A new report claims that Sony’s ongoing effort to appeal to Western markets has left the PlayStation brand facing a “decisive decline” among Japanese audiences.
According to the ACE Research Institute’s Hideki Yasuda, writing for gamesindustry.biz Japan, Sony has done little to quell the “profound feelings of despair” that their shift in demographic focus has sparked among Japanese PlayStation users, despite their public assertions “that they value the Japanese market.”
“I do think it’s highly probable that Sony does take Japan seriously,” wrote Yasuda. “That said, while their feelings are valuable, their actions do not match those feelings. That’s why users believe Sony and CEO Jim Ryan have shown disregard for the Japanese market.”
Acknowledging that “one might think this is simply conjecture by the ACE Economic Research Center,” Yasuda then cited five specific Western-oriented changes he believed were instrumental in contributing to the brand’s slow march towards self-destruction:
1. The PS4 launched in 2013, but Japan’s release came afterward.
2. After fall 2018, Sony implemented its own regulations on depictions in games, which has censored content aimed at Japanese users
3. The PS5 reveal video had no Japanese narration, while there were issues with the font used for the subtitles as well as their Japanese translations
4. The confirm button was changed from O to X in order to set a global standard
5. Due to manufacturing issues, the initial launch allocation for PS5 in Japan was barely above that of the PS3, preventing the system from reaching early adopters
While Yasuda gave Sony the benefit of the doubt that their console-production related issues could be chalked up to “the PS5’s global launch was simply in response to Microsoft’s attempt to go on the offensive,” he also declared that “The main issue concerns the 2nd point above.”
“Aniplex, which is part of the Sony umbrella, is deriving large amounts of income from Fate/Grand Order’s swimsuit characters, but on PlayStation, games that depict swimsuits either cannot be sold or have had alterations forced onto them,” Yasuda explained. “This is nothing but a double standard. All this does is feed into users’ distrust. This policy should immediately be rescinded.”
“However, it unfortunately seems to be taboo for Sony’s upper management to breach the topic of censorship, so we predict that ACE Economic Research Institute’s opinion will be ignored,” he jabbed.
Next, Yasuda pointed to a Famitsu-provided graph of Post-Launch Sales Data for 25 Years’ Worth of Consoles, warning readers that if the PS5’s current sales numbers “were to continue, lifetime sales of PS5 would perhaps end up at less than half of PS4,” which would inevitably pose “a threat to Japan’s console games market.”
“Quantitative analysis shows that Sony is not taking Japan seriously,” he asserted. “That is why users have accused Sony of disregarding the Japanese market and why it’s not unreasonable for those users to feel a sense of hopelessness.”
The researcher also took a moment to explain how “SIE shifting its HQ to the US led to its attitude towards Japanese users becoming rather cold, and why SIE has lost its Japanese principles.”
“Japanese users aren’t likely to channel their dissatisfaction on social media, so US SIE HQ staff might perceive that as the Japanese just politely accepting whatever is given to them, regardless of how cold they have actually become,” he clarified. “However, that couldn’t be further from the truth: they’ve simply begun to vanish into the sunset quietly.”
“With all that taken in account, Sony (SIE) might believe that their high end game experiences are not needed in Japan, where Moe is mainstream. The platform maker has lost its motivation to take responsibility in the Japanese market,” Yasuda continued. “Early PS5 trends have shown that the PlayStation brand in Japan is in decisive decline and ACE Economic Research Institute cannot help but be disappointed.”
Yasuda further speculated that, given how Japan only represents a minimal 10% of the home console market, “it’s conceivable to see that some may stop caring about it.”
“Japan is a market where you can be rewarded with 20 million sales for your effort,” he said. “Abandoning this market because one thinks photo-realistic games are not mainstream or that non-portable home consoles don’t sell is a very problematic business approach, and I can’t really feel a strong response from Sony (SIE) in this regard.”
Sadly, Yasuda ended his article with the depressing admission that the ACE Research Institute, despite their concerned counterpoints to their current business model, ultimately believes “Sony (SIE) will continue to ignore these points.”
“Looking at the present situation, in which Sony (SIE) has failed to ship enough PS5s to Japan for the year-end shopping season, we cannot help but be deeply concerned for the future of the PlayStation market in Japan,” he concluded.
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