The PlayStation 5 is a hot commodity pretty much everywhere around the world, with one notable and rather surprising exception – Sony’s own home country of Japan. On a worldwide basis, the PS5 represented Sony’s biggest console launch ever, but in Japan, it was actually their worst launch to date. According to a recent Japanese GamesIndustry.biz article from ACE Research Institute analyst Hideki Yasuda (thanks to ResetEra user SinCItyAssassin for the translation), the PS5 sold only 240,000 units in Japan in its first six weeks, which is less than any other Sony console, from the original PSOne to the PS4 (although we are trending above the PSP).
Now, of course, PS5 supply has been constrained, but again, there were enough machines available to set records nearly everywhere else. Either Japanese gamers aren’t interested in buying the PS5 or Sony isn’t providing units to the region. According to Yasuda, this is evidence Sony no longer values the Japanese market, which could lead to a “decisive decline” for the PlayStation brand in the country. If current trends continue, Yasuda expects the PS5 to sell less than half as many units as the PS4 in Japan, which itself only moved around 10 million in the country. That’s well down for the heyday of the PS2, which sold over 20 million units in Japan.
There’s been growing concern amongst Japanese fans (and Western fans that enjoy Japanese-developed games) that Sony has shifted priorities since Jim Ryan took over Sony Interactive Entertainment and moved the division’s head offices to California. According to a recent Bloomberg insider report, Japanese PlayStation staff were largely out of the loop when it came to PS5 marketing, and funding and support for Sony’s Japan Studio has been cut back (possibly leading to the recent departures of Silent Hill creator Keiichiro Toyama, Demon’s Souls producer Teruyuki Toriyama, and others). Jim Ryan himself continues to insist that Japan is “really important” to Sony, but it’s hard to ignore the signs.
But why does the PS5’s sluggish performance in Japan matter if you live elsewhere in the world? Well, Japanese publishers often make decisions based on a console’s performance on the home front, so if the PS5 is a flop in Japan, we may see fewer exclusives from companies like Square Enix, Capcom, and FromSoftware. Sony could also be leaving the door open for Microsoft – Phil Spencer has repeatedly said he’d like to expand his company’s Japanese presence and possibly snap up an Asian developer or two. Ultimately though, the major beneficiary of all this will probably be Nintendo, which has already sold over 15 million Switches in Japan.
Of course, we’re still very early in this generation – the PS5’s fortunes may well turn around in Japan! How do you think things will ultimately play out in Sony’s home country?