PS5 looks to struggle in Japan – is an increasingly globalised strategy the problem?

If eBay prices for PS5 and Xbox Series X are anything to go by, Sony looks to the in-demand console in the UK. However, PlayStation’s impressive global showing might be coming at the expense of its traditional home market in Japan.

That’s according to Hideki Yasuda of the ACE Research Institute, writing on Japan and then translated and posted on Resetera by a native speaker.

Yasuda’s article makes a number of key points about Sony’s approach to the Japanese market in recent years, with the whole argument pinned upon Famitsu sales data showing that PS5 has had poor launch performance in the region compared to other consoles in recent years.

That data alone is hard to draw many conclusions from. The PS5 remains sold out around the world, and Sony may simply have been judicious in sending the limited supplies available to the regions in which demand was at its highest in terms of pre-orders. It’s impossible to say at present whether Japan’s sales figures are due to relatively low stock levels… although it’s also possible to conclude that low stock levels shows that the region isn’t the company’s biggest priority.

It’s also clear that the Japanese home console market has been in decline for many years now, with mobile games, and mobile consoles in the form of the Switch, seeing huge popularity.

Beyond the figures, though it’s clear that there is a feeling that Sony isn’t thinking about Japan specifically anymore. Yasuda notes a number of points in Sony’s apparent treatment of the region in recent years. Most of these aren’t so much Sony ignoring Japan on purpose, but rather side effects of its increasingly globalised approach to the platform – in terms of titles, marketing and decisions such as standardising the X button as the global ‘confirm’ button by default (previously it was O in Japan).

Japan increasingly looks like a market with its own needs, which are notably different from the ‘core’ North American and European markets. Nintendo is currently performing brilliantly there, as its hardware approach seems to appeal to both US and Japanese consumers.

However, it seems unlikely that Sony will change tack from its increasingly globalised strategy in order to focus on such local needs in order to win back the Japanese market (especially if that would involve launching a handheld device for instance).

Only time will tell if the PS5 will succeed in Japan, but it’s too simplistic to say that Sony’s US-based operation is ignoring Japan in favour of the US, although it does look unwilling to bend to Japan’s, or any other country’s, particular whims.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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