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Sony’s handheld business struggles as Nintendo 3DS outsells PS Vita 47-to-1

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The PlayStation Vita is not lighting the video game market on fire with swift sales and widespread developer support. In fact, it’s not even sparking. The metaphorical combustion power of the PS Vita is roughly comparable to that of a waterlogged beach towel. Even in Japan, Sony’s home territory and a market where the positively ancient PlayStation Portable handheld continues to sell, the PS Vita is struggling. How badly is it struggling? Nintendo is selling forty-seven Nintendo 3DSs for every one PS Vita Sony sells.

According to Japanese sales tracking firm Media Create (via NeoGAF), the Nintendo 3DS outsold the PS Vita 47-to-1 between Nov. 5 and Nov. 11. Nintendo sold a total of 187,077 3DS consoles whereas Sony sold just 4,021.

In fairness, the numbers aren’t terribly surprising in light of the week’s new releases. There was no marquee release on Sony’s handheld, while Nintendo released Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the first handheld entry in its incredibly popular life simulator series since 2005’s Animal Crossing: Wild World for Nintendo DS. That game sold more than 11.5 million copies in its first six years on shelves so naturally this new entry helped give the 3DS its astounding lead over PS Vita.

These abysmal weekly sales are just one more sign of Sony’s imperiled portable gaming business. The PS Vita has been selling poorly on a consistent basis almost since its release. In December 2011, the PS Vita debuted in Japan with a modest 325,000 units sold during its first week on shelves. Sales fell nearly 80 percent one week later, though, and despite an occasional surge following new releases Sony has failed to build any momentum behind the Vita.

Sony’s quarterly earnings report on Nov. 1 painted the most dire portrait of its handheld business. Between July and the end of September, Sony sold just 1.6 million PSPs and PS Vitas combined. That’s compared to 1.7 million PSPs over the same period the year before.

Can Sony repair its damaged portable business by dropping the price of the Vita just like Nintendo did for the Nintendo 3DS in 2011? At this point, a price drop may not be enough. While lowering the 3DS’ price from $250 to $170 certainly helped Nintendo convince people to buy the system, it was the release of games like Monster Hunter in Japan and Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 in the global market that really fueled that device’s turnaround. Sony doesn’t have a single announced game for the PS Vita that commands the same size audience as those titles.