Can the PS4 Outsell the PS2? - Analysis

Can the PS4 Outsell the PS2? - Analysis - Sales

by William D'Angelo , posted on 05 June 2020 / 3,221 Views

Can the PlayStation 4 outsell the PlayStation 2? It might seem like a simple yes or no question, but there are many factors that may or may not not help the PS4 to continue to generate strong sales and catch up with the PS2. The PS2 is the best-selling video game console of all time, while the PS4 is the best-selling home console of the last two generations. Only the Nintendo DS has sold more than the latter in recent years, with over 154 million units sold. 

Sony had a staggered launch approach for the PS2. It first launched in Japan in March 2000, followed by an October 2000 release in North America, and a November 2000 release in Europe. Sony took a similar approach for the PS4 - it first launched in North America and Europe in November 2013, followed by a February 2014 release in Japan. 

The PS2 had an impressively long lifespan, with Sony continuing to produce the console until December 2012 in Japan and January 2013 worldwide. That gave the console an overall lifespan of nearly 13 years. This compares favourably to the PS4, which has currently been on the market for a little over six and a half years, as of May 2020.

    

How are PS4 Sales & PS2 Sales Tracking When Aligned?

Sony has shipped a total of 110.4 million PS4 consoles as of March 31, 2020, and 155 million PS2 consoles as of March 31, 2012. Exact lifetime figures aren't actually known for the PS2, as Sony stopped reporting sales for the console before it ceased producing new units, however it's most likely between 155 million and 160 million units sold lifetime.

Through the first 100 million consoles shipped the PS4 was tracking slightly ahead of the PS2; it took the PS4 five years and seven months to reach the headline milestone, while it took the PS2 five years and nine months to get there. As of the first six years and five months (March 2020), the PS4 is still tracking ahead of the PS2. So the PS4 has the edge on this single (but important) measurement, for now.

PS4 Annual Shipment Figures

PS4 shipment figures peaked in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, with 20 million consoles shipped. Shipments figures were 19 million for the following fiscal year, followed by 17.8 million the year after that, demonstrating impressive lasting power beyond the peak for a couple of years. However, the most recent fiscal year, ending March 31, 2020, saw Sony shipping a total of 13.6 million units; a notable decline on previous years. 

   

Can the PS4 Outsell the PS2?

Aligned tracking is just one key way to compare the two platforms. As we've seen above, the PS4 is slightly ahead on that measurement - but only slightly, and we're only roughly half way through the PS2's lifespan when aligning. So let's now take a look ahead at possible PS4 sales going forward and see if it has a chance of catching up to the lifetime sales of the PS2. 

VGChartz has estimated lifetime sales of the PS2 at 157.68 million units, while we have lifetime sell-through estimates of the PS4 at just over 111 million units through to the end of May 2020. PS4 lifetime sales are therefore currently around 46.6 million total units behind the PS2. 

PS2 Sales

Taking a look at the trend for PS4 shipment figures, it's clear they're going to continue to decline year-over-year from this point onwards. The platform is now in its twilight years, especially with Sony shifting its focus to its next generation console, the PlayStation 5, which is due to launch this coming holiday season. 

PS4 sales and the entire gaming industry starting in mid-March and through April saw a huge boost due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Sales for the PS4 were down around 40 percent year-over-year through the first two months of 2020, however starting in March sales have been up year-over-year. PS4 sales through the combined first five months of 2020 are now down just five percent when compared to the same period a year ago. 

Video game sales, while still remaining strong in May, haven't been as strong as they were in March or April. As we head further into 2020 and get closer to the launch of the PS5, sales for the PS4 will likely return to being down year-over-year. 

   

What are the Potential PS4 Shipment Figures?

Let's take a look at possible shipment figures for the PS4, based on some roughly estimated percentage drops in the coming years. If shipment figures for the PS4 drop at a steady 30 percent per year, and assuming it has a similar lifespan to the PS2 (which is far from certain), it will fall short, with lifetime totals of around 138.5 million units. That would put it at least 16.5 million units behind the PS2, assuming the PS2 only managed 155 million units sold lifetime (as we noted above, the end figure for the PS2 is probably slightly higher than this in reality). 

