Soul Sacrifice Launched in North America on Tuesday and Europe on Wednesday (save for the UK/Ireland); did you pick up your copy?

Squished little rack, filled with old games...
Squished little rack, filled with old games…

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.

DSC_2056 ZOOMRelease 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.

DSC_2052 ZOOM
The local small-time game store. What a weak showing…

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.

  • Marketing and pricing are the two most important things that need to get fixed in order to make the Vita sell. They’re both not handled very well.

  • GG

    Vitas have been sacrificed since the released.

    • Asa Carter

      Your ass has been sacrificed by me everyday since your release 😉

      (if you know what I mean)

  • I don’t think marketing on its own can change the Vita’s fortunes. Marketing is the scapegoat for any product that doesn’t sell. Especially in Soul Sacrifice’s case – it just isn’t a system seller in the West.
    But it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try their best. It looks like Sony doesn’t even care. They send everything they make out to die, it’s ridiculous. If they don’t believe what they have has a lot of sales potential, then why make it in the first place? They just don’t believe in the Vita at the moment. It’s obvious.

    • Kyle Wakeling

      I don’t know about where you live, but there’s almost zero PSVita marketing here. You may not think it’s a big deal, but it’s obvious it’s a factor by the attention you get playing it in public.

      People ask; “What’s that?” – I reply “A PlayStation Vita” and it starts a conversation that eventually leads to “Wow, that’s awesome. I’m going to get one for… (insert situation here).”

      Don’t believe me? Find someone non-creepy and have them play any decent game on the Vita in a crowded place. People will talk to you about it, almost guaranteed.

      • Marketing is expensive…You think Sony doesn’t WANT sells? lol…I’m not particularly making a jab at you, but replies like “Sony doesn’t care” or “Sony sent it to die” are just ridiculous. Sony is a company that wants to make as much money as possible. It simply doesn’t have the budget to market everything well. PSvita marketing will likely pick up as more relevant games are released for it. You did see marketing when Assassin’s Creed and COD:D released for it. There was marketing and bundles in Japan for SS. And there will likely be a push for it this year as the “partner” console to PS4 and as the only place to play a FPS on with Killzone. Sony just doesn’t have the income to market every game without the guaranteed backup that it will payoff. And even MH doesn’t really sell/review that well outside of Japan.

        • Sony does not care does not mean Sony does not want sales: it means that they don’t think the product will sell and they can just put their money elsewhere. Not supporting a new IP that’s one of the few exclusives on the Vita with any marketing and barely stocking it to retailers is a pretty good sign of not having a lot of hope for it.

          • JonofPDX

            I have some pretty conflicted feelings regarding the lack of marketing w/ this title, but as far as stocking issues go that’s all on the retailers. Unless Sony physically did not print enough copies of the game, it’s not really their bad.

            You could say, of course, that they should have pushed retailers more but then you are back to “Should Sony have spent more on marketing this game?” which is debatable either way.

            Plus, worth mentioning that Sony wants to play nice w/ retailers right now w/ the PS4 release around the corner.

          • Well, a LOT of retailers didn’t have the game in stock, and it was available in limited numbers. Those are distribution issues or printing issues…

          • JonofPDX

            And I don’t have any evidence to disprove that. My local Gamestop had 3 copies on the shelf a couple days after release, but that doesn’t mean that other stores didn’t have problems getting copies. We tend to get comparatively better portable coverage as I live in public-transport happy Portland.

            But the fact that a quick search doesn’t show it out of stock on any online retailer makes me think that it may just be that western stores didn’t expect it to be a big seller and so didn’t order a large number of copies.

            Now, a decent marketing campaign COULD have raised the games profile to the point where stores would have cared to stock more but that is again going back to the wisdom of marketing.

            In the end until I hear a retailer say that they had a problem getting copies of the game (or hear Sony say that they shipped all of their printed copies) I tend to lean to the retailer disinterest theory.

          • Retailer disinterest would have to be directly caused by Sony’s lack of applying pressure on them or pursuing their business opportunities. Seriously, if you have a first party title that’s unique to a system in dire need of sales, you’re going to have persuade retailers to stock it and show that you are trying to sell the thing.
            That’s right that means marketing the game, talking to retailers about showcases, posters, et cetera…

          • JonofPDX

            I think at this point we’re both just kind of circling around semantics.

