Sony's PlayStation 4 continues to soar with 20M sold

By contrast, Microsoft's most recent public count in November noted Xbox One sales at around 10 million, though that figure is likely much higher after a strong holiday-shopping season.

Over 20 million of these things have been sold worldwide since 2013. Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony's PlayStation 4 continues to cement its position as the leading game console for this generation of devices.

Sony has sold 20.2 million PlayStation 4 units worldwide as of March 1, up nearly 2 million units since the company announced in January that sales had hit 18.5 million units. Sony said the PlayStation 4 is the fastest-selling game console it has ever launched.

The announcement comes as the game industry holds one of its biggest events of the year, the Game Developers Conference. This year's event in San Francisco has included announcements of new games, new set-top boxes, and Sony's latest prototype of its Project Morpheus virtual-reality headset.

Sony's grip on console sales has been tight since the device launched in November 2013. The PlayStation 4 got off to a strong start, thanks in part to its solid game library and a $400 price tag that made it $100 cheaper than its chief competitor, the Xbox One, which launched in the same month.

The price difference became such an issue for Microsoft last year that the company decided to unbundle its Kinect motion-gaming sensor, bringing the price down to match its chief competitor, the PlayStation 4. During the fourth quarter, Microsoft also offered special pricing to boost console sales -- an effort that paid off when research firm NPD announced that the Xbox One led the holiday-shopping season in the US.

Still, the Xbox One is trailing Sony's PlayStation 4 in worldwide sales. In November, Microsoft announced that its console had nearly reached 10 million unit sales. Since then, the company hasn't divulged sales data. But given holiday sales, Microsoft is believed to have sold millions more since November.

Microsoft declined CNET's request for more recent sales figures.

In sharper contrast is Nintendo. The company announced earlier this year that through 2014, it had sold 9.2 million Wii U units since its release in November 2012, trailing far behind its chief competitors. Nintendo has said it believes it can still turn the console around by focusing more on first-party software, but the chances that it will catch up with PS4 or Xbox One seem less and less likely.

Looking ahead, Sony's PlayStation business will play a central role in the company's operation. Sony said last month that it hopes to generate an operating profit of over 500 billion yen (about $4.2 billion) by March 2018 by focusing on four core areas: the PlayStation gaming division, Sony Pictures, Sony Music and its device business that includes sensors.

Sony said that it will invest heavily in those areas, while spending less in other parts of its business that have been underperforming. Sony didn't announce a road map for its PlayStation business, but said that the console will be a cornerstone for profit in the coming years.

Actually getting to use that profit may be difficult: Sony expects to finish its current fiscal year, which ends this month, with a net loss of 170 billion yen ($1.4 billion).

Sony declined CNET's request for comment.

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