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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sony's PS Vita has sold 1.2 million units worldwide. Now what?

The wait is over. Sony's PS Vita is finally out. Let the fun begin. And by fun, I mean read a ton of articles on what Sony should and shouldn't do with its new gaming handheld in a smartphone world.

Sony announced the PS Vita has sold 1.2 million units worldwide as of Feb. 26. Software sales, including retail and digital copies, have topped 2 million. The system launched in North America and Europe on Feb. 22 and a day after in Australia. It costs $250 for the WiFi version and $300 for one with 3G capabilities. Let's break down the numbers.

Japan and parts of Asia got the PS Vita first. According to Media Create, sales were around 580,000 in Japan as of Feb. 19, so after adding in Asia, we have to assume over half of the 1.2 million sold were over there. So under 600,000 were sold in the rest of the world in one week. We don't know the exact breakdown, but according to one report for the United Kingdom, sales were "around one quarter" of the 185,000 PSP units sold during its launch week.

No matter what, the launch in North America and Europe doesn't compare well to the Nintendo 3DS launch, which then had a $250 price tag. The 3DS sold 440,000 in its first week in the U.S. and 303,000 in its first two days in Europe. U.K. numbers were at 113,000 in its opening weekend.

Sony says these sales figures have exceeded expectations, but how high were they thinking? This wasn't a mind-blowing launch, or should I say "#gamechanger" in any way. Software sales look mediocre with digital sales counted in. Retailers can't be thrilled.

Of course, you can't jump to conclusions right away on the fate of the PS Vita. You have to wait a month or two after launch to see where a new system steadies sales-wise at. These hardware numbers will go down. How low in North America and Europe we don't know. For Sony's sake, hopefully not like Japan at around 15,000 a week.

If that happens here, there are multiple solutions to increase sales. The easy one is to come up with is a price cut. Nintendo slashed the 3DS price to boost sales and it's worked greatly. But for Sony that's harder to do. They're already taking a hit on each piece of hardware sold, so lowering the price is a big risk. Nintendo could do it because they were initially making a profit on the hardware.

If things became dire I would expect to see some PS Vita game bundles this spring or summer, or maybe Sony cutting down those proprietary memory card prices that are pretty much mandatory for playing games.

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