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PS Vita sales drop to a record low in Japan
PS Vita sales drop to a record low in Japan
November 7, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

PS Vita hardware sales have sunk to a new low in Japan -- the handheld's weekly sales dropped below 5,000 units for the first time since launching there 11 months ago.

Sony sold 4,842 of the systems last week in Japan, according to Media Create. Comparing that number to other portables, for every PS Vita sold during that period, Sony moved nearly three more PSPs, and Nintendo pushed almost 20 more 3DSes (Nintendo debuted a new color model and hardware bundle last week).

The handheld has struggled in its first year on the market to sell significant units in any of the major territories. Sony has slashed its forecast for PSP and PS Vita hardware sales this fiscal year twice -- first from 16 million to 12 million, and then to 10 million as of last week.

Sony has acknowledged the problems it's had building up momentum for PS Vita, and previously told Gamasutra that "this back half of the year, the holiday season, is really where Vita will make its mark." The company expects the system will have a considerably larger install base by the end of the year.

But the PS Vita has few noteworthy titles releasing in Japan during the remainder of 2012. Its slate promises Western titles ike Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, but hardly any likely hits designed to appeal to the Japanese market.

Along with blaming PS Vita's perceived lack of must-have games, many have attributed the system's poor performance to its expensive pricing -- the cheapest model costs ¥24,980 in Japan and $250 in the U.S. Sony has said it will not reduce PS Vita's pricing in 2012.

So far, first-year PS Vita hardware sales are tracking behind not only the PSP, GameCube, and PlayStation 3, but also the last console Sega put out before it exited the hardware business, Dreamcast. Sales for the 3DS XL model, which debuted in late July, have exceeded PS Vita's full-year sales by nearly 300,000.

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Craudimir Ascorno
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The problem is that Sony itself doesn't do anything to show the world that it really supports Vita. The company hasn't worked actively to promote their console, they are stuck in the idea that PS3 must be the "winner" of its generation and all we have seen in 2012 is Sony focused on the 6-year-old console, leaving subpar titles for the brand new handheld exactly when it most needed support.

Sony strategy is flawed both in Japan and in the west. Releasing sub versions of CoD and Assassins Creed games at the same time the big titles for console are being released is a shot on the foot because unlike Uncharted that looked like a Vita exclusive, the others will look like inferior ports. Bringing games for both PS3 and Vita, or PSP and Vita is another big flaw (not to mention games brought to 3DS and Vita) because no one will buy a new console to play the same game that person can play in a console he already owns.

PS Vita needs unique games for it, or no one will buy. Sony should step up and deliver some exclusives to it, like Nintendo did to save 3DS with Mario games. After securing a good place in the market, it was natural that Capcom, Square-Enix, and other big third-parties would follow, so Nintendo understood the lesson. What is Sony doing meanwhile? Hoping that Capcom will announce a exclusive Monster Hunter for a console that has a small fanbase and no support from its maker? Praying that Square Enix will suddenly realize that Vita is the perfect place for Dragon Quest XI despite few people owning one? Or are they waiting for the New Super Mario Vita to save the day?

That will never happen. Either they buy support from the large third parties like financing a Dragon Quest of Final Fantasy exclusive to Vita or they stop shelling all their money on PS3 and make a Gran Turismo or God of War exclusive for Vita to prove that they still care. While smaller publishers may keep investing on Vita because their niche fanbase adopted the console (like Atlus with Persona 4, or Sega with Hatsune Miku F), those games will never push the sales up to make a big difference. They need top-selling titles exclusive for Vita, or the sales will jump to 20k or 30k consoles for one or two weeks before falling down to 5k again.

Sony must stop pretending it is okay and do something quickly. Unless they are developing an updated Vita version with such lower manufacturing costs that it makes sense to hold the console-selling games for a few months to achieve big profits with hardware sales in 2013, the time is running out for Sony. As the 3DS install base grows larger and larger, it will become more and more expensive for Sony either buying support from third-parties or developing a significant amount of titles to make Vita relevant.

