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February 11, 2014

The Link Between PS Vita & PlayStation 4 Surprisingly Strong

It's easy to look at the PS Vita overall and see a device that's lagging behind the market in terms of sales. It’s no match for the handheld juggernaut that is the Nintendo line, ignoring the fact that mobile console gaming as a whole is sinking fast in the face of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and now even Google Glass, which has recently shown its capacity as a mobile gaming platform. But a new study from Sony suggests that there may be one critical audience left for the PS Vita: PlayStation 4 owners.

The report, which was released to IGN during a closed-door meeting with Sony, suggested that game sales on the PS Vita were almost half digital, around 48 percent. Not bad on the surface, but it only gets better when these numbers are compared to those released by Nintendo for its 3DS. That device only sees around nine percent of its games sold via digital channels. That's a pretty substantial difference, but that's just where the interesting numbers started.

Perhaps the most illuminating item of the report was that around 60 percent of PlayStation 4 owners also have a PS Vita. So far, Sony has sold around 7.5 million PS Vitas, and given that 4.2 million PlayStation 4 units have been sold so far, that means around 2.5 million own both. That in turn represents quite an opportunity for not just Sony, but also for Sony's game developers.

But there's one further interesting note from this report: while around 2.5 million people own both a PlayStation 4 and a PS Vita, only about 10 percent of that number (250,000) have actually used the Remote Play function that patches in a PS Vita and a PlayStation 4.

Again, there is big opportunity here. There's a pretty substantial user base that can work with both the PS Vita and the PlayStation 4 at the same time, so it becomes a distinct possibility to make games that can incorporate both platforms; consider an RPG where players can grind for levels on the portable device, which will allow the character in the main game to get more powerful. Consider an FPS action title where new weapons can be gained by proceeding through PS Vita-based levels. Consider further that the PS Vita Slim is set to hit North America for $199.99, complete with a version of “Borderlands 2,” and the margin for opportunity steps up even farther.

There are certainly opportunities in the gaming market to create more modular experiences, powerful new kinds of experiences that can help drive gamers to the market and bring the casual gamers back into the fold. After all, there's a large swath of PS Vita gamers with PlayStation 4 systems, so getting these gamers into the action would be a nice move. Moreover, getting PlayStation 4 owners to land a PS Vita would be likewise prudent. Sony could use all the help it can get after a string of disastrous earnings reports and a new generation of console gaming just getting started. There's plenty of room in the field, and the better value proposition Sony can present, the better it will do in terms of sales.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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