FEB. 25, 2014 • The ¥39,980 ($391) PlayStation 4 Japan launch was on February 22. In two days more than 322,000 units were sold, according to research firm Enterbrain. By comparison, more than 88,000 PS3s were sold in two days, and 980,000 PS2s within 48 hours. Sony Computer Entertainment has set a goal of selling 500,000 PS4s in Japan by the end of the company’s fiscal year on March 31. According to Amazon.com’s Japan site the top five game purchases are Ryu ga Gotoku: Ishin! (Yakuza Restoration – Sega), Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (Square Enix), Battlefield 4 (Electronic Arts), Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft), and Shin Sangoku Musou 7 (Dynasty Warriors 8 Xtreme Legends Complete Edition – Koei). The PS4 is also available bundled with a PS Camera for ¥ 43,980 ($430).
Impact: Japan is a tough market to forecast for a new console system as sales patterns in Japan have not necessarily followed global trends. DFC Intelligence’s latest forecasts for the PlayStation 4 in Japan were fairly conservative at 1.4 million units for 2014. So while sales in Japan may seem rather muted when compared to selling more than 1 million PlayStation 4s within 24 hours in North America, it was not that unexpected. We believe Sony’s estimate of 500,000 units sold by March 31 is turning out to be pretty accurate, although we are also a tad surprised that the PS4 did not have a larger initial splash. More tellingly, around 309,000 Nintendo Wii U systems were sold during its first two days in Japan in December 2012. The Xbox One has yet to be released in Japan, but we think Microsoft will continue to struggle in Japan.
There is a lot of discussion about Japan becoming a more mobile culture, and how that is affecting home console sales. This is especially true for a system as expensive as the PlayStation 4. Of course, some may wonder whether there is some consumer backlash to the three-month delay in bringing the PS4 to Japan. From our perspective it seems not so much consumer backlash, as a conscious decision on Sony that North America and Europe were simply a more important initial focus. Games sure to be popular in Japan, such as Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Watch Dogs, have yet to ship, so the argument can be made that the games currently available for the system are not sufficiently compelling enough to spur higher PlayStation 4 sales. It would be difficult to argue against the PS4 being perceived as a Western-specific console given its release pattern and content focus to date. That being said, initial sales of the system in Japan are strong enough that more consumers should jump on board as additional Japanese-centric games make their way to market. We feel confident in DFC’s forecast that the PlayStation 4 will lead Japan during the course of this cycle. However, Japan is simply not as strong a console market as it was in the past, and it is also the one market where the Nintendo Wii U still has a chance.