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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sony's depressing PS Vita sales numbers show bleak future for the handheld

Sony's financial troubles continued as the company reported a first-quarter loss of $312 million. From a gaming standpoint, there was troubling news for their struggling PS Vita handheld, which was lumped into total sales data with the PSP. Anytime a company starts combining total sales of different devices to make the numbers look higher, it's a troubling sign.

Only 1.4 million PSP and PS Vita gaming devices were sold worldwide during the first quarter. The PS Vita has been selling around 10,000-15,000 a week in Japan, according to Media Create, but Sony has been shy about reporting sales elsewhere around the world, which can be viewed as another troubling sign. Here's another one: Sony adjusted their sales forecast from 16 million PS Vita and PSP units to 12 million through the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013. Prior to this, Sony's goal was to sell 10 million PS Vita units by March 2013, a very, very radical goal at the time.

I'm sorry, Sony, but this is not going to happen unless drastic measures are taken. The PSP is dead everywhere besides Japan, the Disney Land for dedicated gaming handhelds, and the PS Vita is nowhere near putting up the numbers needed to reach the adjusted goal. Of the 1.4 million handheld total, I would guess about half came from PS Vita.

The big way to get hardware numbers up is a price cut. At $250, or $300 for the 3G version, it's too expensive compared to other competition out there. Nintendo learned this lesson the hard way and quickly slashed the 3DS price from $250 to $170. But cutting the cost comes at a price: Putting Sony in the red even more, just like it happened to Nintendo for the first time in decades.

But cutting the price is only a short-term solution. Games sell systems, and the PS Vita is struggling to find that system seller. Uncharted was hyped for a long time, but didn't move systems. In Japan where Monster Hunter is king and was the key factor in the PSP's success, Nintendo nabbed it away from Sony for the 3DS, and they're seeing the effects of it. There will be spinoff titles of Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty released for the PS Vita, but it's unknown if these will succeed like the console versions.

The future looks very bleak for the Sony handheld. I'm not going to call it a failure yet, but I'm getting closer to that conclusion. To me, it all comes down to this holiday. If the PS Vita fails to gain any ground or just keep up with the 3DS and smartphone craze, then I don't see it surviving to the 2013 holiday.

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