The stormy days roll on for Sony. The company ended its last fiscal year in March by reporting a crushing $5.74 billion loss due to poor television sales and slower than expected recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japanese industry. The PlayStation business specifically however is an anchor dragging the company swiftly downward. That division closed this past fiscal year with a $2.8 billion loss.
The April through June quarter was no less kind to Sony. It cited the PlayStation division specifically as being responsible for its $312 million loss over the period. Overall weakness in games retail was blamed for the loss but Sony’s true albatross at this point is the PlayStation Vita.
Sony said in its financial report, “This decrease was primarily due to lower sales of hardware and software of the PSP and PlayStation 3, partially offset by the contribution of the PlayStation Vita in December 2011.” The PlayStation Vita however isn’t pulling its weight at all. The PSP and Vita sold a combined 1.4 million systems over the quarter, whereas the PSP by itself sold 1.8 million systems over the same period in 2011.
The Vita just doesn’t have the games to sustain itself. With a major exclusive in its library, Sony might be able to lure consumers into purchasing an additional gaming device to go with their iPhone, iPad, or Nintendo 3DS, but as it is, the Vita has no killer app in its stable. Nor does it look like Sony will be able to convince one of its software partners to make one.
Sony is openly admitting the grim state of affairs for the Vita. Speaking with the PlayStation: The Official Magazine (via The Silent Chief), SCE president Shuhei Yoshida said, “We’re having a more difficult time than we had anticipated in terms of getting support from third-party publishers, but that’s our job. We will continue to talk to development communities and publishing partners and tell them why Vita can provide a great experience for the IPs they have and I hope the Assassin’s Creed game will prove that.”
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and the white PlayStation Vita it will be bundled with should bring in some new Vita owners, as will Activision’s Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified, but Sony needs original games to capture what few gaming dollars consumers have.
The Vita is a fine machine. It has brilliant original games too. Sound Shapes and Gravity Rush aren’t just two of the best portable games this year, they’re two of the best games of 2012 period. They’re not enough to make the system a hit though. Sony needs help, or its portable may not last another year.