Has Sony seceded Japan to Nintendo? (pic: Sony)
A staggering 99% of video game sales in Japan in 2021 have been for the Switch, as Sony announces 4.5 million PS5s have been sold worldwide.
There are some real mixed messages going on at the moment in terms of the PlayStation 5 in Japan. On the one hand, analysts have painted a picture of doom and gloom, claiming Sony is abandoning its home turf, while on the other riots have been breaking out amongst fans trying to get hold of the console.
The riot definitely happened (the shop involved has now randomised when consoles go on sale and will only sell it to people using their credit card plan, to avoid selling to scalpers) but there is also plenty of evidence that Sony is dropping the ball when it comes to Japan.
According to analyst Hideki Yasuda of Ace Research Institute 99% of all video game software sales in 2021 in Japan have been for the Nintendo Switch, despite the fact that Nintendo has not released any new games so far.
‘Nintendo has practically eradicated PlayStation’, suggests Yasuda. ‘It is unfortunate, but as I have pointed out before, the decline of the PlayStation brand in Japan has become a well-known fact’.
Those are strong words but it’s certainly true that PlayStation 5 console sales in Japan have been considerably less than the PlayStation 4 at the same point in its life, although the stock problems make direct comparisons difficult.
So far in 2021 the Switch has sold 650,408 consoles compared to just 29,124 for the PlayStation 4, with the highest ranked non-Switch game in the current weekly software charts being Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War at number 25.
In fact, so far this year there hasn’t been a single non-Switch game in the entire top 20.
Yasuda pins the blame solely on Sony, accusing them of ‘not taking Japan seriously’ and suggesting the situation is not because Nintendo has done anything particularly unusual, but that Sony has dropped the ball.
Nintendo has actually had a very quiet 12 months in terms of new releases, with the company struggling more than most to adjust to new working practices imposed by the pandemic. So in theory this would’ve been the perfect time for Sony to take advantage of that.
Although Sony has denied any change in focus many have criticised them for things like changing the default control layout for their controllers in Japan, and failing to properly translate announcement videos, which has annoyed Japanese gamers.
More practically there seem to be a lack of Japanese-made games in development at Sony at the moment, with much talk of Japan Studio being downsized and Gran Turismo 7 and Astro’s Playroom being the only Japanese first party PlayStation 5 titles to be announced so far.
Whatever complaints Japanese gamers might have though the PlayStation 5 has overall been a massive success for Sony, who this week announced console sales have already reached 4.5 million units worldwide.
That puts the PlayStation division on course to have its best year ever, with an impressive 87% of PlayStation 5 owners being subscribed to PlayStation Plus.
So whether the complaints against Sony’s policies in Japan are valid or not the overall success of the current strategy means it’s unlikely to change in the short term.
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