When life hands you lemons, you make...sure no one sees you pucker while you suck on one. That pretty much sums up Sony's position on sales of the PlayStation Vita in Japan, which have plummeted since the device launched in the Land of the Rising Sun on December 17, 2011.
GameSpot ran into Sony's director of hardware marketing John Koller at CES this week and got the following reaction:
If you look at the word-of-mouth factor, it's really strong because people are bringing it home and really enjoying it. That satisfaction rate is really high. But also in terms of when we funnel in additional hardware units, that'll dictate how many sales there are and how many sell through. We're still in the first couple weeks, and we're trying to get as many units into market as possible. We're going to give it some time, but overall those numbers have been to forecast.
Everyone loves the Vita, and we just haven't shipped enough hardware yet, in other words. Oh, and shipped numbers actually match forecast numbers! For Sony's sake, let's hope all (or most) of that's true. While NPD just reported sales across all categories for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 were up 5% in 2011, Sony shipped nearly three million fewer game consoles than Microsoft in the U.S. last year.
Perhaps the Vita's going to follow the Nintendo 3DS's trajectory, launching strong, suddenly falling off a cliff, then rebounding. Of course Nintendo helped things along by knocking $80 off the 3DS's $249.99 launch price, bringing it back to DSi levels at $179.99.
The Vita with Wi-Fi's going to sell for $249.99 when it launches in the U.S. at the end of next month — $299.99 if you want the Wi-Fi + 3G version — and Sony's charging a premium for memory cards (the Vita has no internal memory): $30 for 4GB, $45 for 8GB, $70 for 16GB, and $120 for 32GB. Your total spend for one of these things could top $420 if you want the whole kaboodle. [Make that $400, per the update.]
[Update: The memory stick prices listed above are GameStop's original (apparently "made up") prices, which they've since dropped as follows: $25 for 4GB, $35 for 8GB, $60 for 16GB, and $100 for 32GB. Sony's price list for these is the same as GameStop's revised price list, save for the 4GB card, which Sony says will cost $20.]
Of course the Vita's Japanese sales slump could also have something to do with how Sony says it's timing game releases. Koller told GameSpot that the company "learned from past, most recent, handheld device launches," and that it doesn't "want to launch strongly and then go dark for three or four months and have nothing." He's referring to the 3DS launch mess, obviously, where Nintendo rolled out nearly two-dozen mostly forgettable games, then left gamers high and dry — punctuated briefly by a well-received Zelda remake last summer — until holiday majors like Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 arrived.