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NPD figures put Xbox and PlayStation neck-and-neck in Dec 2016, with 1.5m Xboxes sold [Update]

Xbox One S
Xbox One S (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

NPD Group research retail sales in the US, offering Sony and Microsoft the opportunity to say who "won" the sales race for each month. The actual figures are a closely guarded secret, until now!

For the month of December, Xbox sold 1,511,000 units across both its Xbox One and Xbox One S consoles, which puts Xbox sales up 10% year-over-year for December. Sony took the sales lead selling 1,568,000 consoles during December, with 238,000 units of its PlayStation 4 Pro edging Microsoft into second place.

Editor's Note: Since NPD figures are not made publicly available the veracity of the numbers reported here may be in question by some readers or even other media outlets. However, as the editor in chief of Windows Central I can vouch for the authenticity of the information presented here without hesitation. - Daniel Rubino

Update: Since this article went live, we received trusted information that over 80% of Microsoft's December sales were of Xbox One S variants.

While Microsoft doesn't offer hard sales figures itself, Redmond did issue a statement to us last week confirming that it had seen year-over-year growth for Xbox, with record-breaking Xbox Live engagement for November and December.

December was the biggest month ever for Xbox One sales in the U.S. and Xbox One was the only eighth generation console with year-over-year growth, according to NPD. In addition, Xbox One was the top-selling console over the second half of 2016, following the announcement of Xbox One S at E3.In November and December we saw Xbox Live engagement reach an all-time high of 3.9 billion hours, up 23 percent compared to 2015 driven by fan excitement for the greatest games lineup. Looking ahead, we expect 2017 to be a special year for gamers thanks to the upcoming launch of the most powerful console ever in Project Scorpio and a terrific portfolio of new games with Xbox Live support on Xbox One, Windows 10 or both. – Mike Nichols, Corporate Vice President, Xbox Marketing, Microsoft

The sales of the PlayStation 4 Pro are particularly interesting considering Microsoft will launch a similar Xbox One "upgrade" console towards the end of 2017, Project Scorpio. There are only a few dozen titles utilizing the PlayStation 4 Pro's specs to offer improved visuals as of writing, but by the time Project Scorpio comes out, there will be much, much more. Microsoft will no doubt be looking to create a compelling lineup of true 4K games to match when Scorpio lands during the holiday season of 2017, and thanks to UWP, it may just achieve its aims.

Microsoft is leveraging Windows 10 and UWP to craft games that scale across the ecosystem, with a target of true 4K resolution for powerful PCs and Project Scorpio. While we haven't seen a great deal of traction when it comes to large third-party game publishers supporting UWP and the Windows 10 Store, the tide is turning, with Resident Evil 7 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare already on board.