            Bottom line–I AGREE the Vita needs better marketing. I also would have loved a huge marketing push for SS (and by extension, the Vita)–more units sold means more games coming to the platform, after all. But I don’t think we can really blame Sony for how they chose to handle it.

            From a financial point of view (which is really all we can fairly expect from a corporation w/ a fiduciary responsibility to it’s share holders), a big marketing push was unlikely to have made Sony any money. It was simply unlikely to drive Vita sales in the west (or at least, in NA–it is entirely possible I am misunderstanding European market trends). Maybe they should have done it anyway to at least get people talking about the Vita, but there are probably less expensive ways to do that.

            It’s fine if you don’t agree w/ my impression of Sony’s business ethic, but I DO agree w/ you on what I WISHED would have happened. I just don’t blame Sony for taking a safer course considering the year they have planned.

          • I don’t think it’s very safe, the opposite, actually. After all, they’re putting some good money into the development of a game and then nobody knows about it and they won’t get any sales.

          • JonofPDX

            Eh–that’s entirely possible. Like I said before though, I don’t know that this game sells to a wide enough audience (that wasn’t already waiting for it/had it pre-ordered) to justify the marketing cost.

            I think we may just need to agree to disagree on this one 😉

      • JonofPDX

        Agree that Sony needs a larger (and more coherent) marketing push for the Vita, but I think as far as THIS game goes it was not so much dropping the ball as it was Sony doing the math.

        From Sony’s point of view I think they made this title for an Asian market with the goal of it being a system seller (and it was pretty successful in that regard)–period. I’ve seen no evidence from Sony that they were expecting this to be (or positioning it as) a global powerhouse brand ala Uncharted. Rather, I think someone in Sony’s accounting department crunched the numbers and decided that the cost of localizing the game to NA and Europe would be negligible and would likely turn a profit in a niche overseas market.

        In a vacuum, I can kind of see their decision in not spending money on a large marketing push for this title (at least, in NA). A new IP in the Monster Hunter genre just doesn’t have the same legs this side of the Pacific as it does in Asia. Why spend money marketing it when the majority of your target audience (MH/God Eater fans that also own Vitas) already know it’s coming and have been following it for months? Your just cuttign into your revenue stream.

        All that being said–while I can UNDERSTAND Sony’s reasoning, I disagree w/ it. Like I said, while it may make sense in a vacuum for THIS GAME, not marketing quality Vita releases continues to feed the myth that the system doesn’t have anything to play (I heard two video game journalists repeat that claim just last week, and one of them was doing it while saying how much he loved his Vita!).

        • Well said…Hopefully they can turn it around…PS3 did start off roughly slow so I’m hoping Sony’s teams simply just aren’t ready with there Vita stuff.

          Still, besides MH, I really have no interest in a 3DS, my small memory card is too small for the awesomeness that is VITA LIBRARY. PSP/PS1/PSN/PS+ have served me well, but yeah, it would be nice if the unit at least hit 10-15 mil this year…

          It is arguably the only way to play a shooter on the go with any type of decent controls though. I thought it would be the must-have portable platform for shooters, but haven’t seen a lot of them so far. Battlefield, a GOOD Call of Duty, and Killzone hopefully will all release on the platform this year and see what type of audience they garner.

    • Buckybuckster

      I am so glad that someone picked up on this. I’m honestly at my wit’s end trying to come up with some practical excuse on how and why Sony continues to bungle their handling of the Vita in the west. It’s as if they want it to fail so they won’t have to worry about it anymore. I suppose they expect the streaming of PS4 game to the Vita to save it. Yeah, that will do the trick.

      Like my friend Yannick said, this isn’t the type of game that typically burns up the charts in the west. But it IS the biggest release of the year in a region where you need to make good use of every opportunity to prop up your ailing handheld. Your not even willing to shell out for a 15sec T.V. advert to spread the word on it and the only system you can play it on??!!! Unbelievable!!

