With only two weeks to go until the European launch there are many questions still to be answered by or about the PS Vita. Some of them arise because of surprising omissions in what we know or what we can buy.
One of the latter is the bizarre absence of the 32GB memory card from European retailers. Sony are determined that, for the time being at least, 16GB is all we can buy without importing, directly or indirectly, from the U.S. or Japan.
It seems curious that for a new portable console which will have all of its releases available digitally – and at lower prices than the RRPs for a change – the size of the memory cards is so limited. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, such as shortage of supply due to last year’s floods in Thailand which impacted many high-tech factories leaving Sony unable to supply two new markets, but the cynical will be wondering.
With the 32GB card MIA in Europe it's just as well the card holder in the Official PS Vita Starter Kit holds two memory cards. You'll need them.
And why are the memory card capacities so small anyway? My PSP-3000 has been rocking a 32GB Memory Stick Pro Duo for a long time now which gives it the memory to handle both games and music while I’m out and about. For those of you with PSPGos, it’s fairly likely that you supplemented its 16GB of on-board memory with an M2 card of up to 16GB in size.
Why is it that Sony’s next-generation portable powerhouse of a console tops out at 16GB in Europe? It’s easy to imagine filling even a 32GB memory card in a year if you buy the cheaper digital games instead of their retail versions.
Perhaps Sony are afraid of the criticism they might face if they made larger capacity cards available at necessarily higher prices. After all, they are already coming in for criticism for the prices of the memory as it is, with the 16GB card having an RRP of £39.99 here in the U.K.
Given that many don’t quibble much for paying double that for 16GB of proprietary memory though, Sony’s pricing can be seen as a pretty good deal. Who is paying £80 for 16GB of proprietary storage? Apple’s iPad 2 customers, that’s who. A 16GB iPad 2 is £399 while it’s £479 for the 32GB version, the only difference being that 16GB of what is effectively a proprietary memory card.
Apple's sheeple get fleeced for £80 for 16GB of 'proprietary' memory and don't bat an eyelid. Yet when Sony charge half that much...
Talk of 3G brings us to another of the PS Vita’s unanswered questions, at least in the U.K., I am not certain about all of Europe; what will we end up paying for the 3G data if you stick with the bundled Vodafone SIM (assuming we are one of the “selected countries” that get it)? This morning Vodafone’s website finally acknowledged the PS Vita’s existence though it still makes no mention of data plans or costs. At least I cannot see any mention of data-only PAYG rates on their site.
Here we are two weeks from what will arguably be SCEE’s most important launch of the year and neither they nor their “preferred provider of 3G connectivity” can tell us how much more it’ll cost above the initial £50 extra for the 3G hardware for us to “stay constantly connected to [our] PlayStation world”.
And of course if you do happen to “connect with Vodafone” to get your ‘free’ copy of WipEout 2048, don’t forget that will take up about 40% of the 4GB memory card Vodafone are throwing in. Perhaps it’s all merely an incentive to go with an alternative 3G provider who do clearly publish their data-only costs?
That’ll do for questions for now though, how about we have a go at providing some answers by taking a look at how well it is selling in Japan. I’m sure that, like myself, you have been watching the weekly sales numbers tick past from its opening two days followed by a couple of weeks of trailing the PSP in sales which led to a lengthy commentary from Alex as the media turned on its sales performance.
Now seven weeks into its Japanese release, the picture over there is starting to show the first signs of change which gives me the perfect excuse to hurl some graphs in your direction. To simplify them I have only included figures for the top 5 best-selling consoles so the DS/DSi/DSi LL, 360 and PS2 numbers are not included either individually or in the totals.
All that graph makes clear is that the 3DS recorded some pretty stellar sales figures in the run up to Christmas and with the exception of the PS Vita’s launch sales, nothing else even comes close. Let’s set the Y-axis to max out at 100,000 so we can take a better look at the numbers.
What we see is a fairly typical pattern of Japanese holiday console buying with the Wii selling particularly well during the two key holiday weeks. With the PS Vita launching so close to Christmas, it is not surprising that it did the majority of its holiday sales in those initial two days. What is interesting though is that as things have settled down in January, the PS Vita managed to outsell the PSP in the latest week’s figures; the first time it has done so since launch.
There is another potentially positive trend in the sales figures too. In this next graph the red line, plotted against the left axis, is the total cumulative weekly sales for the five consoles included in the above graphs. The blue bars, plotted against the right axis, are the PS Vita’s weekly percentage contribution to that total figure.
Look at the trend over the last four weeks of sales since the main holiday weeks. Each week the PS Vita’s proportion of the total sales has grown – not by much, it’s only risen from 9% to 12.4% – but it is at least suggestive of the console gaining a foothold in the market.
Finally, here’s the comparison you must have guessed was coming: pitching the first seven weeks of sales of the 3DS against those of the PS Vita.
Remember how widely the 3DS’ early figures were called a failure? We need to be careful though, as comparing the weekly sales figures for the two consoles which launched at very different times of the year, regarding seasonal console sales, and having only a handful of weekly sales figures can easily lead to badly drawn conclusions. Additionally, what has come to be called The Great East Japan Quake and its devastating tsunami occurred during the 3DS’ third week on sale.
While the PS Vita’s numbers are uniformly lower, there is hope. Despite the end of January being relatively slow as far as console sales go, the PS Vita’s sales curve seems to have levelled out and may even, possibly with help from the release of the Tales Of Innocence RPG which made it to number 3 in the week’s software chart, have started on a slow climb.
Obviously it is early days and any apparent trends could very well be short term but we will keep tracking the numbers and update you when the PS Vita’s got a few more months of sales behind it. It is a shame that, as usual, the sales numbers for the PS Vita’s Western releases will not be so readily available but you can be sure that as and when we hear any we will pass them on.
Here are some figures, if the charts are a little too imprecise.
Sales data from Media Create.