If there are two countries of major importance in the history of video games, it is Japan and the United States. True pioneers of the industry, the main video game consoles come from its two great nations. Sega with the MegaDrive, the MasterSystem or the Dreamcast. Microsoft with Xboxes on the American side.
But also Nintendo with the NES, the 64, the GameCube, the Wii or even the Switch to name a few. As well as Sony with the PlayStation in Japan. These two countries together represent more than 40 years of video game history. Of course, Sony and Nintendo have had a fairly stratospheric punch in the land of the rising sun since the launch of their machines. But for the last decade or so, it seems PlayStation is on the path to change. An impression accentuated by the release of the PlayStation 5 last November.
PlayStation and Japan, a decisive decline in the years to come?
Japan is the land of PlayStation. Since the brand’s arrival in 1996, Sony has achieved enormous sales figures with its consoles. From the PS One to the PS2, via the PSP (after a laborious start) or the PS3, each release of consoles is a phenomenon and millions of units have passed.
But for a big decade, things are changing. Sony has always had in front of it a juggernaut of the video game industry with Nintendo which hardly misses any launch either. Starting in 2005, Big N started burying Sony handheld consoles with its Nintendo DS leaving PlayStation VITA no chance in 2011.
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At the level of home consoles, Sony resists and stands up to its compatriot. However, the company seems to have changed its strategy since the release of the PlayStation 4. Sony Interactive Entertainment opts for astonishing decisions which have nothing to do with the sales of consoles in the Japanese archipelago, but which clearly show the will of PlayStation to change course for the years to come with new priorities.
With 240,000 PS5s sold in six weeks in Japan, the console made the “worst” start for sales of PlayStation consoles over an equivalent period, with the exception of the PSP. This is still six times more than the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on this same Japanese soil despite a price drop even before the release of new Microsoft consoles.
However, like everywhere in the world, the PS5 remains untraceable in Japan and the waiting list to get a machine remains long as in most other countries. Thus, Sony made the intentional choice not to favor Japan at the expense of the United States and Europe where more than 2 million consoles have passed through these territories. Already in 2013, for the release of the PS4, Sony had made the historic choice to release its console all over the world before serving Japanese players last three months after the launch of the console in the USA and Europe.
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During a report by GamesIndustry Japan, analyst Hideki Yasuda (member of the Ace Economic Research Institute), spoke of his fears about the strategy of PlayStation which wants to move away from Japan to seduce Western players with the Europe and the United States in the crosshairs. According to Yasuda, sales of the PS5 could be even more disappointing than those of the PS4.
Total sales of 240,000 units are by far the lowest in the history of PlayStation home consoles. Should this trend continue, sales of the PS5 (in Japan) over its entire cycle could end well below those of the PS4.
For now, the PS4 has sold only 10 million units in Japan out of the 110 million consoles sold around the world. A clear change of strategy and for the moment winning for Sony when we see the enormous success of the PS4 and the debut of the PS5. It remains to be seen whether this strategy will be successful over time.