Less than a year after the PlayStation Vita‘s release, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studio president Shuhei Yoshida has admitted that the company is having a hard time convincing third-party publishers to support their struggling handheld.
“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,” Yoshida told PlayStation: The Official Magazine in a recent interview.
With Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified being the only two major third-party titles on the horizon, this admission by Sony comes at a time when the Vita‘s third-party woes are plain for all to see. The reason behind the weak publisher support is equally as easy to see. At best, Vita hardware sales are underwhelming, at worst they are dismal.
Pinning down exactly how bad things are for Sony’s eight-month-old handheld is next to impossible, thanks to the company’s ongoing efforts to obscure hardware shipment numbers in their quarterly earnings report. Additionally, Vita sales data to consumers has proven equally as difficult to estimate.
The NPD Group no longer publicly reports exact US hardware sales numbers, and now leaves the decision to announce their estimates up to the platform holders. Not surprisingly, Sony has opted to take full advantage of the situation, and as a result exact US customer sales data for the Vita is a complete mystery. Similarly, European hardware sales data is never reported, and all that has ever been said of the new handheld is that its sales are “weak“.
Despite all of their efforts to obscure Vita sales data there is one place where the handheld’s troubles are out in the open, Japan. In Sony’s home country, Media Create releases precise weekly consumer sales data that gives us a detailed picture of exactly how much consumer interest there is in the Vita, and the picture is not pretty.
Eight months after the PS Vita launched in Japan, life-to-date sales now stand at just 863,740 units. To put that in perspective, the Nintendo 3DS stood at 2.678 million units sold in Japan during its first eight months on sale. Currently, it claims 6.918 million units sold life-to-date.
Without a strong, or at least fast growing, user base third-party publishers will not be inclined to throw money into supporting the PlayStation Vita. Without a strong lineup of third-party software, consumers will not be inclined to purchase the system. It’s the classic “chicken and the egg” problem, and Sony doesn’t seem to have an answer for it.