Japanese sales charts show handheld trends

DS outselling PSPs in Japan, game lineup cited as reason; Game Boy Micro mania simmering down, too pricey for quality.

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It's no secret that portable gaming machines are wildly popular in Japan. In the last year, three high-profile handhelds have stormed the country, the latest being Nintendo's Game Boy Micro. Now, with all three on the market, various sales charts in Japan are showing some interesting trends.

Recent sales figures provided by Dengeki Online revealed that cumulative shipments of the DS have nearly doubled those of the PSP in Japan since both launched in the country last December. As of the end of September 2005, Nintendo sold 3.2 million units of its DS handheld in Japan, while Sony Computer Entertainment shipped only 1.7 million units.

The latest issue of Famitsu showed that the lineup of games seems to be the main factor for the PSP's sluggish sales. While four DS games ranked in the top 10 sales chart for the first half of fiscal year 2006, the best-selling game for the PSP, Konami's World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 Ubiquitous Evolution, trailed behind in 35th place.

A private survey conducted by the magazine further showed that only 15.3 percent of PSP owners are happy about its game lineup, and 46.2 percent see it as the biggest issue regarding the PSP. On the other hand, 46.1 percent of DS owners are satisfied with the lineup for their handheld, and the number of owners complaining about the lack of games remained low at 24.2 percent.

According to the survey, the biggest issue for DS owners is the machine's design, with 31.3 percent of Japanese gamers complaining about its size and weight, especially since the handheld is often played with one hand holding the stylus. On the other hand, PSP owners see their handheld's design as the second best-selling point, following its various hardware functions. However, hardware functions are also the selling point for the DS, with 61.8 percent of owners saying they like its touch-screen controls.

While the Game Boy Micro has been a successful hit in Japan since its debut in September, its sales seem to be gradually settling down. Famitsu reports that the handheld has shipped 200,000 units in its first three weeks of release. But the week of September 26 saw a decline of 45 percent, as the handheld's sales dropped from the 52,048 units sold the week before down to 28,721 units.

A private survey published in the magazine showed some mixed figures for the Game Boy Micro, as 46.9 percent of surveyed gamers said they had no interest or plans in picking up the handheld at the current time. The unit's price seems to be the biggest sales roadblock for the miniaturized Game Boy Advance, with 83.9 percent of gamers saying its quality doesn't justify its price. The Micro sells in Japan for 12,000 yen ($105), which is only 3,000 yen ($26) less than the DS.

24.7 percent of gamers said they would consider purchasing the Micro when its price drops, while 22 percent said they're currently interested in picking up the handheld. The top incentive for buying the Game Boy Micro is its chic style. With multiple answers allowed, gamers planning to pick up the handheld voted its design as the top reason for purchase, at 80 percent, followed by its size (54.3 percent) and faceplates (36 percent).

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