Fergal Gara, SCEE's vice president and managing director for the U.K.
Fergal Gara, SCEE’s vice president and managing director for the U.K.

JAN. 30, 2014 • The PlayStation 4 is doing very well in the United Kingdom. At a morning briefing in London, Fergal Gara, Sony Computer Ent. Europe’s (SCEE) vice president and managing director for the U.K. disclosed that his company’s latest console is selling 1.5 units for every Xbox One sold in the country. That ratio is a complete reversal of ratio of the Xbox 360 over the PlayStation 3. The PS4’s strong sales have also seen Sony’s share of the home console market in the U.K. grow from 32% to 47%. Also announced was the arrival of the redesigned PS Vita Slim in Europe on February 7 – the first new market to get the handheld since it debuted in Japan last October. The PCH-2000 is 20% thinner and 15% lighter than the existing PCH-1000 model, which will not be restocked in Europe after existing supplies are exhausted. The other main difference in models is that the Vita Slim is equipped with a high-definition LED screen rather than an OLED screen, which adds an additional hour of battery time. The announcement may have been rushed as information on the Vita Slim’s release was leaked the day before by U.K. retailers. So while the handheld will be priced at £180 ($297) there, no MSRP in Euros was disclosed.

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Impact: The PlayStation brand has tended to reign supreme in Europe.  The exception is the U.K. where the Xbox 360 has sold more units.  During the last cycle, the Xbox 360 built its largest console installed base in the U.K. compared to every other country in Europe.  Conventional wisdom always maintained that gamers in the U.K. were closest in their tastes to North American gamers – preferring the core action titles most associated with the Xbox brand. In hindsight, the PS3’s high launch price of £425 in 2007 probably had something to do with stunting interest in the system. Being a year behind the Xbox 360 did not help either. The PlayStation 4, by comparison, launched last year at £349.99. The Xbox One was released at £429, while the premium Xbox 360 was priced at £279.99 when it debuted in the U.K. late in 2005. We wager that price is playing a large part in why the PlayStation 4 is doing so well in Great Britain. We must also remember that it took a series of price reductions before the PS3 began to sell better in that market and allow Sony to reach the 1:1.5 ratio with the Xbox 360 late in the game. Since the Xbox One and the PS4 launched within a week of each other, the current sales ratio tells us that there is still strong support for the Xbox brand in the U.K. With an £80 price difference, it could be argued that the Xbox One is not doing that bad. 

Invizimals: The Alliance.
Invizimals: The Alliance.

As for the PS Vita Slim we still see the handheld facing major challenges in competition with the Nintendo 3DS family. We realize that Sony is banking substantially on both the cross-play feature that streams game content from the PS4, plus the upcoming PlayStation Now service, to boost the fortunes of the Vita. That might be over-optimistic in our view. What we find much more compelling is new kids-oriented Vita content like Invizimals: The Alliance. The title from Novarama released last October and is an augmented reality game that utilizes the Vita’s camera to place fantasy creatures much like Pokemon into real world venues. The title is supported by a TV show, toys, and a magazine. Although not big in the U.K. yet, Invizimals: The Alliance is hot elsewhere in Europe and Sony is expected to market the franchise heavily this year. If the PS Vita is going to take off we think it will need more kid-friendly franchises such as this to get the job done.