One thing is for certain — the figures show that the industry is incredibly healthy, with both companies posting strong figures. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft can edge back into the forefront in the months between now, and when Project Scorpio launches proper.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • The online aspect of Xbox is just so much better than the PS.
  • Literally everything about the Xbox experience is better except for the PS4's superior graphics performance (which are unnoticeable outside of instrumented tests). The original Xbox One's design was terrible, as was Microsoft's messaging on the product. What's paradoxical is the PS4's launch announcement was disappointing, but MS' follow up somehow managed to be worse.
  • If the Xbox was launched under Nutella, it would be dead. The Xbox shows what vision and a persistent GAMEPLAN can do.
  • I disagree. The messaging about the console was very Ballmer-era (he was still CEO at the time): arrogant and tone deaf. Xbox One S comeback has occurred under Nadella's watch.
  • I disagree with both of you guys.  :)   Roll the XBL users into the store, eventually condense the OS into a single Windows 10 platform.  The move of Xbox Store is already pretty much done to the Windows Store.    You can look at it as dead or morphed or transitioned into the Windows 10.   Eventually One Store (done), One online service XBL (done), and One OS.
  • *Sigh*
  • I don't think either system has had issues since Christmas 2015. At last they both appear to have a grip on things. Nothing worse than new owners having difficulties on Christmas day.
  • XB seems to be on the right track since the release of XB1 and it's a good sign going forward.  PS and XB both seem to be doing well and console gaming appears like a healthy industry for the future.  
  • So close, and they had 2 SKUs. Roll on Scorpio... Get ready for the backlash if it does not live up to expectations. Or the forwardlash if it does. I haven't forgotten your $399 prediction Jez! Would be sweet, but I'm not sure. PS Pro could be near to £250 by then, certainly £299 or less. Sony are going to be very aggressive with pricing this year end.
  • Could be true
  • You have to think Sony are pretty confident of smashing their sales records in 2017, given the opportunities they have for 1st & 3rd part bundles. This alongside a likely $199 PS4 Slim and $299 PS4 Pro should move serious numbers. It will be interesting to see Xbox's performance. With focus shifting to Xbox Scorpio, there could be a weakening of Xbox One S sales.
  • I doubt Scorpio will have any significant effect on XB1S sales. Depends on the pricing of course.
  • You would also think the Xbox One S would drop in price as well.
  • 199$ ps4 not gonna happen. Ps3 still nearly 200$ and it took over 10 years.
  • PS4 is X86 so benefits from the latest fabricating techniques and cost reductions. It was going for $229 on occasion in December with a pack in game.
  • While the deals for the One S were generally better, I'm surprised that the PS4 Pro didn't generate more of a splash.
  • Those who bought one,like me, quickly saw that essentially ALL of sony's assertions about how much better the Pro was were utter lies and we weren't shy about telling others. That an the total lack of any real 4K'ness including a UHD player.
  • It very much depends on expectations. PS4 Pro has likely done over 500k in Nov/Dec in the US, and another 500k - 1m worldwide. This with a soft launch, ie no bundle, limited promotion and full RRP. 2017 will be the PS4 Pro push, starting with Horizon. They've ten months to ramps up production and marketing efforts, reveal a $299 price point, and have a choice of Horizon, GT Sport, RDR2, BF2, Destiny 2 $349 bundles, to spearhead holiday assault All the while catering for the budget sector with a $199 PS4 Slim.
  • PS4 Pro is the same as the PS4, same ram same processor just overclocked the hell out of it and added bigger cooling and power suppy. Dev's will be limited as to what they can do with the thing. PS4 is not even going to be close to how games will look on xbox sc.  
  • PS4 Pro is a 4.2TF machine, over twice as powerful as the OG PS4. These mid-gen upgrades are intended to run existing titles at higher resolutions with extra bells and whistles. When you have sports games like FIFA running native 4k/60 and shooters like CoD at 1800p/60, 3rd parties will be much of a muchness. When I see games like Horizon & God of War pushing the graphical boundaries, its difficult to imagine many titles looking better. Whether they're 4k native or 4k checkerboard seems rather moot.
  • would it be safe to say that the XB1S has been the single best selling console SKU in the US since it's in August 2016?   Combined with PS4, PS4Slim, and PS4 Pro may have sold more that XB1 in December, but individual SKUs appear to have XB1S has the top performing console.  
  • Is it true that Microsoft has sold 26M Xbox One vs Sony 55M PS4 since launch?
  • I don't know if those are the exact numbers, but they sound about right from the articles i've read over the last few years.
  • henilp89,  MS doesn't share too many Xbox One sales figures anymore as they lost the battle and the war a long time ago, then they started reporting MAU (monthly active users) which really doesn't mean much other than somone logged into Xbox Live... and I am not sure they are reporting that much anymore.  A third party has calculated that Xbox One sales at 26 million and PS4 at 55 million.   Sony has officially stated they have sold 53.4m through the end of 2016.   EA stated that MS had sold 18-19m in January 2016... so sales actually are going down globally although they might have picked up in NA.    
