PS4 vs. Xbox One: We Now Have a Clear Winner

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Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) hit the market with their next-generation video game systems in November, and both consoles got off to blazing starts. The initial supply of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 systems sold out ahead of the holiday shopping season, and both platforms seemed neck-and-neck in the battle for gaming supremacy.

However, now that we're five months removed from the hype, we're seeing a clear favorite emerge. Sony claims to have sold 7 million PS4 systems to consumers, and Microsoft revealed late last week that it has shipped just 5 million systems that have been sold to retailers. In other words, the gap of actual ownership is actual wider than the difference of 2 million consoles. Microsoft may have led Sony in the previous generation, but it's coming up short this time around.

It's In the Game

Video game industry sales have been sputtering for four years, but it was believed that new systems would help renew consumer interest in dedicated gaming machines. When Nintendo's (NTDOY) Wii U fell well short of the Japanese giant's initial projections during its rollout ahead of the 2012 holiday season, the market figured that richer specs from Microsoft and Sony would provide salvation.

Microsoft stumbled. The cost was $499, a full $100 higher than rival PS4, and to please publishers, it planned to copy-protect the system. Users would need to be logged in to play, and only original registered discs would work. In other words, used games would be toast.

Sony may have hinted at a similar strategy, but it quickly recoiled. Microsoft retreated from its aggressive stance, but the damage was done. Gamers that made the Xbox 360 this country's top platform couldn't trust Microsoft anymore.

Thinking Outside of the Box

March should have been a good month for Microsoft. The release of "Titanfall" -- a game only available for the Xbox One -- should have given it the upper hand. It did help pick up sales, but according to industry tracker NPD, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in every month of 2014.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%It could be worse. Nintendo's Wii U had shipped just 3.45 million units at this point in its cycle. However, is 5 million really that much better? Microsoft has owned up to its mistakes. It realizes that it got too cocky with its pre-release intentions, and even recent promotions find the Xbox One priced more aggressively than before.

A new executive heading up the Xbox One promises a return to the platform's gaming roots. Microsoft spent too much time playing up the system's TV viewing features and voice-based Kinect controls. Nearly half of Microsoft's Xbox One unveiling during last year's E3 was spent showing off the device's smart television tricks.

That's certainly not going to happen when E3 rolls around again in June. Microsoft is going to make sure that it takes an approach that caters to diehard gamers first.

It's the right approach, but is it too little, too late? Great proprietary games can go a long way in the forgiving process, but Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft.

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