North American and European game industry figures are nestled snug in their beds, while dreams of New Year's sales dance through their heads. That's a fancy way of saying that industry news has been pretty quiet over here. Fortunately for this column, things are pretty busy in Japan.
Vita Debuts to Lukewarm Sales
The PlayStation Vita has launched in Japan, and sales numbers aren't quite what anybody hoped they would be. Sony shipped around 500k units for the launch, and the system sold about 365k of them in the first two days, with no reports of shortages or difficulty in finding systems to buy. This wasn't quite up to analyst predictions and is unlikely to cause Sony to jump for joy.
The Vita's price is being blamed in part, which is a change in tune from when the system's price was announced last summer. Back then, the Vita's price was seen as positively competitive with Nintendo's 3DS, but that was before the 3DS price drop and before we knew about Sony's memory card system. The Vita doesn't come with a memory card, and many games require one in order to be played. It only accepts proprietary Sony memory cards, which are on the pricy side.
Japanese consumers are expected to shell out the equivalent of over five hundred U.S. dollars in Yen once the system and related accessories are purchased. Granted, game systems are more expensive in Japan than they are here, but that's still quite an investment in comparison to buying a full Nintendo DS system (with included storage) or a top-end cell phone. Although the system's base price probably can't come down anytime soon, Sony may need to budge on the premium pricing for memory cards and accessories for the PSP to truly take off in its home country.
What's selling well in Japan?
Monster Hunter, that's what. Nintendo scored a major coup when Capcom signed on to release Monster Hunter 3G on the 3DS, as the wildly popular series is up there with Dragon Quest and Pokémon as a guaranteed mega-seller in Japan. At this point, over a million units of Monster Hunter 3G have been shipped, and the title has been topping the Japanese sales charts over even Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land.
Industry analysts have suspected that Monster Hunter would push sales of the 3DS in Japan, though we can't discount the impact of the two Mario games, either. What we know for certain is that the 3DS is about to pass the four million sales mark over there, something that Nintendo's president Iwata originally predicted wouldn't happen until February. Not bad news at all, especially with more major releases like Animal Crossing and Kingdom Hearts 3D slated for next year.
In a Far-Away Galaxy Near You
BioWare/Electronic Arts' first big MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic, officially launched this week. Word is that EA has spent more resources on this game than on any other in its history, so the company has a lot riding on its success. The launch has gone relatively smoothly so far, though the busiest servers have experienced lag and long queue times (in which players must wait in line in order to log onto an overcrowded server) and the game's web site itself introduced a queue due to the large number of people activating product keys at the same time. Still, many players are reporting a smooth experience, and thus far all downtime has been pre-scheduled.
Some believe that using a subscription-based model for The Old Republic is a risky move for EA. After all, most non-World of Warcraft MMORPGs have gone from the subscription model to free-to-play, including large recent releases like DC Universe. EA is banking on the Star Wars franchise and BioWare's quality game design talents to keep players ponying up that monthly $15 fee for some time to come. Only time will tell if the game's developers can keep up with the endless hunger for content that MMORPG players are notorious for harboring, but initial signs seem positive for The Old Republic.
President Obama Just Dances
In trivial holiday-related game industry news, U.S. President Barack Obama turned quite a few heads when he showed up at a Virginia Best Buy on Thursday to personally buy a Christmas gift for his daughters. Did somebody neglect to mention Amazon.com to the Prez? The gift was a copy of Just Dance 3 for the Wii, meaning that not only does Mr. Obama run the most powerful nation in the world, he knows the name of the console that his children own. That's one pretty groovy gamer dad right there.
Have a great holiday, faithful readers, and may you receive all the gaming goodness you hoped for this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus/Solstice/Whatever!
By Becky Cunningham
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*