Console wars were back in late 2020 with the release of the next gen systems. Although one console was the clear winner, both Xbox Series X and PS5 saw record numbers for units sold. We looked to Google search trends to see which console would come out on top. As we continuously look at search trends throughout the year, we noticed that one console stood out over the other. We wanted to see if we could use this data to predict which console would sell more units.
Major Date Announcements
On September 9th, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Series X would release November 10th. Microsoft also announced the price of both editions, $499 for the Xbox Series X and $299 for the all-digital Xbox Series S. Pre-orders were announced to go live September 22nd.
Sony did not release their pre-order or release date info for another week. During the PlayStation Showcase on September 16th, Sony announced the PS5 would release November 12th and would cost $499 ($399 for the all-digital). Sony then ended the event with a surprise announcement that pre orders would go live the following day, September 17th.
Google searches for both Xbox Series X and PS5 skyrocketed after the announcements. The search queries with the highest increase in volume were queries related pre orders, price, release date, and retailer availability. Comparing exact match queries, PS5 had almost 4 times as many searches as Xbox Series X for pre orders, price, and release date. According to search trends, the most popular retailer to pre-order an Xbox from was Amazon, and for PS5 was Walmart.
Xbox searches September 2020:
Xbox series x pre order – 1,800,000+ queries
Xbox series x price – 550,000+ queries
Xbox series x release date – 370,000+ queries
Xbox series x pre order amazon – 110,000+ queries
PS5 searches September 2020:
- PS5 pre order – 7,500,000+ queries
- PS5 price – 1,800,000+ queries
- PS5 release date – 1,500,000+ queries
- PS5 pre order Walmart – 300,000+ queries
According to Google trends, search interest for the PS5 pre orders was double that of Xbox Series X pre orders. The sales numbers confirmed these trends. Through the first 4 weeks of sales, the PS5 sold 1.5 times more units than the Xbox, both globally and in the US.
Consoles sold globally through first 4 weeks:
- PS5 Global sales – 3,368,098 units
- Xbox Series X global sales – 1,817,303 units
Consoles sold domestically through first 4 weeks:
- PS5 US sales: 1,389,963 units
- Xbox Series X US sales: 988,641 units
After launch, we saw “restock” queries skyrocket as retailers everywhere were completely sold out. We saw similar trends here as we did with pre order queries, with PS5 restock queries outnumbering Xbox Series X queries almost 4 to 1.
“Restock” searches November 2020:
- PS5 restock – 2,200,000+ queries
- Xbox series x restock – 500,000+ queries
“Restock” searches December 2020:
- PS5 restock – 5,000,000+ queries
- Xbox series x restock – 800,000+ queries
Overwhelming Demand Crashes Retailer Websites
Both consoles saw an unprecedented demand online due to COVID-19 restrictions at physical retail locations. This caused retail websites to struggle to keep up with the demand. In some cases, the demand was too much, and the websites went down temporarily. When these sites were down, consumers turned to Google search for answers.
During the month of September, the Best Buy website went down multiple times. The queries “is best buy website down” and “best buy site down” had the most volume during that time.
- “is best buy website down – 5,400+ queries
- “best buy site down – 2,400+ queries
During November, the Walmart website went down on multiple occasions. The queries “Walmart website down” and “Walmart site crash” had the most volume during that time.
- “Walmart website down” – 6,600+ queries
- “Walmart site crash” - 5,400+ queries
As we continued to track search interest daily, we found there was more buzz for the PS5 over the Xbox Series X. When we compared the most popular keywords for each, PS5 queries had over twice as much volume as Xbox queries. We were able to accurately predict that PS5 would outsell the Xbox Series X, as the search trend data directly correlated to sales.
All brands should be paying attention to search trends in order to have a better understanding of the marketplace, their own brand health, and the search interest in their competition.
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