Why Is the PS4 Fumbling in Japan?

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diabolikkitsuney/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diabolikkitsuney/

Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) latest console, the PlayStation 4 is a successful product. More than 7 million of these consoles have sold worldwide. Despite international success, the PlayStation 4’s sales are suffering in one market very close to home — the Japanese market.

Sony released the PlayStation 4 in Japan In February 2014, a few months after its November 2013 North American release. Since then, the company has sold 620,000 units of the gaming console. Its weekly sales are at levels about equal to its predecessor, the PlayStation 3, a seventh generation gaming console that has been on the market for nearly a decade. Nintendo’s Wii U is even outselling it. (MICROSOFT’S (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox One has not been released in Japan yet; it’s coming in the fall.) The company is even releasing a Frozen-themed edition PlayStation 4 bundle in hopes the popularity of the hit Disney film will rub off on the PlayStation 4. (Sorry, but it’s exclusive to Japan for now.)

Eurogamer recently interviewed the staff at Sony to find out why the popular console is getting so little attention from Japanese gamers. One answer is that Japanese game developers have not jumped on the PlayStation 4 bandwagon just yet. Sony Computer Entertainment boss Andrew House told Eurogamer that Japanese sales were “okay.”

“We’re conscious of the fact we have not had yet the sort of groundswell of Japan native content from Japanese publishers and developers,” House told Eurogamer. “I view that as temporary.”

On the surface, this assessment makes sense. A gaming console’s sales are driven in part by what games are available on the platform. In the United States, Titanfall’s Xbox One first release helped drive sales of the Xbox One. No game has filled that role yet for Sony in the Japanese market. The games are being created for the PlayStation 4 are also being released for the PlayStation 3 at the same time, creating a competitor of its predecessor. The PlayStation 3 is a platform that Japanese game developers are still investing in by creating games for that console. Buying a new PlayStation 4 loses its appeal when the exact same games can be bought on the same release date for the PlayStation 3 instead. It will likely take new games developed exclusively for or released first on the PlayStation 4 to further drive sales of the console.

This lag in games for the PlayStation 4 will eventually end, especially with Microsoft’s Xbox One making its Japanese debut in the fall. That should put a little extra pressure on Sony to get more games out for the PlayStation 4. It is outselling the Xbox One internationally, including in the United States, home to Xbox’s parent company Microsoft. Sony will likely want to continue that trend on its home turf.

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