Japan’s Sales Charts: Reality vs. Spin

For the past couple weeks, GamesIndustry.biz, a respected industry publication with millions of unique monthly visitors, has claimed that the Playstation Vita is outselling the New 3DS XL in Japan, using weekly sales figures from Media Create. The implication is that the Vita is outperforming the 3DS.

GamesIndustry Vita>3DS Spin

These publications (and their journalists) should know better, given the most cursory examination of the larger picture. Yes, it’s true that the PS Vita outsold the New 3DS XL by about 3,000 units, 20,923 to 17,652. However, the New 3DS XL is only one model of the New 3DS, let alone the entire 3DS hardware line.

If we look to #5 on the Hardware list, we see that the New 3DS – not the XL version, but the normal one – sold 6,566 units in the same week, meaning that over 24,000 New 3DS units were sold during the time period.

24,000 > 20,923. Which handheld console is outselling the other, again?

Things get even starker if we include all the Vita and 3DS units. On the Vita side, the Playstation Vita TV sold 639 units, making a weekly total of 21,562 units. However, we can also add in the 3DS and 3DS XL, at 2,371 and 2,115 respectively, for a grand total of 28,704 units for the week of 3/16/15-3/22/15.

28,704 vs 21,562. The real story should be that the 3DS hardware line is outselling the Vita by a margin of 33%. But you wouldn’t know even if you read the full text of the article.

The previous week saw the same phenomenon. The Vita outsold the New 3DS by about 500 units, 20,103 to 19,668, and that’s how GamesIndustry put it: that the Vita outsold the 3DS. When we include the Vita TV and the other 3DS hardware, the actual number is 32,088 (3DS) to 20,791, a more than 50% margin.

What these numbers also obscure is the reality of the pre-existing install bases. The 3DS, while not as ubiquitous as its predecessor, is far more successful than the Vita when it comes to life-to-date (LTD) sales. Individual weeks mean a margin of a few thousand units at most, when the install base is in the tens of millions.

Yes, there will be some games that can only be played exclusively on the New 3DS. If journalists are tackling it from that angle, however, they should group the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, which would still show it outselling the Vita by a consistent margin of 2,000-5,000 units. Not a lot, given the pre-existing install base of the Vita, but when some New 3DS exclusives roll around, we’ll see what happens.

What is there to gain by cherry-picking facts on a weekly sales report? That GamesIndustry focuses solely on one model of one version of a handheld console in order to sneak in a sentence about the Vita outselling the 3DS is embarassing. That or an industry publication’s inability to read raw data. Pick which one you’d prefer to believe.


3 responses to “Japan’s Sales Charts: Reality vs. Spin

    • Vgchartz is not a reliable source. Japan has three major outlets, including Media Create, that all publish sales numbers on a weekly basis. The Japanese market is very different from the North American one, and it’s not shocking if the Vita is selling at a moderate pace.

      Even if the data tells a story that’s hard to believe, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. One can look at methodology and causes of potential bias, but that’s not an issue here.

  1. Pingback: What Spin-free News Looks Like | Mental Gaming·

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