PlayStation Vita's Disappointing Japanese Launch: Sony Learned Nothing From Nintendo

By all accounts, Sony’s U.S. PlayStation Vita launch lineup will easily be one of the best all time. It’s tough to argue against a list that includes Uncharted: Golden AbyssLumines: Electronic SymphonyFIFA Soccer and Wipeout 2048, and that barely scratches the surface of what this impressive machine will have to offer.

Suffice to say, it would appear Sony learned much from Nintendo’s criticised 3DS launch in March 2011, a lackluster showing that featured an overpriced handheld and a collection of titles that failed to thrill.

That is, unless you take a look at recent events in Japan.

We’ll stop short of saying Vita bombed. It’s much too early to make such a bold statement, and Nintendo proved one game (or a few) can turn sales around.

That being said, it’s clear Sony put all of its launch eggs into the Western basket, and used Japan as a testing bed. Either that, or as a way to simply shove Vita out the door and make the holiday launch period.

Unfortunately, this came at the expense of Japanese players that have little in the way of killer apps to choose from. Uncharted may seem like a triple A title to you, but over there, the series is nowhere near as popular.

What else is there to choose from? Touch My Katamari, the 800th game in the series? Yet another golf title? A Ridge Racer game with only a handful of tracks, the rest appearing as paid downloadable content in the months ahead? Army Corps of Hell, an unproven IP from Square Enix? We’ve heard great things about Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but come on. Capcom already released the console version, which is in fact a slightly enhanced edition of the previous MvC3 that appeared almost a year ago.

Meanwhile, games like Wipeout and Lumines have yet to debut.

Factor in the high cost of memory cards (some games will not boot without one) and the price of the machine (some retailers have temporarily discounted the 3G model), and we have to wonder if A.) Sony even cares about Japan right now, and B.) if it learned anything from Nintendo’s well-documented struggles.

Bottom line, we have high hopes for the U.S. and European Vita launches, and expect the system to fair much better in the West. But make no mistake, Sony deserves some and perhaps most of the blame for the portable’s issues.

Fans are quick to point out that Vita sales will pick up once games in the Monster Hunter and Final Fantasy franchises appear, but how long will that take?

At the end of the day, Sony may have put too much stock in February 2012. Let’s just hope westerners flock to the machine in droves. Otherwise, this’ll get ugly real quick.

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