The launch of the Playstation Vita has hardly been a smooth ride for Sony, with a mixed reception from the public and sales figures falling below expexctations. Despite being the most powerful and feature-rich dedicated gaming handheld on the market, it has struggled to carve out its own identity with gamers. Stiff competition from Nintendo and the mobile and tablet markets has compounded the problem, leading to a worrisome trend of declining sales soon after the device launched in May 2012. Sony expected the console to sell well based on the power of the hardware, and familiar IPs such as Uncharted, Wipeout and Lumines were intended to sweeten the pot. While sales figures have not been catastrophic, they certainly show a downward trend.
When projecting the number of units sold, Sony has combined the sales of the newly-released Vita and the outgoing Playstation Portable (PSP) systems. While the separate figures for both platforms was not disclosed, the numbers combined are below what Sony expected. The original forecast called for 16 million units sold during the fiscal year, however the slow start from the two handhelds has caused Sony to pull back on those expectations. With 1.6 million units sold in the past three months, a decrease from the 1.8 million in the first quarter, the projection for the fiscal year now stands at 10 million units. This is the second time during the fiscal year that Sony has lowered their forecast, with the amount being dropped to 12 million after the sluggish sales during the first quarter. What this all adds up to is a $16 million loss for Sony, which contrasts heavily with the $88 million profit that they earned the year before.
This less-than-warm reception could be chalked up a number of factors. The first year of a new product’s launch is always unpredictable, so it could be that the Vita has yet to find it’s place in the market. Sony is certainly not alone in reporting losses, as sales for Nintendo’s 3DS have also been on decline, so this could be a symptom of a changing market. With more people turning to inexpensive games on their tablets and smartphones, the handheld gaming market is not what it used to be. Price is a primary consideration for many people, so competing against a $0.99 downloadable game with a $40 retail release is a bit like bringing a knife to a gun fight. However, Sony’s push to introduce more cross-platform features between the Playstation 3 and the Vita, as well as the upcoming “Cross Buy” program, will hopefully help these numbers stabilize soon.