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PS Vita sells more than 1.2m units globally, but can it maintain its strong start?

A week after the US, European and Australian launch of its latest handheld gaming device, the PS Vita, Sony has announced worldwide sales figures as of February 26.

Sony Computer Entertainment said in a statement (pdf) on Tuesday that a total of 1.2 million units had been sold globally. About 580,000 units have been bought in Japan since its launch in December, which puts sales for the rest of the world at 620,000.

Commenting on the figures, Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, said, “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the reaction we’re seeing from consumers and the pace at which PS Vita is selling.”

He continued, “The market has responded and there is clear demand for a mobile device capable of providing a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context.”

While Sony may be happy with the initial figures for the US, Europe and Australia, the burning question for the Japanese company is whether it will be able to maintain the momentum once the pent-up demand has subsided.

playstation-vita-mainUpon launch in Japan at the end of last year, the Vita flew off the shelves but in a matter of days sales nosedived by almost 80 percent. The situation had echoes of Nintendo’s launch of its 3DS device early last year when it initially sold well. Subsequent poor sales, however, forced the Kyoto-based company to reduce the cost of the device from $250 to $170. The price cut, combined with the launch of new game titles, appears to have done the trick, with Nintendo last week announcing that the 3DS had reached five million sales more quickly than with any of its other devices.

Despite sluggish sales in Japan, Sony’s decision to keep the Vita at its current price is understandable, as executives will first want to see how sales go in the rest of the world. Should they tail off dramatically in the coming weeks, the company may feel it has no option but to drop the price. It currently sells in the US for $250 (Wi-Fi only) and $300 (Wi-Fi and 3G).

Explaining how Sony intends to maintain healthy sales of the Vita, Andrew House said, “We’re working closely with 3rd party developers and publishers to ensure the best games and franchises possible will be available on PS Vita, and our software line-up for the remainder of 2012 will have something for everyone across the globe.”

Gaming devices such as the Vita and 3DS also face tough competition from smartphones and tablets, which offer access to thousands of free and cheap games. Serious gamers with disposable income will be keen to get the PS Vita, though casual gamers will be less likely to dig into their pockets.

The Vita features a highly praised 5-inch (12.7cm) OLED touchscreen (the back is also touch sensitive) and a quad-core graphics processing unit. It incorporates both Wi-Fi and 3G functionality, comes with front and rear cameras, and can play music and video as well. On the whole the device has been well received by critics, although some have highlighted its poor battery life and expensive proprietary memory cards.

[via Forbes]