Skip to main content

Sony’s handheld is blowing up in Japan, but it’s not because of the PS Vita price cut

phantasy star online 2 us

Don’t call it a come back, the PS Vita may be here for years. Sony’s beleaguered handheld gaming machine spent its first birthday in February as a ball and chain around the company’s already sagging PlayStation division. By the end of the month, Sony showed that it was dead set on turning the device around. The company made simultaneous announcements that the PS Vita would be closely tied to the upcoming PlayStation 4 for remote play, and it would be receiving a price cut. The PS Vita price cut, however, was only for Japan. It’s worked, though: PS Vita sales have quadrupled in Sony’s homeland, leading the Japanese console sales charts for two weeks running.

According to Japanese sales tracker Media Create, the PS Vita was the best selling console from Feb. 25 through Mar. 10, selling more than 126,000 handhelds over that two span since the price drop.

Sony knew that the price of the handheld was too high, especially in Japan. “Based on our research, there are two broad reasons why people who may want to try the Vita aren’t purchasing it,” said SCEJ president Hiroshi Kawano in February, “One, they want to wait until there’s a game they want to play on it. Two, the price is a little out of reach for them.” Fluctuations in the yen forced Sony to keep the price higher in Japan than in the rest of the world. Now the Vita is approximately $214 in the country.

As with all gaming machines though, it’s the games themselves that lure in customers, and PS Vita’s surge in Japan simply may not be entirely replicable abroad. As much as the price drop has provided incentive for Japanese gamers to flock to the system, the PS Vita has also seen the release of three new games that are immensely popular in the country but may have little appeal outside its borders.

The biggest of these is Phantasy Star Online 2, the free-to-play Sega MMO and sequel to the Dreamcast pioneer developed by Sonic Team. Since releasing on PS Vita on Feb. 28 as a totally free digital download and as a limited edition retail game, Phantasy Star Online 2 has sold nearly 72,000 copies. Then there’s Tales of Hearts R, a remake of a crossover brawler based on Namco’s Tales RPGs. Always a hit in Japan, that game sold more than 55,000 copies in its first week on sale. Finally, there’s Soul Sacrifice, the Monster Hunter-style action RPG developed by Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man and Dead Rising. In just three days on sale, Soul Sacrifice sold more than 92,000 copies.

There is a direct correlation between the release of these games and PS Vita’s sales surge in Japan. The price cut was a start, but it wasn’t the sole driving force behind the bump. Even if Sony drops the price of PS Vita in the US and Europe—which it’s already tentatively doing—it won’t see the same revitalized market without actual games to drive the console. No such games have been announced.

Editors' Recommendations

Anthony John Agnello
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Anthony John Agnello is a writer living in New York. He works as the Community Manager of and his writing has…
GDC 2013: Sony puts its money where its mouth is on the indie developer-centric future of the PS4

The Sony we're seeing at GDC 2013 seems to be a very different company than the one that told gamers back in 2006 that they should get a second job if they wanted to have enough to buy a PlayStation 3. Rather than making bold statements about the sheer horsepower and technical magic inside the upcoming PS4, Sony is doing its best Valve imitation by painting the PlayStation Network as the premiere home for independent video game developers looking to put their games in front of console owners – and not just on the PS4, either, but on the PS3 and PS Vita as well.
At the GDC Indie Arcade on Monday night, Sony introduced one new PS4 indie title: Zombie Studios’ Blacklight Retribution. It also announced a number of other titles coming to its current machines, like One True Game Studios’ two-button fighting game, Divekick. The big news wasn't the stream of games coming from small groups rather than big publishers, but how Sony has already changed its digital publishing policies on the PlayStation Network. It turns out that during the PS4 debut in February, Sony's boastful claims of streamlining the process of getting a game on a PlayStation machine was more than hot air.
“We’ve just changed our whole concept submission process,” Adam Boyes, Sony's head of publisher and developer relations, told Gamasutra. “It used to be two stages and all this feedback, and now it’s just one, and it’s optional feedback so there’s no greenlighting process, no voting, no weird stuff.”
That’s not just for independent developers, though. Sony isn’t forcing major publishers like Capcom and Electronic Arts to go through a drawn out submission process to get their digital games online. This is why unusual titles, like the six unlocalized PSOne imports including Sentimental Graffiti published by GungHo Online Entertainment earlier in March, have been showing up on the PSN with greater frequency.
Easing the submission process is only part of the way that Sony is helping indies, though. “[If] these guys are developing content for Vita, and we like the team, we send them Vita kits as loaners for free," Boyes said. "Or waiving path fees for independent developers, if they need that support, then we’re totally behind it." According to Boyes, it’s digital-only developers that receive this aid. Game makers publishing their games as retail discs or cartridges tend not to receive this benefit.
These are precisely the sort of factors that have kept independent developers wary of consoles. Fez developer Phil Fish, for example, never released a second patch for his game on XBLA due to the exorbitant costs of issuing the patch and having the game certified again. 
Between these policy changes and the opportunity for developers to self-publish on PlayStation consoles, Sony is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of wooing the next generation of game developers. Will that make the PS4 and the PS Vita a success in 2014 and beyond? That depends on how good those indie games turn out to be.