      I can say with all confidence that it’s the main and ONLY reason we’ve yet to sell a single copy of Soul since its release. The Vita and it’s games are deserving of far better treatment. I can only hope that something finally clicks in the minds at Sony, and they finally begin to execute. I seriously have my doubts though.

      • As stated above, it’s not about marketing, the Vita is simply not catching fire in the west, and spending millions of dollars for TV ads might not even be worth it at this point. PS blog advertises the game as well as reviews for websites. Gamers know when the game is coming out.

        3DS is mostly successful because of 4-5 exclusives. It’s the go-to device for kids. I may not have numbers to back it up, but I’m pretty sure without the younger demographic, the installed base would drop dramatically. This is something simply not possible with Vita. Marketing will likely increase with PS4 as the companion console, and releases that are more important to the west like Killzone and hopefully another COD or Battlefield. Soul Sacrifice is not a west oriented title.

        • Kyle Wakeling

          West-oriented or not; have you seen the response it got pre-launch? I wonder if there are numbers on how many people downloaded the demo, as that alone should show that this game would do well here. Or how about the record breaking amount of comments on the PSBlog when the demo was delayed… that puts credit to the claim as well. Whether they initially thought it would do well here or not – when it caught fire in what little media us Vita owners have, they should have cashed in.

          Another missed opportunity.

          • hmmm…I dunno if it’s missed opportunity though…gamers will find out what’s good and what isn’t..and with Vita’s small user base, many gamers are vocal about it online. So if SS is awesome (which it is) I think anyone with an interest in the genre will eventually find out about it and get in on the action. Word-of-mouth worked with Demon’s Souls…

          • That is true. What may end up happening, as has with Uncharted is steady sales over a long period. Gran Turismo 5 did this, with less than expected initial sales yet it has sold consistently since launch.

          • JonofPDX

            See–I think that buzz kind of illustrates the point though. The title is niche in the west–there’s no real way around that. And the early interest kind of proved that the people who were actually going to put money down on this game…already have. Or at least know already when it’s coming out.

            As I said above, I don’t know if I agree w/ the complete lack of marketing for this game. I think the Vita as a whole could use more marketing, and this game could have been used as a vehicle to do that. But I DO understand why Sony wouldn’t want to invest large amounts in a marketing campaign that may not pay back it’s cost in additional revenue.

            Still–wish they could have found a middle ground for this title.

            Also, wanted to mention that I am mostly talking about NA here–I know Europe does tend to generate better sales in this genre than we do in NA. Make of that what you will.

        • 3DS sold pants until the price was dropped and they started a huge marketing push. Yes, it’s expensive but in the long run it pays off. Problem is, I’m not sure how much Sony can afford the marketing. I just hope them being conservative means they have some huge cats to pull out of the bag this year.

          • Very true..so perhaps under $200 is the magic number…still with no games, there’s little reason to start slashing prices. 3DS cut it’s price-point and released Mario/Starfox/Zelda remake/Kid Icarus/Mario Kart in a short time period. Vita’s lineup like this still isn’t ready it seems. Nothing from there WWS yet but Killzone and Tearaway…

  • It’s no different here and nothing has changed in the few months since my article.

    Smyth’s Toys didn’t even have Soul Sacrifice in their “coming this week” section nor any dummy boxes the day before it was due out.

    This is the Vita’s biggest release of the year so far and there is nothing; contrast that with Luigi’s Mansion 2 which has covereage everywhere including bus shelters, TV and more and actually has a visiable retail presence.

    I’d have thought that a big company like Sony would know the importance of marketing…

    • Luigi Mansion is almost guaranteed to make it’s money back on marketing. Soul Sacrifice is a new IP in a genre not popular outside of Japan. Man, you guys need to understand what’s relevant and what’s not–regardless of marketing some things won’t change.

      Japan is obsessed with handhelds, they sell better than any home console, even WiiU is not doing that well anywhere. MH/Mario/Pokemon/Dragon Quest dominate the charts, 2 are owned by Nintendo and two can just as easily be exclusives if the right deal is made.

      The west sales of handhelds has been dropping steadily ever since smartphones and tablets emerged. Vita is by default a niche platform, and it’s pretty much only for gamers.

