PlayStation 4 continues to lead this generation by a fair margin and in my opinion, it's definitely a more impressive – and surprising – performance when compared to PlayStation 2's domination a couple generations ago.
With PS4 shipping over 25 million units in less than a year and a half, people have been comparing the new system to the PS2. And rightly so.
But if we examine the dramatic differences in company position and the industry, one has to conclude that PS4's rise to power is is more worthy of admiration. Of course, I'm not saying PS4 is a better console than PS2 (it has a long ways to go before it can even compete, as far as I'm concerned), but I am saying PS2's total blitzkrieg of the game industry, while historic and amazing, was almost expected.
The PS2 had basically no competition. One could argue for the Sega Dreamcast, which launched a year ahead of PS2, but we all know Sega had no hope of winning that battle. The accumulated hype PS2 built during that year basically overshadowed even the likes of Shenmue and by the time 2000 rolled around, it seemed like every gamer alive was only talking about Sony's new console. Microsoft hadn't yet entered the fray (Xbox wouldn't launch until November 2001) and Nintendo's GameCube was also a year off.
Sony had also come off arguably the most impressive debut in the industry's history, as the original PlayStation was a massive success. In many ways, it somehow managed to eclipse the all-powerful N64 in only a matter of a few years, which nobody really expected. But the point is, by 1999, it was obvious to all that Sony had every possible ounce of momentum. Many people forget this, but the PS2 being a DVD player was another huge bonus. This made it the first video game console that had mass appeal, in my eyes.
It also took little time for PS2 to really get rolling, as 2001 is one of the best years ever in gaming. Xbox and GameCube came late to the party and by then, it was all over. PS2 had seized control and would never relinquish its gargantuan lead. In fact, the lead just grew over time. Now, as for the PS4, the differences are clear: Not only was Sony an underdog in the U.S. going into this generation (Xbox 360 completely dominated PlayStation 3 for the majority of the previous era in North America), but Nintendo had shot to the top of the hardware world again with the Wii. This put an even bigger squeeze on PS3.
I don't think anybody expected Nintendo to pose a real threat to Sony's PS4 but again, it's about positioning and momentum. Let's also not forget that Xbox One released the same year (and almost the same exact time) as PS4, as opposed to the one-year head-start PS2 had on Xbox, and the one-year head-start Xbox 360 had on PS3. So, from all angles, I think PS4's performance thus far is just far more impressive the whole way 'round. Will it sell 160 million units like PS2? Eh, I doubt it. But you never know.