For the first time since 2014, an Xbox console outsold a PlayStation console in Japan’s weekly charts; the Xbox Series S beating the PlayStation 5.

Source: PS5 Hardware Reveal Trailer, PlayStation, YouTube

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According to Famitsu (with machine translation via DeepL), the week of May 9th to May 15th saw the Xbox Series S outsell the PlayStation 5 by 3427 units. The Xbox Series S sold 6120 units while the PlayStation 5 only sold 2,240. 

However, the Xbox Series X was still being outsold by the PlayStation 5 by 2,588 units. The Xbox Series X sold only 105 units. 

You can find the full breakdown below.

  • Switch / 20,443 units (Cumulative total: 1,828,818 units)
  • Switch Lite: 9,011 units (cumulative total of 4,719,293 units)
  • Nintendo Switch (OLED model) / 35,868 units (Cumulative total: 1,757,019 units)
  • PS5 / 2,240 units (Cumulative total: 1,385,128 units)
  • PS5 Digital Edition / 453 units (Cumulative total: 235,710 units)
  • Xbox Series X / 105 units (Cumulative total: 99,469 units)
  • Xbox Series S/6120 units (Cumulative total: 105,408 units)
  • PS4 / 22 units (Cumulative total: 7,819,548 units)
  • New Nintendo 2DS XL / 235 units (Cumulative total: 1,185,959 units)

Source: Halo Infinite (2021), 343 Industries

The Xbox Series S is the only purely digital console that outsold its physical media counterpart that week. If we combine physical and digital-only consoles, the Xbox still outsold the PlayStation by 3,532 units. Total Xbox sales come in at 6,225 while total PlayStation 5 sales are 2,693.

However, total PlayStation 5 sales still dominate total Xbox sales. PlayStation 5 sales clock in at 1,620838 while total Xbox sales are only 204,877. Neither of them even scratch the surface of Nintendo Switch sales whose total sales sit at 8,305,130.

Xbox sales beating PlayStation for the week is not an insignificant victory though. As noted by @GameDataLibrary, “Not since the launch of the Xbox One has Xbox outsold PlayStation in Japan,” that being eight years ago in early September 2014. “It’s happened less than 10 times overall.”

Source: GameDataLibrary, Twitter

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Prior to this, Xbox’s best efforts to get ahead in Japan were typically thwarted by native competition- Nintendo and PlayStation. Bloomberg reported in a 2020 report that Xbox had “virtually zero presence” in Japan.

Xbox One sales that year to November 1st made up 0.1% of console sales, compared to 10.1% for PlayStation 4, 89.8% for Nintendo Switch. Likewise, while the PlayStation 5 sold over 118,000 units in its first Japanese week, the Xbox Series X and S sold over 21,500 units

Across the two prior Tokyo Game Shows, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer insisted Japan was their “fastest growing” install base, and was working to increase their lineup of Japanese games.

Source: Marvel’s Spider-Man:
Miles Morales (2020), Sony Interactive Entertainment

That same Bloomberg report also detailed how PlayStation was failing in its formerly native market. A “senior figure inside PlayStation headquarters in San Mateo, California” — Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) HQ since 2016 — explained the Japanese marketing team failed to meet PlayStation 4 sale expectations, and as such focused on the US market.

Japanese PlayStation employees felt in turn they were cut-out of planning how to promote the PlayStation 5, being told to wait for instructions.

Former employees also claimed Japanese developer support teams had fallen by a third, and rolling contracts for Japan Studio employees were not renewed. The developer of Ape Escape, Gravity Rush, The Last Guardian, and supervising and support on Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne, would be defunct by April 1st, 2021. 

Source: Ghost of Tsushima (2020), Sony Interactive Entertainment

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One Californian HQ employee told Bloomberg the US office felt the company didn’t need games that only sold well in Japan. This would certainly match their other report, where SIE employees felt the company was too focused on producing blockbusters

The “global” focus also arguably manifested with Sony changing the X and O buttons typical mapping for confirm and cancel to be in line with the rest of the world- they had previously used O to confirm, and X to cancel, while the rest of the world- and now they- used the opposite. A small survey of 1,000 Japanese games saw almost 44% opposed to it, and only 24% in favor of it.

Source: Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal (2018), XSEED Games

Arguably the most infamous anti-Japanese thing PlayStation has done in recent years has been the censoring of sexual content in games with anime art-styles. SIE Japan Asia President Atsushi Morita explained in 2018 “About the censorship, we tried to meet global standards. Regarding the balance of the freedom of expression and safety for children, it’s a tough problem to deal with.”

While few nations are in lockstep with what content is appropriate for children — never mind globally or the existence of age ratings boards — Japanese developer light noted Sony were forcing their censorship upon Japanese developers at the source.  

Source: Horizon Zero Dawn (2017), Sony Interactive Entertainment

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Hideki Yasuda of the Ace Research Institute stated in 2021 PlayStation’s censorship and borderline rejection of the Japanese market would make their fall “definitive” in Japan.

That same year Yasuda would also state Nintendo had an “oligopoly” in Japan, with PlayStation sales “eradicated.” PlayStation would see weeks where only a single PlayStation title would be in Japan’s top 30, otherwise dominated by Nintendo.

Source: Ori and the Blind Forest (2015), Microsoft Studios

In January last year, Famitsu reported PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 console sales totaled to approximately 800,000 units in 2020 — damning compared to 1.2 million console unit sales in 2019, and becoming their worst sales since 1994. Meanwhile, Japan reportedly bought 2.3 million Xbox consoles in the last 20 years — that’s everything from the original Xbox to the Xbox series X|S.

Amid the bad Japanese press, SIE and PlayStation have insisted across 2020 and 2021 that the Japanese market was important to them, and PlayStation was still a Japanese company. Even so, it seems Microsoft may have a chance to steal second place in Japan with Xbox. Once Nintendo faces off against a competitor who actually wants to compete — all bets are off.

Source: Ghostwire: Tokyo (2022), Bethesda Softworks

Can Microsoft take on Japan? Let us know what you think on social media and in the comments below. 

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