a little homework of our own, looking at Google Trends information for South Africa around the popularity of both consoles. In terms of pure search, Sony’s PlayStation 5 has been more popular overall in South African searches since about December last year. Similar spikes for both consoles have occurred whenever a new announcement is made, but Sony’s spikes are a fair amount larger than Microsoft has managed.

This becomes even more pronounced when you take a look at South African interest on a shopping level. There’s not much difference when looking at the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 in terms of keyword search — but Sony’s console is ahead here anyway. But South Africans do love their contractions and the PS5 is an easy one — while nobody’s come up with a decent one for Microsoft’s newest console yet. Key in ‘PS5’ and the results are striking. If there’s a propaganda war (and there’s always a propaganda war, it’s 2020, dammit!), Sony’s PlayStation 5 is winning.



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