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The PS4 is selling like hot cakes all over the world…except in Japan. But why?

23 Comments
By Preston Phro, RocketNews24

To say that gamers looked forward to the launch of the PlayStation 4 would be a huge understatement. The hype that built up in the months prior to the console’s November 2013 release date was nothing short of phenomenal, with over a million pre-orders being placed and Sony revealing that it had sold just as many units during the console’s first weekend at retail in the U.S. alone.

Now, over a year after its release, Sony has announced that it has sold more than 20 million units to customers around the world. It’s not exactly an objective source, sure, but that’s still a lot of plastic boxes sitting under TVs. Of course, a huge chunk of those sales were gobbled up by Europe and North America, but we bet Japan – PlayStation’s homeland – also accounts for a fair slice of the pie chart, right?

Well, apparently not quite as much as you might expect.

According to Japan’s Niconico News, only about one-twentieth of the PS4’s total sales (or about 1.1 million units) have been in Japan. This is despite the fact that the PS4 is apparently the fastest-selling hardware in the PlayStation brand history, having been on the market for less than a year and a half.

While selling one million units of anything is hardly something to be ashamed of, consumers in the UK – a country with a population roughly half that of Japan’s – had snapped up one million PlayStation 4s by September 2014 – after only 42 weeks on the market. It took Japan nearly a year to hit that number. By comparison, the console’s predecessor, PlayStation 3, sold one million units in Japan in only nine months.

So, what’s the deal? Are Japanese folks pissed at Sony for releasing the console pretty much everywhere else in the world before Japan? Probably not, since we know that the Xbox One, which also launched late in Japan, is hardly selling at all in Sony’s homeland. In fact, for the week of February 9, while the PS4 moved just under 21,400 units in Japan, Xbox One sold just 291 units.

Okay, so we know Japanese gamers haven’t defected to Microsoft, so why aren’t they buying PS4s? Are they broke? Have they decided that they’d rather train for marathons instead of play video games? Are they still finishing their backlog of PS3 games?

Well, to be honest, no one is entirely sure, but Niconico News has compiled some thoughts from Twitter users and we can only assume they will explain everything! Let’s take a look.

“People are saying the PS4 sold over 20 million units, but you wouldn’t think it being in Japan. LOL” “The PS4 sold over 20 million units at a really explosive rate, but you wouldn’t guess it from looking at Japan. Even though it was supposed to have been born here!” “Has the PS4 really sold over 20 million units? In Japan, the mobile games and PC browser games are what’s popular right now, but from a global perspective those are probably in the minority. The Japanese game world is becoming more ‘Galapagos’-like too.” [At least in 2013, browser games were actually more popular than console games in the US as well…] “Trying to put a 47-inch LCD TV in my 10-tatami room (about 16 square meters) and having lots of free time? I don’t have that sort of foreign country lifestyle, so a PS4 would be waste for me.”

Of course, a more likely reason might be that the big PS4 games are just now starting to come out in Japan. For example, Niconico News pointed out that "Dragon Quest Heroes" was just released at the end of February, "Yakuza 0" was released last week, and "Final Fantasy Type 0 HD" will be in stores in Japan at the end of the next. Both "Dragon Quest" and "Yakuza" are Sony exclusives, and we doubt many in Japan will be buying an Xbox One to play "Final Fantasy" any time soon, so there’s a lot of speculation that PlayStation 4 sales will pick up in the coming weeks.

We might also add that April is when many university graduates start new jobs, though we’re not sure if that will compel PS4 sales upward or downward. A steady paycheck could encourage them to start spending on luxuries, but there again all that overtime might make them think twice about splurging on something they won’t get to use.

Or, maybe, everyone in Japan is still perfectly happy just playing "Puzzle & Dragons."

Sources: Niconico News, DualShockers

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- PS4 undercuts Xbox One’s pricing by nearly $200 in Mexico -- Newsflash: Silver “Dragon Quest Metal Slime Edition” PlayStation 4 unveiled by Sony -- Early photos suggest that European PlayStation 4 consoles are made in Japan, not China

© Japan Today

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23 Comments
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There have been a million and one articles about this. It's simple - mobile games. Japan is the largest market by revenue ($5bn+ annually). Add in the fact that most major game releases now come from the US, where the market has overtaken the movie industry (by revenue). Singleplayer games aren't big sellers anymore, and Japan has yet to make a globally successful multiplayer game. Look at GTA 5 - it made $1bn in its first 24hrs of release. COD makes hundreds of millions of dollars each year of release. It's just an entirely different landscape these days.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Yeah I think the mobile market is destroying consoles in Japan. I think it's because unlike most western countries the Japanese don't just sit around their house if they actually get time off work.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Good call sighclops, I forgot about that for a minute. I assumed it was the lack of interesting games on the ps4.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The controller is not made for child size hands anymore...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

1 word... smartphones

2 ( +2 / -0 )

sighclops

Japan has yet to make a globally successful multiplayer game. Look at GTA 5 - it made $1bn in its first 24hrs of release

I agree with your assessment in general, but I don't get this at all. What does Japan not making a GLOBALLY successful multiplayer game have to do with sales of the PS4 in Japan?

