Soul Sacrifice Launched in North America on Tuesday and Europe on Wednesday (save for the UK/Ireland); did you pick up your copy?
If you happened to pick up a physical copy, you might have noticed that not only did you have to ask for a copy as there weren’t any on shelves – but aside from that hidden stash of copies there was not a Soul Sacrifice item in the whole store. This would be strange for an indie release, but a first party title – that’s appalling to someone who wants (and in some ways needs) the Vita to grow.
Now, I’m not expecting a million posters, a copy of the game playable on a demo unit, and a whole shelf for the release date; but I would have at least expected a poster, or at the game to be visible somewhere. I understand this is the Vita we’re talking about, and it’s not selling like home consoles or even the competing handheld in overall numbers – but it has as much (or more) potential as the PSP had, and the games and extras to back it up. Game stores and the parent company should be advertising and taking advantage of what they’ve built… they’re not.
Release day morning here in Canada I went for a drive. Soul Sacrifice on the mind, I ventured out for a coffee and to pick up my copy, but with another agenda as well; find out how well this game (and by extension, the Vita) is being promoted. I picked two large game stores, and a more “mom n’ pop” type shop to give a good representation of possibilities and also due to location limitations. Of the three shops I visited near me, only one had the game on the shelf and it was also the one featuring Soul Sacrifice game poster and the nicest display. It was (surprisingly enough) an EBGames location – unusual since I had found the smaller locations to be better for other consoles in the past. They had a poster in the demo unit display, and the game on the shelf (a single copy, but still). It was much more than I’d seen elsewhere, and honestly aside from this example I was quite disappointed.
It wasn’t just me having an issue though, user Caleb from PSVitaForum.com had this to say about his experience on launch day;
“When Soul Sacrifice released on Tuesday, I went over to my local Gamestop to pick up my already paid for pre-order. Waiting in line, I didn’t see any copies at the front where most new releases are. I went up to the counter and told the sales associate I was there to pick up my pre-order for Soul Sacrifice. He took my power up card, and said “You already have one pre-ordered and paid for, do you want another one?” I told the associate I was there to pick up my copy. He went on to tell me “No new games released today, at least that’s what my manager told me, let me check.” He looked where they keep the games on hold at, nothing. He looked in the back of the store, nothing. He called his manager three times, no answer. Finally, he made his way to the vita section of games, and brought back a copy of Soul Sacrifice sitting on the self. The game had already been opened, and had the big beautiful Gamestop sticker on it. Typically, pre-orders are sealed, with no sticker. I was rather disappointed, and the sales associated apologized. But, I had no choice but to take the game as I had been waiting months for it.”
This user’s experience was that his store didn’t even know that the game was out, let alone have it out on the shelf or be showing any promotional wares. The three locations I went to knew about the game, and the ones that weren’t displaying at least had one on hand when I asked; it’d be an even bigger pain to have to argue with a sales associate about whether or not a first party game actually came out or not.
Where is the marketing? As mentioned earlier, this is a first party Sony game – developed by Sony Japan Studios and which drove sales of Vitas already in Japan. Release week for Soul Sacrifice over there had over 105,000 sales of the game with 63,000+ in release week console sales, up from a mere 10,000 a few weeks prior. Soul Sacrifice wasn’t the only game driving console sales at the time, but was definitely one of the most prominent. With the game releasing with tons of marketing in Japan, we can only sit and wonder with mouths agape as to what they’re thinking in the English-speaking market. This game is fantastic according to critics, had high sales in its original release territory, and is an exclusive to the Vita – that should be the first three things you look for in a console-seller.
Marketing is one of the major factors in why the Vita isn’t doing as well as it could be – and the proof is plentiful. The PSVita is the same price as the PSP was initially – a console that sold 70 million plus units. It has both the hardware advantage, and the game lineup to back it up (with Killzone Mercenary filling the last genre spot without a great game this September). It does more than just games, and does it well – everything from a browser, to Youtube and personal media. The 3G model can do GPS anywhere using a map application, and Skype can connect you with friends and family. It only does everything, why aren’t you buying one?
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing.
Soul Sacrifice is the first truly big game this year, and yet it isn’t getting any love from most of the people who need it to succeed. We gamers need it to succeed because selling more games means selling more consoles – which leads to more great games being made. If we want to turn this into a circle of reward instead of this circle of vicious ignorance, someone has to start spreading the word… other than us.
For another look at the market from a few months back, check out Paul’s Retail Attitudes Towards the Vita article.