PlayStation 5’s Lifetime Sales Are Even More Impressive Than You Think

The PlayStation 5 has reached a lifetime sales milestone that is somehow even more impressive than it may initially appear to be.

Photo: Sony Interactive Entertainment/PlayStation Studios

Sony recently confirmed that the PlayStation 5 has surpassed 40 million units sold as of the week ending on July 16, 2023. 40 million sales of…well, pretty much anything is typically an impressive number, but in the sometimes mysterious world of video game hardware, you may be wondering exactly how good that number really is.

Well, the short answer is that the PS5’s early sales figures are not just impressive but historically significant. In fact, here are a few comparisons that will hopefully help put the PS5’s lifetime sales (so far) into perspective.

The PS5 Has Already Outsold Several Legendary Consoles

While we can’t really talk about the PlayStation 5’s full legacy given that the console is less than three years old (it debuted in November 2020), it’s certainly worth mentioning that the PS5 has already outsold some of the greatest consoles ever made.

Most notably, the PS5 has officially outsold the Xbox, GameCube, N64, and Sega Genesis so far. It’s also rapidly creeping up on the SNES’ lifetime sales figures (around 50 million), and will likely pass that number before the end of the year at its current sales pace.

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The significance of that information kind of depends on how you choose to interpret it. Obviously, the PS5 outselling those consoles doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily better than those consoles. That’s a much different discussion that we can’t even fairly start yet given that the PS5’s run is far from over. You also have to consider the fact that gaming is generally much bigger now than it was 20+ years ago. Furthermore, those consoles that the PS5 has surpassed in sales are united by the fact that they weren’t the best-selling consoles of their generation and actually lost their sales races to some historically notable competition. 

Even still, this number is significant. From a broader industry perspective, it’s truly incredible that the PS5 has already outsold some of gaming’s most beloved consoles in less than three years despite significant shortages and other historic market challenges. That’s a testament to just how hot gaming is right now compared to even otherwise “golden” years of the industry. 

More importantly, crossing that 40 million mark at this point means that the PS5 can reach, or pass, even more impressive historical sales figures. Speaking of which…

The PS5 Has Roughly Matched the PS4’s Sales Pace (and Is Just Behind the Nintendo Switch’s)

While the PS5 doesn’t necessarily have to outsell the PS4 to be considered a success, that’s obviously a goal Sony would love to reach. Well, based on this latest report, the PS5 is certainly on-pace to hit that mark.

In fact, the PS5 and PS4 reached the 40 million units sold mark at roughly the same time. The PS4 launched in August 2013 and is believed to have crossed the 40 million units sold mark sometime between March and May of 2016. The PS5 launched in November 2020 and officially crossed that mark in July 2023. Those numbers are remarkably close, which is all the more impressive when you consider that the PS5 faced tougher hardware competition and had to deal with significant logistical hurdles that were largely caused by historic global circumstances.  

What about the PS2, though? Does the PS5 have a chance of surpassing the best-selling console ever? Well…that’s doubtful. Based on the historic sales records that are currently available, it seems like the PS2 passed the 40 million sales mark sometime around September or October of 2002. Mind you, the PS2 wasn’t even released outside of Japan until October/November 2000. It would take an incredible surge in PS5 sales for the console to make up that kind of ground, but the fact that the PS5 is even in that discussion is impressive.

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The PS5 also compares favorably to the Nintendo Switch: the current generation hardware sales leader and one of the best-selling consoles ever. Based on the numbers Nintendo has previously shared, the Switch passed the 40 million units sold mark in September or October of 2019. In fact, the Switch reached about 50+ million units sold in the time it took the PS5 to reach the 40 million units mark. There are a lot of variables to consider when comparing those two consoles’ sales (such as the Switch being available throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns), but the point remains that the PS5 is on-pace to become one of the five best-selling consoles ever. 

Of course, there are slightly fewer variables to consider when comparing the PS5’s sales to the Xbox Series X/S sales. After all, both launched around the same time, both offered similar hardware performance, and both faced many of the same supply chain hurdles. So how does the PS5 compare to Xbox’s latest consoles? I’m glad you asked. 

The PS5 Has Nearly Doubled the Xbox Series X/S’ Sales So Far

While Microsoft rarely releases official hardware sales figures these days, the company recently suggested that the Xbox Series X and S have combined to sell a little over 21 million units so far. That means that the PS5 has nearly doubled the Xbox Series X/S sales in roughly the same amount of time. 

Now, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you’re looking at those numbers. Most notably, the Xbox team has been very clear about the fact that they are more concerned with their live services, cloud technology, and other hardware-adjacent features than they are with pure hardware sales. More importantly, PlayStation and Nintendo obviously have a huge sales advantage in Japan and other global regions that the Xbox team hasn’t been able to fully reach quite yet.

However, that information arguably makes the PS5’s sales figures that much more impressive. After all, the Xbox Series X/S aren’t just great consoles; they’re consoles that have outperformed Microsoft’s internal expectations, especially in the global regions where Xbox hardware has historically struggled. Yet, despite that increased competition (not to mention what the Switch is currently doing and the growing global popularity of PC gaming), the PS5 remains a hardware sales juggernaut.

The PS5’s story is far from over. A lot can happen between now and whenever Sony decides to replace the console with its next generation of hardware. However, the sheer metrics suggest that the PS5 will go down as one of Sony’s most successful gaming consoles. That’s a testament to the quality of the hardware and its exclusives for sure, but you also have to consider the PS5 to be something of a victory lap for the reputation that Sony has established for the entire PlayStation line until this point.

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