And when GTA5 was released there wasn't a multiplayer component at all - didn't come until several weeks later.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Smart phones, mobile games, and (3)DS and psp. PSP!!! I see so many people on the train still using their PSP while I am rocking my Vita which is 3 years old. The PSP is 10+ but people still play that outdated thing. Japan used to create and push markets all over the world. Automotive, electronics, video games. Now they just live in a entire separate world even more than ever.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Brandon ShermanMAR. 16, 2015 - 08:41AM JST I think it's because unlike most western countries the Japanese don't just sit around their house if they actually get time off work.

What? I think you got your wires crossed there. Japan is a land of stay-at-homers if I ever saw one.

Another reason for the poor sales is the lack of games that appeal to Japanese tastes. The games industry is now owned by the west so the majority of games made today just don't appeal to Japanese.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

For the ppx who kept saying mobile phone games are destroying console gaming in Japan. Just look at one fact: why aren't game developers going bust all over Japan, just like in the West? Some studios hardly made any mobile phone games at all. And Nintendo 3DS is still going strong. Smartphones may be good for casual gaming, but it will never replace dedicated gaming devices.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Furthermore, most J-games studios are relatively small and don't have the budget nor the magnitude of sales to develop games that would take advantage of the power of the home consoles. It's ironic that as the PlayStation home consoles become more and more powerful, the Japanese platform is becoming more and more out of reach for J-developers.

Also, typical J-residences aren't suited to take advantage what home consoles are made for, including huge TVs and surround sound setup - in contrast, the usual Western residences have enough space for every room. If one cannot take advantage of what home consoles are made for, then what's the point of getting it when one can just play on smaller screens of portables, cheaper too.

(BTW, fun fact: even though they're handheld portables, most of the J-portable gaming actually occurs at home, not on the road.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mobile games are more popular, both phone games are traditional portables. I see plenty of Vitas, PSPs ,and 3DS out and about, not just phones.

The cost of developing on consoles is more and more expensive than it used to be. This limits the studios that can develop on them, you can't release a big AAA JRPG on consoles anymore and make a profit unless you are Square. As a result, more and more Japanese development is moving to the Vita and 3DS. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, those are fantastic platforms.

Couple that with more time spent [passively] commuting on average, and it's not hard to see why various forms of mobile gaming are more popular.

That said, I like my PS4, but I play it a lot via my Vita's Remote Play. Assuming I'm not too tired after work. I get to play games now maybe once a week, or less?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Because it doesn't flip open?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The big rich and bombastic games, best played on big screens and massive sound, are mainly popular in the West, like Medal of Honor.

Games popular in Japan seem kinda childish and 2 dimensional by comparison, featuring dancing teddy bears or whatever. So, yeah, why have sophisticated hardware for that?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Maybe more Japanese are seeing "gaming" for what it is--a monumental and moronic waste of time.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Huh? "why aren't game developers going bust all over Japan, just like in the West?" You have that backwards. Video game companies are not going bust in the west. Sometimes studios are shut down. But most of the this is because the umbrella company shuffles those people around to other studios. Many Japanese video game companies ARE struggling. Also you really can't say western companies vs Japanese. SquareEnix, a Japanese company, publishes western developed games like Tomb Raider and Dues Ex. Same with Sony. Sony has plenty of western devs under its umbrella.

If you are talking strictly Japanese developers vs. western devs. I mean yeah. You are going to hear about a few western devs shut down from time to time. But they now outnumber the Japanese 10 to 1 or even 20 to 1. The JP devs would rather spend 1/10th the time and man power to make mobile games. With games like puzzle dragon, they are taking in millions. They simply could not care less if their games ever leave JP soil.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I always say I will buy a PlayStation, but finally I enjoy much more playing on a PC or reading a book. I don't think it's a waste of time. When you just read a financial book you can enjoy playing a game for 1 hour and just relax.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Pandabelle

What does Japan not making a GLOBALLY successful multiplayer game have to do with sales of the PS4 in Japan? And when GTA5 was released there wasn't a multiplayer component at all - didn't come until several weeks later.