  • Actually MAU is important, because it shows how engaged your customers are.  If you have an active community, that continues to invest in games and services (like live) then that is a better number than how many consoles you may have sold and no one is continuing to buy games or services after the initial purchase. That does not mean the PS does not also have a vibrant/active community of the 50+ million consoles sold. Just means, that XBOX is enjoying a healthy active community while not necessarily being the best-selling console.  The most important thing is that it appears that both PlayStation and Xbox are doing well and that bodes well for gamers.  
  • From a developers/publishers POV that might be good information, I agree.   The problem is all it tells you is if someone logged in to XBL, more or less from what I know.   They stopped the sales talk when it doesn't suit their purpose, which is somewhat understandable.   Considering the horrible strategy pre-launch the Xbox One hasn't done poorly.  imo   It can be also highly distorted, generally...let me give you an example... I login with two Xbox 360s with different accounts and I also log into Xbox live on my Surface under yet another account... all for one person.   The Xbox 360 is not really a target platform any longer and my Surface isn't going to run the lastest COD, so now we have 3 maus for something I probably can't buy or even use. 
  • MAU is incredibly important and is what most companies use now days. It's especially important for Xbox as Microsoft isn't making money on the hardware, but the service and games sold.
  • XBox live has 49+ million active subscribes. PS has about 22 million. most PS users do not play online.
  • I'm a bit surprised with the PS4 Pro so shiny and new they didn't crush XB One. Guess many were happy with their PS4's? I suspect right before Scorpio is released PS will announce a PS4 Pro 2 to dissuade buyers.
  • "they didn't cruch XB One" Globally they probably did.  The Pro is a premium product, I wouldn't expect the sales numbers to go up drastically... maybe a slow grind up... eventually just replace the slim or something... 2-3 years you'll get the PS5 coming down the pipe if the econony doesn't tank.  PS4 plus the Pro will easily do 100m probably north of 120 within the first 6-7 years.  
  • The $100 premium over the competition for inferior hardware and limited market distribution vs PS4 in year 1 killed them. Once the Scorpio SKU is in the market I expect Xbox & playstation to be pretty close in sales going forward. However, they will never make up that 25-30M unit gap.
  • they don't have to make up any sales gap.  they just need to keep growing their platform and continue to keep gamers investing in games and services. There is little money in actual console sales, the business is selling software and services and if Xbox can continue to improve their services and keep gamers engaged then they will be alright.  
  • Not globally. But winning the US or even getting close would be a big win
  • Also, I remember seeing that xbox1 and ps4 sales are somewhat close overall since they have been for sale here in the USA. Overseas PlayStation dominates
  • That's true, not sure MS can reverse that trend.
  • True, it's possible they could increase sales in Europe but Japan belongs to Sony and Nintendo
  • Aye, Europe is mainly cus they launched so far behind PS4 cus of localization for Kinect... it was a huge mistake.
  • True, luckily they won't have this problem going forward.
  • Actually, Europe is mainly PS4 because Europe is mainly PlayStation anyway. Always has been. I've lived in a number of Eastern European countries where a games console isn't a games console, it's a PlayStation. Doesn't matter if you have an Xbox or whatever, most people will call it a PlayStation in the same way that a Vacuum is a Hoover and a Cola drink is Coke. That's pretty much the same in the rest of mainland Europe too, especially Southern Europe. The UK is the only real outlier in this.      
  • I live in Germany and I don't think it's the case that people describe a console as a PlayStation the same way people say a vacuum is a hoover, people know the difference. The Wii was v. popular here too. I agree though, Microsoft is generally anglo-centric with its products and that's a bit of a problem.
  • 238k sales of PS4 Pro is much lower than what I expected for the holiday season. Interesting information.
  • PS4 Pro is the same as the PS4, same ram same processor just overclocked the hell out of it and added bigger cooling and power suppy. ​who would want to buy it?
  • Same here. Pretty low
  • I trying to buy a PS4 pro but out of stock in my country. I suspect that Sony don't make much money selling the PS4 Pro at this point therefore the low supply of stock. The improvement is at the GPU. Its basically a Radeon™ RX 480 a $200 Graphic Card. PS4 Pro selling at $399. See why the low amount of stock for PS4 Pro. The waiting list for my country is May 2017.
  • I'm much more interested inthe PSVR numbers.
  • I heard they were well below Sony's expectations.
  • people don't really see the value in these mid-cycle consoles yet
  • Also lack of 4K TVs out there doesn't help, PS4 Pro will pick up.
  • The 4k upgrade doesn't offer as much to the consumer. HDR was added because resolution upgrade alone was a flop
  • And at that, companies have to create HDR content. So as it stands 4K for all intents and purposes is pointless imo. Unless of course you have like 100 inch TV.
  • Wow. Was a lot closer then I thought. And I'm sure a bunch of PS4Pro's were from existing PS4 owners trading up. Would've been interesting to see the numbers if no Pro. Will be very interesting to see the numbers when Scorpio launches
  • This gen is done, better luck next gen Microsoft.
  • Trusted game industry sources who receive NPD figures have once again given us some insight into how the Xbox is doing sales-wise in the US.   Well isn't this Microsoft's affair? In addition to catering new prosperous and highly approved ips? They fail at that one, too atm.