Sony Explains Why PS4 Does not Sell in Japan

Sony Explains Why PS4 Does not Sell in Japan


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Sony Explains Why PS4 Does not Sell in Japan

Even though Sony‘s console has gotten off to a blockbuster start worldwide, selling over 7 million units to consumers last we heard, and likely a few million more since, there’s one market that it’s found to be a rather tough nut to crack.

That would be Sony’s home turf of Japan, where the PS4 has sold reasonably well (640,000 units since its February 2014 launch), but has failed to light the market on fire. In fact, as of late the Wii U is outselling the PS4 in Japan, while the PS4 is barely outselling its own predecessor, the PS3 (the Xbox One launches in the country this fall).

Andrew House recently spoke with Eurogamer about the PS4′s underperformance in Japan, and has a pretty logical explanation for the issues. Namely, it comes down to three things.

1) Japanese developers and publishers haven’t leapt at the chance to make games for PS4, and they remaining more comfortable with the tried and tested PS3, which they’ve been working with for years.

Says House:

“For whatever reasons, when we were evangelizing around the platform, we were having a tougher sell with Japanese publishers and developers. There was a comfort level around PS3 that was playing into that.”

2) More so than perhaps any other market, the Japanese are obsessed with mobile, be it smartphones, tablets or handhelds like Nintendo’s 3DS. That means it can be a tough market for any new home console to find footing.

Says Shuhei Yoshida:

“Japan is completely different. It’s more portable-heavy, but the PS3 is catching up. Of course, after we announced PS4 in February, luckily publishers are showing an interest. But it’s a completely different picture of readiness compared to western publishers.”

3) While streaming mania has taken over much of the world, Japan hasn’t quite had the same level of enthusiasm for services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. While the primary purpose of a PS4 is gaming, the secondary use of streaming media consumption is lost on many Japanese.

Says House:

“If you look at the Japanese market, for a variety of reasons, you have not seen a dominant player in streaming services happen. You see an inherent conservatism around film and TV content holders that doesn’t allow for the rise of these brand new services. I think that’s another factor.”

In the end, Sony believes that Japanese developers will come around, it will just take time. Eventually, they’ll migrate from the PS3 to the PS4, but unlike the West, the public hasn’t been gripped with new console fever, meaning the process will take some time. There wasn’t an instant switchover the way we’ve seen with many western devs, who immediately starting making 4-platform releases to span all console brands and generations.

You can make the argument that tablets, smartphones and handhelds are warring with home consoles, but I have yet to believe they pose a serious threat to console or core PC gaming in their current state. That said, in mobile-obsessed Japan, it stands to reason the battle would be a bit more fierce.

The reluctance to embrace streaming /4/be a cultural issue, but that’s something else that /4/dissolve over time. Worldwide media is obviously moving in that direction, but again, the Japanese might prefer to stream on their mobile devices anyway. Out of the three factors, this is probably the least relevant, but it’s still in the mix to be sure.

All of this makes me curious as to how the Xbox One will do in Japan, give the fact that A) it’s usually struggled behind Sony and Nintendo in that market, B) the Xbox One has been behind the PS4 in terms of sales since launch, and C) Even the PS4 hasn’t been a hit in its home country for all the reasons we’ve mentioned. That’s going to be a stony shore for Microsoft to land on this fall.

For now, Japan /4/prove to be PS4′s biggest hurdle, but the console is performing so well, it’s likely not a huge issue. And it does appear to be one that will be solved in time as both Japanese developers and consumers slowly shift to embrace the new console. The Japanese market is notoriously hard to please, but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s probably Sony.

But above all else, I think it’s the Japanese-exclusive “Frozen” PS4 that’s going to turn the tide…

Follow me on Twitter, and on Facebook, and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novel, The Last Exodus, and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn, along with my new Forbes book, Fanboy Wars.

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