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PlayStation Vita's initial sales weren't quite as high as Nintendo's 3DS enjoyed, but it's been a good launch, right? Actually, not really. After launch weekend sales of around 321,000 units, it only managed 72,479 in the following (full) week according to TechDigest. That's 137,500 less than 3DS managed in its first full week after launch. Worse still, it seems punters have also been leaving many of the more expensive 3G version on the shelves. Subsequently, some retailers appear to have already taken it upon themselves to cut the 3G version's price by as much as 20% in order to shift units. Crikey.
Above: That's 24,999 Yen, not 24.999 Yen, just to be clear. That would be about 21p
In case you're wondering what all this Wi-Fi/3G nonsense is about, there are two versions of the Vita hardware. They're essentially the same, both allowing access to the internet through Wi-Fi like most laptops and PCs these days. However, the 3G version can also download data from the internet using mobile phone networks, a SIM card and a monthly data plan, much like a 3G-enabled iPad. It's this version of the Vita that's reportedly seeing the price cuts, bringing it down to the equivalent of $325 or £208.
That's exciting for us in the West, especially as the Vita's suggested RRP was seemingly aimed at competing with 3DS' price point when it was announced at E3 last year. Since then, Nintendo's machine has seen a massive official price reduction (to around £140 now in the UK), meaning if Sony wishes to remain competitive, it may have to come down some more before its launch over here. Even if the official RRP isn't dropped, if retailers are already doing it unofficially in Japan, it'll be interesting to see what stores like GAME and GameStop do under their own initiative here.
Above: These were the prices announced back in June last year. Good then... but now?
Of course, any price for the 3G model has to be taken in context along with how much a data plan will cost. Reports today suggest that US mobile network AT&T will be charging the same price per month for Vita data plans as they already do for 3G-enabled iPads, at $14.99/month for 250MB or $25/month for 2GB.
In the UK, similar data costs are reasonable. Existing Orange customers, for example, can get 500MB a month for £5 using a 3G personal wi-fi hotspot (which costs extra) or as a tethering bundle for their phone, or new customers can do the same for £10 a month after buying the 'My-Fi' hardware. Connect your Wi-Fi Vita to that and you don't need the 3G version of the machine.
Too many choices? Too many extra charges? Just too expensive in general? It's a situation that Sony needs to handle delicately, or else it could have another PSP Go situation on its hands. New hardware, high price, unshifted stock and premature demise. Nobody wants to see that.