Sega's Phantasy Star Online 2 has become much more popular in Japan since the PS Vita was reduced in price.
Sega’s Phantasy Star Online 2 has become much more popular in Japan since the PS Vita was reduced in price there.

MARCH 15, 2013 • Moving the price on all PlayStation Vita SKUs in Japan to ¥19,980 ($213) has been well received by consumers there. In each of the two weeks since the Feb. 28 markdown the Vita has surged to the top of the retail charts, according to research firm Media Create. For the week ending March 3rd the Vita made it to first place with 62,543 units sold, up from 4th place the week before at 11,456. Vita sales held that No. 1 position for the week ending March 10th after selling 63,581 units. Similarly, there were no PS Vita titles in the Top 20 the week ending Feb. 24th, but that changed the following week with two games in the Top 10 and another at 16th. For the week ending March 10, three Vita titles were in the Top 10, and another two between 10 and 20 on the ranking. In the United States, many Sony retail stores began marking down the PS Vita 3G model to $199 from $299. As reported by Joystiq, the reason given by some store employees was the discontinuation of the 3G model.

Impact: This reversal of fortune for the PlayStation Vita in Japan bears watching. Two weeks into the new lower MSRP the consumer response appears to be steady. There is always the concern that the number of consumers desirous of a Vita at the new pricing is finite, which would lead sales to taper off in the coming weeks. Then again, the perceived quality of the Vita as hardware is very high. Paying ¥19,980 is a relative bargain that could lead to sustained sales at these healthier numbers. The big marker to watch is software sales. They are definitely much improved. If this upward trend in Vita games sold also remains steady, then Sony will have turned the situation around for its latest handheld.

Console Hardware Sales in Japan - Week of March 3 to March 10. Source: Media Create
Console Hardware Sales in Japan – Week of March 3-10. SOURCE: MEDIA CREATE

What Sony Computer Entertainment of America is trying to accomplish in the United States is far less clear. The Sony Stores could just be clearing excess inventory. Yet as of writing, neither, Best Buy, or GameStop is matching the $199 sale on the 3G model. Perhaps Sony is testing the waters for a stateside price reduction, but with no other retailers yet signing on, we are not seeing a stealth price adjustment in the same fashion as Microsoft accomplished during the holidays with the Xbox 360. The takeaway is clear, however. With so much consumer passion for their mobile phones as favored portable entertainment devices, $299, or even $249, is simply too rich a price point for a dedicated handheld these days barring some radically attractive feature set we have yet to see.