Wii U Debut Beating PlayStation 4's In Japan

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Steve Anderson
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Wii U Debut Beating PlayStation 4's In Japan

That's a statement right there that would act like a brick to most anyone's temple, but the reports suggest it is indeed the case. While the PlayStation 4 is having a field day over most of the planet, and likely giving Microsoft a fit or two in the process, there's one place where the sales patterns are running a bit backwards on the rest of the world, and that anomaly is right in Sony's home turf: Japan.

There's a Japanese firm known as Media Create that runs comparisons, following the ebb and flow of the gaming systems sold in the country. Numbers go back decades, by some reports, and the gaming industry is laid bare in Japan, an industry that seems a bit on a downhill slope.

But the PlayStation 4 is perhaps the most interesting example of these recent developments, especially as compared to the Wii U. In just the first two days of sales on the Wii U, back in December 2012, the Wii U sold a hefty 308,142 units. It promptly followed that up with the next two weeks' sales, bring the three week total to 557,901 units total. The PlayStation 4, meanwhile, started strong—309,104 sold in a likewise two day period—but quickly lost ground, selling only enough over the next two weeks thereafter to bring the total to 410,083.

There are, of course, explanations. The Wii U's release was a little over a year and a quarter ago, so the time frame and resulting economic issues could have had something to do with it. There's also the issue of supply to consider; the Wii U supply was relatively untrammeled, while the supply of PlayStation 4 units was much tighter, and remains so almost to this day. Some are even looking at the growth of smartphone gaming in Japan and realizing that the console market—even for handheld consoles, formerly a staple in Japanese gaming—is starting to buckle. There's even a bit of word going on around the overall state of the PlayStation 4, and a familiar cry: no games. At least, no games just for the PlayStation 4; one of the biggest launch titles was said to be “Yakuza: Ishin,” but it released the same day on the PS3.

It's likely a combination of all of these. For every one gamer that might have bought, but lost a job, that's one system lost. Another gamer has a job, but is sitting on his hands and waiting for a good number of games to emerge. Still another gave up on consoles altogether to focus on smartphone gaming instead, failing to see what sense there was in buying a new console when there was so much available on the phone. This combination of factors could easily explain the differences in sales, and poses a significant problem not only for Sony, but for gaming altogether. We're increasingly seeing a future in which console markets are fragmented, where the install bases for consoles are getting smaller and smaller. The expense is one matter; the time required to play games another. This doesn't bode well at all for a triple-A gaming structure where games require more and more time, money and effort to develop, as a progressively smaller user base will only hurt in the end. We may be looking at a somewhat grimmer future for games, but only time will tell if it gets worse before it gets better.

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