If shipment figures for the PS4 drop at a steady 20 percent per year, it will once again fall short, however by a much smaller amount. It would end up selling around 150.5 million units lifetime and become one of just three dedicated video game platforms to sell over 150 million. 

Can The PS4 Outsell The PS2? - Analysis

Now sales for consoles don't decrease at a steady percent every year once it reaches its best-selling year. With the boost in sales the last few months and the console only being down five percent year-over-year, it is likely that sales for the PS4 this fiscal year will be down by less than 20 percent.

The MSRP for the PS4 has also been $299 for several years and it is long overdue for a price cut, especially with the launch of the PS5 less than six months away. If the PS4 price is slashed it would likely be to $199 or $249, while the PS4 Pro price would likely be cut from $399 to $299. 

If Sony were to cut the price of the PS4, along with the boost in sales since mid-March, it is entirely possible Sony ships just 10 percent fewer consoles for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. That would be around 12.2 million units shipped, to bring lifetime shipment figures to 122.6 million units. 

Can The PS4 Outsell The PS2? - Analysis

Following a good current fiscal year, with 122.6 million units shipped through March 2021, sales would need to decline at a steady rate of just 20 percent for the PS4 to catch up to the PS2, assuming a matching lifespan. With a consistent 20 percent drop year-on-year the PS4 would end up selling around 155 million units lifetime. 

But will the PS4 have a lifespan as long as the PS2? A lot depends on the PS5 and its price point at launch, which we still don't know. The PS2 was able to maintain decent sales once the PS3 launched in November 2006, and remained on the market another six years after its successor launched, which was a remarkable feat. On the other hand, the PS3 had a much shorter lifespan, and was taken off the market just three and a half years after the PS4 launched.

The PS3 had a slow start with a much higher price tag than its main rivals, the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, which contributed to the PS2's continued success. While the PS2 launched at $299 in 2000 and by 2009 was only $99, the PS3 by contrast launched at $499-599, depending on the model. Not only did it launch at a much higher price than the PS2, but by the time it was off the market in May 2017 the cheapest model was on sale for $269. 

The lifespan of the PS4 will therefore depend on how low Sony is willing to drop the price and how successful the PS5 is at launch and in its first year. If the PS5 is a success out of the gate, the PS4 will have a shorter lifespan that we can estimate to be of around three and a half to four years following the PS5's launch, making it impossible for the PS4 to ever catch up with the PS2 (it would likely finish in the 130-140 million range). However, if the PS5 has a slower start, similar to the PS3, then the PS4 could have another six years post PS5 launch before it is discontinued, giving it a more reasonable chance of outselling the PS2.

So, returning to the question posed by this article - will the PS4 outsell the PS2? There's certainly a path for it to surpass 155 million units shipped, but it relies on the PS4 having a similar lifespan to the PS2 and a steady, stable decline in yearly sales. It's currently looking very unlikely.


A life-long and avid gamer, William D'Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel and Twitch channel dedicated to gaming Let's Plays and tutorials. You can contact the author at wdangelo@vgchartz.com or on Twitter @TrunksWD.


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20 Comments

trunkswd (on 05 June 2020)

For everyone who took the time to read the article, thank you. Giving it a share on social media and to friends helps us out a lot.


Amnesia (on 05 June 2020)

Shared on my facebook ! (even if only 0,5% of my friends care maybe...)


  • +1
trunkswd (on 05 June 2020)

Thank you for sharing it!


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yo33331 (on 05 June 2020)

what about the case of PS1 and PS2 ? where the PS2 was very successful console and despite this PS1 still sold well after the launch of PS2 ? around 20M or more (which for the sales back then which PS1 had - 80M that was 25% of the total sales more) which now would be around 30M more (25% of ~120 = 30M) which would pretty close


siebensus4 (on 05 June 2020)

That was exactely my question, because the PS4 situation is more comparable with PS1, because the successor is downward compatible. With that 25 % target after the launch of the successor we should be above 140M, but below 150M after all is said and done.


  • +2
yo33331 (on 05 June 2020)

we can be more, this is 30M, so with this year ps4 is making around 120M + 30M this is 150M, and with a little bit of luck and god help PS4 to push some more units and sony to put it at 99$ in 2023 or 2024, it's not impossible to boost some 10M more.


