IGN has an interesting interview up this morning with Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO and President Jack Tretton about the PlayStation Vita in which Tretton teases sales details about the company’s cutting-edge gaming handheld. Wait, what sales data? You know, U.S. sales. The system officially launches in the U.S. today, true, but it’s technically been on sale across the country in a premium bundle since last Wednesday, Feb. 15.
About the soft launch, which included both system and accessory sales, Tretton admits Sony already has an “initial read.” In three words: “Very, very positive.” Make of that what you will. Tretton adds that “Memory is going out the door very aggressively despite the fact that memory is in a lot of the presale bundles” and that “the software appears to be selling quite well top to bottom.” The Vita’s proprietary memory cards — necessary since the Vita has no internal storage — are priced about twice as much as comparably sized flash memory cards, a sore point leading up to the launch and in every otherwise positive review. If Tretton’s right, it means buyers are shelling out anyway, just as they have in the past for arguably overpriced peripherals, like Microsoft’s $100 Xbox 360 Wi-Fi USB dongle.
The Vita presale pack, also known as a “First Edition Bundle,” included the Wi-Fi + 3G Vita itself, a limited edition case, a one-month AT&T DataConnect pass, a copy of the Vita arcade game Little Deviants, plus it allowed early adopters to snatch the Vita one week early. All that for $350 — a good deal when you break out the individual costs, but still pricey ($50 more than the price of a new PlayStation 3). “Very, very positive” isn’t a figure, of course, so keep your skeptic’s caps close until we have actual sales numbers in hand.
The bestselling game so far? According to Tretton, it’s Nathan Drake’s game to lose: “Uncharted is far and away the big winner, but I think we kind of knew that.”
What about the Japanese market, where the Vita launched on December 17, 2011 to supposedly sluggish sales? Tretton says the media’s simply got it wrong, telling IGN “it scares [him] if people think that the Japanese launch is struggling.”
“The fact is they sold 500,000 units in three weeks,” said Tretton, admitting he’d be happy if Sony sold that many Vita units stateside during the handheld’s preliminary three weeks, and that half a million units is “a real healthy number for a new platform launch.” He’s right about that, of course, but even if it clears 500,000 in the U.S. by early March, Nintendo’s 3DS cleared five million units in Japan in just 52 weeks — faster than any other game system in the country’s history.
And then Tretton talks about his infamous 10-year product life cycle, a point he first raised some years ago during an E3 press show in reference to the PlayStation 3. I’ll be generous and assume he means the Vita-as-platform, not the physical hardware, which — assuming it’s a sales success — I predict we’ll see metamorphose more than once before we’re celebrating its five-year anniversary (just look at the DS and, to a lesser extent, Sony’s own PSP). The trick’s going to be getting the mutations right. The PSP 3000 was generally a positive, albeit tame one, while the overpriced PSP Go was by most accounts a major misstep.