Sony's Portable Console Dying Ugly in Japan
For Sony’s previous handheld, the PSP, Japan was an anchor market. The system launched in Japan in 2004 and has sold 14 Million units there – just slightly below the 17 Million units it shifted in the United States. Sony obviously hoped to maintain the home field advantage with the PS Vita, the new portable console that debuted at the end of 2011.
The performance of Vita in Japan has been nothing short of atrocious on so many levels. On week ending November 11, the unit volume in Japan was a shocking 4’021. The eight years old PSP sold 12’000 units during the same week. This is a rare example of a new console failing to dislodge the old one even after one year on the market.
Nintendo’s 3DS continued its rampage, moving 186’000 units during the week – 46 times more than its handheld rival. PS Vita has probably already edged into the dead zone where developers start yanking support for stand-alone projects.
The week of November 11 was another bad period for Vita – but arguably the week of November 18 was even worse. The sales of Vita rebounded from 4’000 to 13’000, but the increase was intolerably weak considering that this was the Assassin’s Creed III launch period in Japan. The franchise is not as strong over there as it is in America and Europe, but the PS3 version of the game still sold 73’000 units – a solid number considering how badly the PS3 is aging right now. In stark contrast, the Vita version of the AC3 sold just 24’000 units – and this triggered only 9’000 unit increase in the console sales.
The inability of delivering a strong sales rebound during a major launch is a death knell for a video game console – and this is what Vita has demonstrated all through the autumn. For example, in October, Vita was the launch pad for a relatively big launch of “The Legend of Heroes”. The game sold 21’000 units during its debut week – Vita sales bounced to 15’000 units and then dropped back to 6’000 weekly pace in just two weeks later. It looks identical to the impact that Assassin’s Creed III is now having on Vita – negligible.
PS Vita is going to struggle to hit 700’000 units in Japan during the calendar year 2012. This is far below viability. At the same time, Nintendo 3DS is riding a massive wave of blockbuster games week after week – Animal Crossing will hit 1 Million units next week, New Super Mario Bros stands at 1.3 Million, the latest Pokemon at 2.8 Million.
Sony’s credit rating was lowered to Junk level this week. The PS3 is aging badly and the PS Vita is about to be knocked out of the portable console market. Nintendo’s portable gaming empire is facing a potentially lethal long-term threat from mobile apps. Apple‘s iPad application market is getting more and more sophisticated game titles, as ambitious games like “The Room” and “Clash of Clans” edge towards console game quality. Google has finally started solving its app market problems and Android app revenue is soaring.
But for now, it can feast on Sony’s corpse and hoover in consumer dollars that it had to split with PSP just two years ago.