Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Focus on the Japanese Market - Is Japan the best place to test the waters? Or are other markets better since they are larger and equate to more sales?
Daniel: While it’s true that the 3G model will find a much more welcoming market in Japan than it will in the United States, other gadgets like the Kindle and iPad 2 have shown that American consumers with holiday-shopping-rage in their blood will spring for the most capable version of a device. Launching simultaneously across Eastern and Western markets might seem like a daunting task, but taking that leap means that Sony will turn the PSV launch into a worldwide event.
Midnight launches every hour starting in Japan and ending in the United States would be a huge media frenzy. Kaz Hirai handing out the first unit in Japan and the first unit in California would be huge. Having the earliest adopters evangelizing the Vita to local TV news crews while waiting in line would also mean free marketing.
Anthony: Europe may not be the middle child anymore, Daniel. Their currency is worth more than ours (fuck you, dollar). And they are a much larger territory. What am I saying? U... S... A!!!! USA! Oh say can you see...... Where was I?
Anyway, I think their best bet is to release in Japan first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed that it’s not coming to US at the same time. I’ll probably even look into importing one as long as I can switch the X and O functions (they’re swapped in Japan). But portables sell much, much better in Japan than in the rest of the world. They live in these tiny apartments and are always on the go. It makes sense to test the waters there.
From what I’ve seen, there’s also a lot more support from Japan-based third-party publishers, which is where Sony’s headquarters also reside. Ridge Racer, Street Fighter X Tekken, that crappy Gravity game—these are from Japanese publishers, and there’s plenty more where that came from.
Production Costs/Capabilities - Is the staggered launch a matter of production and factory resources? Or is it about ensuring enough product for the demand in each territory?
Anthony: There was a huge problem at the PS3’s launch with initial supply, but this was due to the Blu-ray format and Sony struggling to get the Blu-ray laser diodes created fast enough. It really hurt launch sales. Pre-order lines were out the door, then you couldn’t find a console on store shelves until late in January, the whole point of a holiday sales rush was basically ruined due to supply not meeting demand. Then for said reasons about lack of software, demand soon fell off, and Sony missed the optimal timing for market penetration.
I don’t see the Vita having any components that are too revolutionary where they couldn’t be produced at a fast rate. So I think it’s more a strategic planning to meet demand in each territory than it is a production issue.
Daniel: I think we both agree that the PSV’s innards aren’t made out of the rarest metals, only found in conflict mining towns in Africa, so why the delay? Reports of the PSP2 popped up well over a year ago, and despite hardware specs finalized well after the fact, the PlayStation Vita’s most expensive component is probably the large touchscreen.
But with touchscreens becoming a part of everyday life on our phones, on our video game handhelds, and in our fast food restaurants (seriously, Jack in the Box order-by-robot), I don’t see how that could possibly hold up manufacturing. So on that we agree, but Sony’s strategy should involve quietly handing out PlayStation Vitas as they become available.
It should be a shotgun blast to the face of every consumer everywhere. I want to see PlayStation Vita signage in every GameStop, Best Buy, and Target. I want to see Wal-Mart employees confused about what I’m talking about despite the demo station being three feet from where they’re standing. I don’t want a quiet, organized buffet where territories are assigned a number for when they can go get their food. I want a console launch with shoving and kicking and punching and trampling.
I’ll be preordering on Amazon with the safety of the Internet though.
Anthony: Amazon for me too. That seems to be the only way I shop now.
The PS3 - Would Sony be competing with themselves and holiday PS3 sales in the US where Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, and exclusive content will be strong sellers?
Anthony: This may be the biggest reason yet for why Sony decided to hold off in US and Europe. If there’s ever a system seller for the PlayStation 3, it’s Uncharted 3. I mean, that game is fucking awesome. Then they still need to move... well... the Move. They’ve got Twisted Metal andResistance 3. Other games too. Why compete with yourself on that level?
This is an important holiday battle for Sony in this crazy console war. Especially in the US. The Xbox brand is growing at an incredible rate thanks to Kinect. With all of these Kinect titles coming this year, Sony needs to focus on putting the PS3 up against the 360 and winning that fight. The Vita will only complicate things there. It’s like going to a fist fight with the neighborhood bully, but having your little bro tag along. It's only going to distract you, and you never take your eye off the prize.
Daniel: On this point, I’d say we agree the most. As badly as I want the Vita to release this holiday in Western markets, I know I’m in a minority that buys as many video games as I do. I’ll probably already be spending upwards of $500 on video games this year, with titles across the Xbox 360, PS3, and 3DS. Throwing a PlayStation Vita on top of that will only raise the dollar amount or take money away from a platform.
Sony doesn’t want that money taken out of my PS3 software budget. They’re driving hard to hold exclusive content like the bonus mission for L.A. Noire, the playable Joker challenge maps in Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Kratos in Mortal Kombat. All of those things may appear small, but for someone who owns more than one console, it means the difference between which system I own a game for.
In truth, I would rather see software sales make up for the struggle Sony had in their PS3 launch. If anything, Sony is really poised to walk away with the best sales figures this holiday season than any other before it in the PS3’s lifecycle. I can only imagine the Vita would work to trip up the PS3 and hurt Sony over all.