Read more
Digital Blend: PS Vita prices fall and DLC pops up for Call of Duty, Dishonored, and Borderlands 2

Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.
Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.
Making headlines...
* Sony has cut the price of it's 3G-equipped PlayStation Vita down to $199.99 from $249.99, in a "majority" of its U.S. stores, according to a report that surfaced earlier this week. Conflicting reasons for the price cut are swirling, ranging from this being a momentary sale offering to word that the 3G model of the PS Vita is being discontinued. Over on the other side of the world in Japan, where the Vita price already has been slashed, sales have picked up for the troubled (yet fantastic) portable. It was the country's best-selling console from February 25 through March 10, with more than 126,000 sold in the two weeks following the price drop there.
* Taking a page from the Electronic Arts playbook, Activision has introduced microtransactions for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. It all amounts to cosmetic enhancements only, with players able to purchase Personalization Packs and Calling Card Packs for $2 and $1, respectively. There's also the option of spending $2 on the Extra Slots Pack, which adds 10 extra Create-A-Class slots to your user profile; this is the only non-cosmetic enhancement available. There's no telling what we'll see next now that the door is open though.
* The recently concluded SXSW festival in Austin, Texas brought some cool news for Borderlands 2 fans. Gearbox Software is planning to release a second DLC character class, following the Mechromancer that was released shortly after the game's 2012 launch. Little was revealed about the upcoming sixth Vault Hunter, but the teaser suggested that this one is more melee-focused than the others, a nod to the first game's character Brick.
* Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks are finally ready to start talking about the planned campaign DLC for Dishonored. First up is The Knife of Dunwall, which drops players into the role of one of the principal antagonists from the vanilla game, the assassin known as Daud. The parallel story follows Daud in the aftermath of his spoiler-y actions that set the main game's driving chain of events in motion. The DLC pack launches on April 16 for all platforms, for a price of $10.
* Fans heard about Star Wars: First Assault late last year when the accidental discovery of an Xbox Live Arcade page revealed the title and what appeared to be cover art for a planned downloadable Star Wars game. More information emerged earlier this week from an anonymous source speaking to Kotaku, who described the game as a team-based, 8v8 multiplayer shooter that would stand as a precursor to Star Wars: Battlefront 3. Unfortunately, it seems that the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm has led to a freeze at LucasArts, and the planned spring 2013 release of First Assault is now in serious doubt.
* The second episode of Ubisoft's three-part The Tyranny of King Washington campaign DLC for Assassin's Creed 3 arrives next week on March 19. We'll have a review for you next week, but why don't you take a peek right now at what's coming in this newly released trailer?
* While you're in the trailer-watching mood, take a peek at this one for the just-released Sound Shapes DLC. Six new albums, all sorts of joy.
* American McGee's Alice: Madness Returns wasn't quite a runaway success, but the deranged vision of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland delivered for fans of the source material. The game's shortcomings means there's not a whole lot of traction at publisher Electronic Arts for Alice 3, but McGee is now interested in snatching up the rights to the series from EA and bringing a third game to Kickstarter. He's called on fans to "make some noise" and will be discussing the possibilities with EA at Game Developer's Conference in two weeks.
Top buys of the week...
Darkstalkers: Resurrection :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 :: $14.99 / 1,200 MS Points
Two games in one! Capcom's clasic Darkstalkers fighting game series is reborn in Darkstalkers Resurrection, which gathers together HD remakes of Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge and Darkstalkers 3 into a single package. In addition to the visual upgrade, you also get online multiplayer (with support for eight-player lobbies), replay sharing, a spectator mode, and an assortment of unlockables. This one's for the fighting game fans, but it's a pleasing refresh of two beloved entries in the series.
Dead Space 3: Awakened :: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC :: $9.99 / 800 MS Points
Ryan had some issues with the vanilla Dead Space 3, but the newly released epilogue in the Awakened DLC impressed the hell out of him. So much so that he wonders why it wasn't included in the game to begin with. That's besides the point though. Awakened adds some great content to Visceral's fun, co-op action-horror game, and whether it belonged there to begin with or not, it's there now and it puts a nice cap on the events of the main game.
Ridiculous Fishing :: iOS :: $2.99
Ridiculous Fishing earns pick of the week honors both because developer Vlambeer deserves it after dealing with that nasty cloning business with Gamenauts in 2012 and because, no matter how you slice it, it really is that good. The game is pretty simple: you drop a line in the water, guide it to the sandy floor, hook as much as you can on the way back up, and shoot everything with your gun as it breaks the surface. The more you collect, the more you can shoot. The more you can shoot, the more money you earn. Money leads to better gear, which in turn makes your fishing more effective. Simple, fun, and horribly, horribly, horribly addictive. Way to go, Vlambeer. Nicely done.
Sound Shapes :: PlayStation 3 / PS Vita :: $1.99
The Sound Shapes DLC this week is a bit complicated. There's a $2 'Car Mini-Album and Creator Pack' which adds two new song levels and the creator tools necessary to take advantage of some newly added mechanics in what is already one of 2012's best games. On the free side, you can download the latest update which adds The Community Milkcrate, amounting to six new "albums" worth of levels. Anthony loved it. The game is kickass. Go get it.