  • +2
Blood_Tears (on 05 June 2020)

I think it had a chance to get close about a year or two ago but lack of price drops over the years prevented this.


DialgaMarine (on 05 June 2020)

They can still do price drops, technically.


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Wman1996 (on 05 June 2020)

The odds of PS5 under-performing are slim at the moment. Just about the only way PS4 outsells the PS2 is if the PS5 flounders like the PS3.


trunkswd (on 05 June 2020)

That is the same conclusion I came to when writing this. We will know once Sony announces the launch price and release date for the PS5.


  • +3
freedquaker (on 06 June 2020)

I had predicted back in 2014 that PS4 would certainly surpass PS3 and PS1 but not PS4 by selling between 120 and 140 million by the end of 2020. PS4, however, may still outsell PS2 in the upcoming years. I see two counter reasons (con and pro). Con: PS2 has been around for longer than PS4 without competition form generations, and did not a have fierce competition from MS or the Big-N, which gives the PS2 and advantage Pro: PS5 will be backwards compatible and the vast majority of the PS5 titles will have PS4 (compatible) versions. Also At least for the first 2 years, there will be no Xbox Series X exclusive, which means, pretty much all third party games will be cross-generational. Additionally, with a possible price cut for the current generation consoles, and increasingly diminishing returns for the console graphics, PS4 will be a cheaper alternative for the non-hardcore audience. Add that the increasing turmoil in most countries, which seek for the cheaper alternative. In essence, PS4 will do fine, especially in the non-English Speaking nations, including but not limited to South and Eastern Europe as well as Asia. So there is a chance that PS4 will sell a lot more, but whether it will surpass PS2 depends on the price and other circumstances.


Cerebralbore101 (on 05 June 2020)

I think 130 Million lifetime sales for PS4 is a given at this point. Worst case scenario PS4 only has two more years of decent sales in it post PS5 launch. That would mean PS4 selling something like 10 million units in 2021, and another 5 million in 2022. From then on out a very slow trickles of sales would bring it to 130 million units, before finally being discontinued in 2023.


Kinneas14 (on 07 June 2020)

Great article. This is the content we want! :)


SanAndreasX (on 06 June 2020)

My big question is, can the Switch beat the Wii (and maybe the PS1)?


DialgaMarine (on 05 June 2020)

Not likely. PS2 had the advantage of selling an additional ~30 million units after PS3 launched, due to that being so badly. Only way I could see PS4 outselling it is if PS5 is somehow worse, which we already know it won't be.


UnderwaterFunktown (on 05 June 2020)

Honestly I think cutting the PS4 price at this point would just be bad business. The loss per hardware sales shouldn't be too bad and could probably be made back in software, but if the PS4 is too cheap it could function as extra competetion for the PS5 which was kind of what happened with the PS2 and PS3. It sort of worked out for them back then because that low price point helped them reach a wider market and establish Playstation as a really strong brand globally, but this time that brand value is already there and focusing on pushing the PS5 would probably just be more profitable for them. As a side note I do however think the PS4 has a very good shot at beating the PS2 is Europe, and taking the all-time crown there. According to VG's estimates it's less than 10 mil behind.


Robert_Downey_Jr. (on 06 June 2020)

It would be excellent business and they should have done it sooner. cut price to $199. reach the mass market and sell software to millions more customers. Then when they eventually want to upgrade when the PS5 reaches a lower price they're more likely to go with it because they have games that will be BC with it. honestly they should've cut price back in 2018 by $100 and taken the gains on market and software and PS+ sales


  • +1
UnderwaterFunktown (on 07 June 2020)

It sort of seems like we're arguing for different things. Cutting it in 2018? That's a whole other story since it would have given them 2 years of stronger sales for their main system compared to doing it now, and yea that would probably have been a profitable move. But now the PS5 is less than 6 months off and they're starting to hype it up. Giving people a significantly cheaper alternative right now isn't in their best interest. You assume they'll upgrade, but not all the people who buy consoles are dedicated consoles gamers who will get a system of every genereration.


  • -1
Chicho (on 06 June 2020)

For your next article you should do " Can the XBox One Outsell the X360? - Analysis - Sales" because that has about the same chance of happening.


DialgaMarine (on 07 June 2020)

I wouldn't go that far.


  • -1