Harlan Sumgui
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Sony knows it has lost this generation of handhelds to nintendo.

cheap and gimmicky is what people want in a handhel. Pricey and slick, not so much.

Sony will support it in a reasonable way, but they are not going to sink a couple hundred million into exclusive content, advertising, & a price cut.

Craudimir Ascorno
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But one thing is to lose the generation like PSP, that sold half of DS units. Another thing is to lose the generation selling a tenth or even less than your competitor. I think it would be much worse to waste all the hundreds of millions of dollars they have spent to make Vita to sell a few million units and profit nothing from games, accessories, services, etc, than to throw some dozens of millions more and get out with at least 25m units till Vita retires, getting a reasonable profit from games, accessories, services, etc.

Harlan Sumgui
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Good money after bad + dedicated handheld market is shrinking fast.

Nintendo is the only real player in this space post 2012.

Doug Poston
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I mostly agree with you Sumgui, except I think the key word is "affordable".

I think we (the video game industry and the people who comment on gaming forums ;)) forget that to most consumers, video games are a hobby not a lifestyle.

Spending $250 on handheld console plus $40 per game sounds crazy when your $99 iPhone* can play games for $0.99 to $4 each.

(*yes, with the long-term contract that phone is much more than $99. But people don't think like that.)

Lyon Medina
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If Sony can hardly support the Vita in Japan, how do they ever expect to grow in the West?

Fisher Mao
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Sony is now keeping focus on TV console - PS3. Because it wants to beat Xbox360.

Joe McGinn
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It seems like no one wants to make Vita games, so the A-teams are all on other platforms, and what you can buy for Vita is a watered-down or "light" version of the game. I don't want watered down Uncharted, do you?

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Ron Dippold
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Ah, so sad, the hardware is so nice, but... Sony.

If only you had the humility to just open it up. Those specs and all the software you could consume would sell you tens of millions - Sony would have a lower attach percentage, but orders of magnitude more user base. It'd be the Valve model. Everyone wins. But... Sony. We can't have nice things.

Robert Carter
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I agree with every word, and have been saying exactly this for some time.

The Vita is everything I want in a handheld, all it needs now is games and some hint from Sony that they actually care. Even releasing as many PS1 and PS2 classics for downloads would be an amazing start. But they are even screwing that up... Very small list of PS1 games available, despite being on the PS3 store already. No Crash Bandicoot titles? Thats like Nintendo not releasing any classic Mario Bros on their downloads...

Rayman plays so beautifully on the Vita, and being a huge fan of old school side scrollers, I fell in love over that one game. Sony could shoot ahead of Nintendo on the mobile market with the valve approach, as you put it. But Sony will never, ever do this. Makes me very sad.

Such great hardware wasted.

Michael Vandendriessche
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I don't think they're not supporting the Vita. I think they're just too naïve to think it will actually suddenly sell a lot of units thanks to some games coming on vita.

I love sony and the playstation brand, they make great products. I even have a Sony Ericson phone!(most stores here didnt sell SE phones anymore) I haven't picked up a vita yet though.
I love my psp and use it often. The vita just doesn't offer that much more to want to purchase one.

I might get a vita for the disgaea 3 title later on. More of those awesome games might help.

I wish Sony good luck in convincing me I need a vita.

Kellam Templeton-Smith
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The problem is the game space-about all the Vita offers that an iPhone or iPod doesn't is a physical interface. Sony needs to get past the mentality of "It's a home console in your hands", as you might as well brag about watching Lawrence of Arabia on your tablet-some experiences don't translate.

I bought a PSP near the end of its lifecycle, and the things I got the most enjoyment out of were PS1 titles and games like Patapon and Locoroco that favoured simple fun and design. Games like God of War: CoO were embarrassingly bland/stripped of the intensity that a console experience offers, and the Vita seems to do more of the same.