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PlayStation 4 Sales Flatten as Sony Predicts Slow Decline

Sony sold about 19 million PlayStation 4 consoles in its 2017 fiscal year, which ended in March, down from 20 million the previous year, and expects to sell 16 million this year, the company said Friday morning in its annual report.

While hardware sales were down slightly and appear to be heading for a slow decline, games sold for the system jumped from nearly 218 million sold to about 247 million this fiscal year and the digital download rate hit nearly one-third, up from 27%. The company also said that as of March 31, 2018, it has 34.2 million PlayStation Plus subscribers, up from 26.4 million the previous year.

Since launch, the company sold 73.6 million PlayStation 4 consoles and about 645 million games for those systems as of the end of 2017. Sony sold about 80 million PS3s, the previous generation of the console, before winding it down.

That massive player-base and sizable game and online service sales mean that the company’s gaming division had a 17.8% increase in revenue compared to the previous year, which leaves it with an operating profit of about $1.6 billion and making it the most profitable division of the company this past year.

Now that the PlayStation 4 is on the verge of eclipsing the previous console generation in units sold, PlayStation is likely to start focusing even more on its games. That is already showing up in this year’s slate of titles, including the recently released “God of War,” which is the highest-rated game on the system. What remains to be seen as games transition to more long-lived games-as-a-service fueled by in-game purchases and subscriptions is how long PlayStation will stick to this console before rolling out the next generation. Increasingly, gaming console makers and the developers who make games for them are trying to eek out as much life as possible from the system.

The PlayStation 3, which launched in 2006, saw three different form-factors and more than a dozen models before it was officially discontinued just last year. The PlayStation 4, which launched in 2013, has already seen three form-factors — the original, slim, and pro — and a number of models. Sony has not commented on when the next PlayStation will be announced or released, though it’s likely to happen in the next year or two.

With 73.6 million PlayStation 4s in customers hands, PlayStation is by far the biggest console maker of this generation. The last reported number for Xbox One sales was about 18 to 19 million in January 2016. Nintendo’s Switch, which just released a year ago, already sold 17.8 million units as of last month and the company is expecting to sell another 20 million this year.

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