PlayStation 4 sales have exceeded expectations, selling more than 7 million units at a faster clip than the PlayStation 2 and opening up a clear gap on its chief rival, the Xbox One. Despite that bigger picture success, the system's performance has been less than overwhelming in its home country, falling behind the Wii U in weekly sales charts and only registering 620,000 units sold in about four months on shelves. As Sony Computer Entertainment president and group CEO Andrew House told Eurogamer at the Develop conference this week, "It's doing okay."
House and other Sony representatives offered a number of reasons for the lukewarm reception to the PS4, starting with a lack of locally produced content.
"We're conscious of the fact we have not had yet the sort of groundswell of Japan native content from Japanese publishers and developers," House said. "I view that as temporary."
The PS4's success elsewhere in the world will convince Japanese companies to ramp up their support, House believes. As for why it wasn't there to begin with, the executive said Sony had a tough time selling Japanese companies on PS4 support before launch, something he chalked up to a comfort level with the performance of the PS3 and lingering concerns about whether a new generation of consoles would still be viable in Japan.
Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida pointed to the relative viability of the Japanese handheld market as one more reason that publishers and developers there may have been less eager for the new generation of consoles than their counterparts in other markets.
"That's definitely a major factor when we decided where to launch when," Yoshida said. "The readiness from the publisher standpoint, and consumers and the media - everybody was ready. We were constantly told we should release new hardware! Compared to that, Japan is completely different. It's more portable-heavy, but the PS3 is catching up. Of course, after we announced PS4 in February, luckily publishers are showing an interest. But it's a completely different picture of readiness compared to Western publishers."
Finally, House noted that the console market in the West has benefitted from a number of established streaming media services.
"If you look at the US PS4 user, yes by far the biggest engagement is around games on the platform, but a major factor in there is the likes of Netflix and Amazon video," House said. "That tells me there is already a secondary reason for purchasing this device. If you look at the Japanese market, for a variety of reasons, you have not seen a dominant player in streaming services happen. You see an inherent conservatism around film and TV content holders that doesn't allow for the rise of these brand new services. I think that's another factor."