“Why Do Game Consoles Sell What They Do?”: The History of Console Sales from the NES to the Present

As someone who has been playing video games for well over 30 years and has an avid interest in video games beyond just the games themselves, I felt that it was worth keeping up with the overall health of the industry. Sales figures are obviously a good barometer of said health, and in looking through sales data for console hardware, I’ve come to observe that sales, while not exactly predictable in terms of numbers, are attributable to several major factors, and that we can understand how and why consoles sell what they do. By understanding the “how” and “why” of sales, we can make reasonable guesses as to the relative success of a given system even early on in a generation, and explain the relative performance of any two consoles.

The purpose of this article is to give a (mostly) complete history of hardware sales in the console market, showing the factors, trends, and data to give as complete of a picture as possible on the “how” and “why” of console sales. I hope that this will serve as a valuable reference for anyone else interested in the subject. While many of the more general points I make in this article are already well-known to most others who also regularly discuss game sales, I felt this would still be a good resource for people less familiar with the subject material, and serve as a good go-to reference for more specific information on console sales.

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