My main point was that gamers don't buy consoles predominantly for singeplayer games anymore. Sure, there may be a few outliers here & there, but by and large it's the multiplayer games that sell consoles. GTA 5 was just an example off the top of my head and the fans like myself (I've finished pretty much every GTA game ever made) knew that the multiplayer had to live up to the hype. Funnily enough it was only last week that Heists were added...!

Looking at the biggest sellers (on both platforms), most were multiplayer games (Destiny, COD, BF4, Minecraft etc.). Japan still has its fair share of compelling singeplayer titles, but these have limited replay-ability as we all know. Console games are expensive, so gamers want to get the most out of them! Multiplayer is definitely one way to ensure that! This is why the PS4 isn't selling in Japan - the local market is becoming increasingly isolated. We've seen this across many mediums over the past decade.

@Moondog

Maybe more Japanese are seeing "gaming" for what it is--a monumental and moronic waste of time.

Different strokes for different folks... Who are we to say how people should spend their hard-earned cash? As long as they're paying their taxes & contributing to society, aye? ;)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Singleplayer games aren't big sellers anymore, and Japan has yet to make a globally successful multiplayer game.

Oh I wouldn't say that. Ever hear for FFXIV? It's an MMO by square enix so it's a Japanese multiplayer game and it has over one million active subscribers last time I checked. It's also been released globally and is cross platform (PC, PS3, and PS4). Also, the previous final fantasy MMO, FFXI, had quite a large following as well for a number of years. So to say they haven't made a globally successful multiplayer game is flat out wrong.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And now for something completely different ...

I wish the console makers, in particular Sony PS, would consider resurrecting some of the old war game / strategy games formerly available only on a PC or Mac.

At E3, several years ago, that suggestion was floated to the game developers behind the city building games Caesar III & VI, Cleopatra and Zeus (among others). and their argument against was the poor resolution of the current systems (the PS2 and original Xbox.) They put a lot of detail into their games and they wanted them to be seen in all their high-rez glory.

Fair enough but now the argument holds no water. The PS is HD and the processor is easily powerful enough to handle any war game (which do not require much if any animation).

The developers at Riot Games told me that it was really a matter of surface area for game control/interface. In fact many of them played and enjoyed war games (a large number of them would meet one or twice a month to play 'old fashioned' map & counter and Euro-style strategy boardgames. So the interest is there, but they though the system design argued against such games on a console.

But I wonder ...

Now I do realize mine is a lonely voice in the wilderness, but I do think it is possible, technically, to convert some of the great old war games to the PS3 or 4 and I also believe these games would find an audience among console gamers ready for something different. Indeed, if such games were averrable, Sony might discover an entire new legion of gamers ready to join the PS ranks.

Just a wild thought on Monday morning ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Perhaps the demographics are changing with less young people to play games? It's a scary thought. Sony should start making games specifically for seniors to play. It might help them with memory, fine motor skills, dexterity, problem solving and provide outlet for socializing. The benefit for seniors playing games could be immense. It could help your bottom line too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sighclops, you're right of course though I was speaking of time, not money.* My comment was just my opinion and while I won't bother defending it, I'm sticking by it. :-)

*And, yes, I know "time is money."

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@moondog

Would you consider reading a book a waste of time? Or going to an art exhibition? Or watching a live sports event? Or taking a walk through a park? Others may consider these a waste of time, but it's just how people like to enjoy their free time.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

tes tes wrote:

@moondog, Would you consider reading a book a waste of time? Or going to an art exhibition? Or watching a live sports event? Or taking a walk through a park? Others may consider these a waste of time, but it's just how people like to enjoy their free time.

Yes and no in varying degrees. Like I said, it's just my opinion. Note that I included "moronic" (not just waste of time) in my description. That's a "loaded" word, of course that adds an element of insult. That wasn't an accident, of course, but speaks to the mindlessness and lack of usefulness of gaming. (Unless you include development of talent for piloting drones for the CIA, which I would not consider truly "useful.")

You might claim that a walk in the park is also mindless but nothing could be further from the truth. Walking and thinking is a creative tool used by some of the best minds. (Steve Jobs comes to mind.)

I once spent seven months camping alone in the Rocky Mountains and don't consider it to have been a waste of time. I did a lifetime of thinking and also had many exciting adventures that I wouldn't trade for anything. But of course you or others might think it a waste (if not impossible) to go seven months without gaming. You are welcome to your opinion. (Even though it's wrong! ;-)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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