Video Games Issue 2021

2021's most popular video game console isn't what you expect

1,500 Inverse readers weigh in on which consoles they’re playing the most.

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The notion of console wars is rather archaic, but plenty of gamers have loyalty to Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft first and foremost. Gaming grew in significant and unexpected ways last year as people played more and more while investing in new consoles — especially after the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.

To find out which platforms of 2021 were the most popular so far, we surveyed 1,496 Inverse readers, and the results turned out rather surprising.

Of the 1,496 surveyed, 500 individuals — or 33.4 percent — said that they played the Nintendo Switch more than any other console thus far this year despite the November 2020 launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

But why?

The Video Games Issue 2021 is an Inverse celebration of retro favorites, forgotten gems, and the latest and greatest in interactive entertainment.

Our readers’ most-played console of 2021 is the Nintendo Switch by a huge margin.


Handheld reigns supreme

More readers said they played Nintendo Switch the most than PS5 and Xbox Series X|S combined, which is interesting when you consider that the Switch is a mobile console. Granted, a preference for Switch overall could be thanks in no small part to how new Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles are, and how scarce they remain. By comparison, the Switch has been around since 2017.

Even the next most-played system of the year, PlayStation 4, only accounts for 17 percent of those surveyed. This is barely more than half the number of individuals who prefer Nintendo Switch in 2021.

Granted, it’s possible that the PlayStation 5 compelled enough Sony loyalists to migrate over that neither the PS5 nor the PS4 could compete — and the same could be said for Xbox One and the Series X|S.

Xbox Series X|S is more popular than PS5

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have gone head to head.


Of the new systems, 13.2 percent of readers played the Xbox Series X|S the most, while only 12.4 percent preferred playing on PS5. That slim margin of victory is likely influenced by the fact that Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are radically different consoles compared to the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition, which have the same hardware except the latter has no disc drive. Console pair were lumped together for the sake of this survey.

Historically, the Switch has been a hard-to-find console, but finding PS5s or Xbox Series Xs has been nigh impossible for many gamers. That could explain why so few readers played one of the next-gen consoles the most. Or perhaps the price of each machine has driven consumers to opt for a less expensive option like the Nintendo Switch?

Older consoles remain more popular overall

Many Inverse readers still play on older generation platforms more than any other. Of those surveyed, 17 percent preferred the PS4, while 16.9 percent played more on Xbox One. This could be related to cost, or perhaps tied to the pandemic, which caused people to dust off their old systems to stay occupied at home.

It could also be a testament to the number and quality of games available for each new platform. While there are notable experiences to be had across each, like Demon’s Souls, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and The Medium, perhaps consumers are waiting for a larger library to choose from. There’s little incentive to rush in getting a new console.

Nintendo beats Sony and Microsoft — in every way

The Nintendo Switch was played more than all Sony consoles combined.


Even when combining all Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S players (30.1 percent), our readers still prefer Nintendo Switch. The same can be said about PS4 and PS5 combined (totaling 29.4 percent of readers polled). Again, the Switch claimed 33.4 percent of all survey responders.

Since its launch in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has gone on to sell 84.59 million units, making it one of the top-selling consoles of all time. In just four years, it has already outsold the Xbox One, the Nintendo 3DS, PSP, and Xbox 360 — and is well on its way to surpassing the PS3 (which sits at around 87.4 million units sold since 2006). It still has a long way to go if it wants to compete with the PS4’s 115.31 million units sold, but the Switch could very well pass 100 million units in the next year or so.

The Switch’s sales success is in line with the votes of the Inverse audience. While this is just a small sample of the overall population, it proves that Nintendo Switch is striking a chord with consumers. Perhaps it has to do with the types of games available on the platform, the versatility in its design, or even its price. Maybe people just like Mario?

In any case, the upcoming Nintendo Switch OLED Model is bound to be a huge boost.

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