PS Vita worldwide sales for the first five months (seven month for Japan) are less than impressive. The worldwide total of units sold of the PS Vita is only 2.2 million units as of June 30,2012. That number is rough as it includes all territories currently selling the PS Vita, and even more depressing news is that in many areas the PSP (Sony’s first handheld) has outsold the PS Vita during the last few months by a significant margin. Not surprisingly, Nintendo’s 3DS system has also outsold the PS Vita since its launch, but in the same five to seven month time, the system did much better even before the 3DS’ price cut. Sony’s President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America was quoted saying, in an article by gamesindustry.biz, that, “I think there’s an acceptable number – and [the number] we’ve sold: That’s acceptable. If it was triple that, I’d be happier. If it was one-third, I’d be disappointed.” While Tretton may be spinning the lackluster sales in an optimistic manner, the question remains why the PS Vita has not caught on anywhere really despite its predecessor, the PSP being a success.
Both the PSP and PS Vita required an additional proprietary media card for game saves and data management at the launch of the system. While other Sony devices used the Pro Duo memory stick the PSP required, which meant that cheaper third-party version were available; only Sony produced the PS Vita’s new memory card at launch. The pricing and storage tiers are not too dissimilar for this to account for the disparity in popularity between the PSP and PS Vita.
The biggest complaint about the PS Vita is a perceived “so-so” launch title line-up, but comparatively to the PSP’s launch, the PS Vita offers just as many worthwhile titles even though the PS Vita’s line-up is more port heavy than the PSP’s was. However, the PS Vita had a bigger “wow title” in Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but it being more expensive than the rest of launch title was not encouraging. Even the price of PSP and PS Vita titles are not too dissimilar. The biggest stumble for the PS Vita was not offering good backwards compatibility with the PSP. Since the PS Vita does not use the UMD and has no ability to play them, the games that PSP owners bought were useless. Sure, Sony offers the PSP titles, at an expensive price, on the PSN and the PS Vita can play downloaded titles, which is great for people who did not own a PSP. However, Sony did not even offer a passport system or a way for PSP owners to send in old UMDs to receive a discount on PSN PSP titles. Thus, it makes it a difficult sell to parents who see that Nintendo’s new system can play both DS and 3DS games, so they do not have to purchase new games immediately. One of the bigger problems was the way Sony handled the retail launch with the early-bird bundle and how most retailers did not carry the complete launch line-up either in store or online making it a chore for potential PS Vita owners to track down titles they were interested in. This difficulty in finding titles can be attributed to Sony’s day and date online availability of PS Vita titles on PSN, which causes stores to compete against Sony for sales of titles. Then there is the drought of worthwhile games being released for the PS Vita (even though one of the better games of the year, Gravity Rush is available for the system). Hopefully a strong holiday line-up with Persona 4 Golden (currently hugely popular in Japan and a special edition of the game has been announced for the US), PlayStation All-Stars, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation will give the system a shot in the arm.
Also, gamers may simply be exercising caution with the PS Vita since the PSP had many problems with units at the beginning of its launch cycle and they are waiting on a redesign or future price cut (this will be a while away). It is hard to pinpoint exactly why the PS Vita is not experiencing similar success that the PSP did, but one major factor is simply, 2012 is not 2005. The economical context that the PSP launched was much better and more receptive than the one that the PS Vita launched in, while 2005 was not an economic boom; it is not the current economic lull that people worldwide are facing. Game sales in general are down and an expensive new system launching during the period after the 2011 holiday season, which is typically weak for sales of anything, but especially a new game system does not help. Thus, gamers are looking for economical purchases and the PS Vita is not one compared to either the PSP or the 3DS/DSi.
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