Last week Sony announced that they were going to cut the price for both the Wi-Fi and 3G models of the PlayStation Vita in Japan to 19,980 yen (approximately $212 US) — which is down from 24,980 yen ($266 US) for the Wi-Fi model, and 29,980 yen ($319 US) for the 3G model. Speaking to Famitsu, as translated by Polygon, Sony Computer Entertainment Japan president Hiroshi Kawano admitted that the move is largely due to lower than expected sales of the handheld.
“The biggest reason [for the price drop] is that we simply want to have more people playing the PS Vita. Based on our research, there are two broad reasons why people who may want to try the Vita aren’t purchasing it. 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. What we also learned in this research is that people who do own a Vita have tremendous satisfaction with it; it’s the kind of platform where you get a feel for how good it is once you touch it. But we found that the price was too big an initial hurdle for this, and this sparked a long internal debate within SCE.”
“…Certainly, at the present time, maybe we’re a little behind the numbers we originally pictured. I feel we have a ways to go in terms of getting across the good traits of the PS Vita, along with everything the software has to offer. Also, I want to keep pushing for more games that people want to play, since like our research showed, that’s one thing blocking customers curious about the Vita from making a purchase. There are about 100 titles released [in Japan] in a year’s time, and I want to get across that we’ve got a lot of really good games. Like with our other platforms, we’re developing the Vita system with the idea that it’ll have a lifecycle of ten years and change, so I think we need to do everything we can to flesh out the service going forward.”
The PlayStation Vita’s dismal sales situation has clearly been on display in the company’s quarterly financial reports for quite some time now, so it is nice to hear an admission from the company and finally see them take a step towards fixing it. Sadly, that step is going to be limited to Japan only at the moment, as Shuhei Yoshida (Sony Worldwide Studios boss) told Joystiq this past week that the Vita’s price is going to remain fixed outside of their home turf. Honestly, this is not too surprising considering their fragile financial situation and the ever looming danger of unfavorable exchange rates between the yen and Western currencies.
Sony’s chosen path out of their financial mess seems fairly clear at this point. Cut the Vita’s price in Japan, in an attempt to gain support for the handheld in the one place where it has the best chance of surviving and they don’t have to worry about exchange rates. Hold the line on pricing everywhere else, in order to try and brace for the losses that are sure to come from the launch of the PlayStation 4 later this year. Then pray that the PS4 catches on like wildfire and drags the Vita up along with it, while they work to lower their costs for both systems.
Honestly, I hope Sony can pull it off. I’m a huge fan of what the PS3 has become over the last few years, I love PlayStation Plus (especially in comparison to Xbox Live Gold), the Vita is a nice piece of hardware, and I certainly appreciate that they are sticking to a games focused console for next-gen.
With that said, I’m extremely skeptical that this plan will fix anything, and I fear that the PS4 will put the final nail in the coffin that the PS3 and Vita have built over the last six years.