Read more
Sony cuts price of PS Vita 3G to $199 at ‘majority’ of its US stores
sonys handheld business struggles as nintendo 3ds outsells ps vita 47 to 1 sales

The “majority” of Sony stores in the US have reportedly dropped the price of the 3G PS Vita console, according to a Joystiq report late Monday.
Besides the console, the $199.97 bundle includes an 8GB memory card and a voucher for a free PlayStation Network game, which you can claim if you sign up for data coverage. The image above, snapped at a Century City store in LA, indicates you’ll save $100, but the bundle is available from Sony’s online store for $249, leaving you with a still-reasonable $50 saving.
However, Joystiq noted that not all the Sony stores it contacted were offering the lower price, and as far as we know, Sony HQ certainly hasn’t (yet) made any official announcement about any PS Vita discount in the US.
 Sony outlets contacted by Joystiq late Monday gave conflicting reasons as to why it was on sale, with some calling it a permanent move and others saying the offer would end Sunday. A small number of Sony stores, on the other hand, even claimed not to know anything about the lower price.
So if you’re interested in picking up a cheap PS Vita from your local Sony store, the advice is to phone ahead first to see if the staff actually know what’s going on.
At the start of this month, Sony cut the price of the PS Vita in Japan by 33 percent, leaving many would-be buyers of the machine in the US expecting similar news in the days that followed. And then there was a long…drawn…out…silence. Until now, that is.
Sony Computer Entertainment Japan president Hiroshi Kawano talked recently about the price cut for the Japanese market with Famitsu magazine (via Polygon).
“Based on our research, there are two broad reasons why people who may want to try the Vita aren’t purchasing it,” Kawano said. “One, they want to wait until there’s a game they want to play on it. Two, the price is a little out of reach for them.” Indeed, the price cut led to sales of the device quadrupling in the country.
If there is a memo flying about from Sony HQ ordering stores in the US to discount the PS Vita, hopefully all of them will have received it by Tuesday lunchtime at the very latest.

Read more