Vita limps through Japan launch
The Sony PS Vita is failing to outsell its predecessor, the PSP, in Japan. Could there be a worse start?
The Sony PS Vita in three weeks has sold approximately 440,000 units in Japan, since launch. The Nintendo 3DS is running rings around it in terms of sales – while only two PS Vita software titles have made the Top 30 sales charts – with Hot Shots Golf and Uncharted: Golden Abyss at 28 and 29. To make matters worse, 3DS titles make up half of the Top 10.
In Japan, the Sony PS Vita is already, humiliatingly, being discounted (particularly the pricier 3G version). But on the other side of the hardware coin, the Nintendo 3DS, after a shaky start, is forging ahead. It has now sold over 4 million in Japan, with many of those sales in the last few weeks before Christmas – as Monster Hunter 3G, Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land dominated the Japanese software charts.
The 3DS has sold more in its first nine months than the Wii did, according to Nintendo. It has done so for two reasons, in my opinion. Firstly, cutting from that ludicrously high start price means it now is almost an impulse buy – certainly gamers need only see one or two games they want on the system before they'll buy. Secondly, those good games are now here.
What about, then, the Vita? "Sony is probably learning the hard way that pricing handhelds at the same level as the company's core console makes it hard to gain traction," Michael Pachter told Eurogamer. "The 3DS had a pretty healthy profit margin at $249, I think that the Vita is selling for only slightly above its cost to manufacture at that price. I don't see Sony taking losses to drive market share, so I don't expect them to cut price in 2012."
The Vita is clearly designed to be a gaming power-house - see our initial thoughts on it here. It's a home console system in a pocketable package. That offers it an edge against what smartphones can offer. But is that enough? If Sony don't either produce a genuine must-have game immediately (and Uncharted may be it in the West), and/or cut the proposed price of the console, I can't imagine the initial dreadful start improving much. Can you?
Simon Munk has been playing videogames since 1976. He has written on games and technology for over fifteen years for titles including MSN, The Times and FHM. He has won the GamesMediaAwards for Consumer Magazine Writer twice. Simon's favourite game ever is Gauntlet.