      This doesn’t mean it won’t be successful or we should be doing anything but enjoying it. With a price-drop and the right software who knows what will happen. But you have to choose wisely where to spend your $$. And putting up commercials and ads for TV for Soul Sacrifice outside of Japan may not be worth it at this point with only 5 million Vita’s across the globe.

      Having said all that, I would love for more people to get up on Vita, it’s hands down the best portable platform I’ve ever owned, and I love the Indy support on the device. But Sony like the PS3, is still trying to define it’s existence atm..The indy machine, the fps portable, the alternative for kids vs. 3dS, PS4’s partner platform, etc…nothing is really set in stone yet so Sony is being careful where they spend there money, and I’m sure one of the more important aspects of Vita was to not lose money on it.

  • GYNGA

    Very disappointing 😐

  • I don’t think SCEA or SCEE actually want to bother with Vita any more, I think they just want to concentrate on PS4.

    • JonofPDX

      I don’t think it’s that they don’t want to bother with it, but outside of Asia it’s a bit of an uphill battle. I don’t want to be the guy that says “there aren’t any games for the Vita” because it isn’t true, but a lot of the games that are coming out are smaller indie titles and specific genres (Eastern-style RPGs, platformers, racing games).

      I love these genres but the fact is that for western gamers the primary sellers are first and third person action games, and the Vita hasn’t handled these games amazingly well so far.

      Hard to market without being able to point to what people in your region want to see.

      • They could have made the game look spectacular in advertisements. I’ve not seen anything in the real world to indicate the game even exists in the UK. This is backed up by the paltry 26th debut in the all formats chart despite being the sole (or should that be Soul?) debut of the week.

        I’d love to hope it’s because come E3, they’re relaunching the system with a price cut, showing off all the family friendly content that starts flooding in from June with the Jak Trilogy. But at the moment Sony are sending these games to die.

        If they’d had their hands tied due to a flood of titles to support, that’d be one thing. But this is Sony’s first Vita title of 2013!

        • JonofPDX

          And I’m not arguing that they SHOULDN’T have made more of a marketing push for the game (I think they should have, if only because the Vita as a system needs the exposure).

          I guess my view, as I stated above, is just that this was an Asian title. It was designed for an Asian audience and I have seen no evidence at all that the decision to localize it was anything more than an after-the-fact way for Sony corporate to make a negligible profit and generate some good press within a relatively narrow western target audience.

          I think where we may disagree is that I don’t think Sony released this game w/ the same expectations as they would a LittleBigPlanet or an Uncharted or even a Ratchet and Clank Collection. Those were games marketed to appeal to a broad, varied market. This, on the other hand, was a smaller release specifically meant for a smaller target audience (most of which not only already knew it was coming but had pre-ordered it). From that point of view, I can see Sony’s thought process.

          Of course, I don’t’ work for Sony so this is all entirely theoretical. For all I really know, Sony decided not to market SS in the West because Andrew House’s fortune teller told him so.

  • Buckybuckster

    WOW! Intelligent commentary and debate between opposing sides without all of the anger, name calling, and reckless brandishing of insults?? AND at an internet forum! Miracles never cease to amaze me! : )

    While I can understand where the “not a lost opportunity” camp is coming from, I still firmly believe the soft marketing behind SS’s release was a bad idea. It makes no sense to wait for a product to become successful before you are willing to put money behind it to promote it.

    That would be like leading the proverbial horse to water after he’s already had his drink.

    • JonofPDX

      I do see where you’re coming from there, but I don’t think anyone’s saying that it’s a good idea to wait for a product to prove successful before marketing for it.

      Rather, I would say that most of the game’s (relatively small) target audience in the west DIDN’T NEED marketing to know what it was about and when it would be released. Certainly a robust marketing campaign would have secured SOME sales from people that may be swayed but I wouldn’t give it better than 50/50 odds of making back the marketing budget in additional sales.

      That being said, I do probably end up on your side here as while I don’t think a big marketing push for this game would have shipped enough extra units to make it cost effective, I do think that the Vita as a SYSTEM needs the extra exposure. Frankly, Sony should have done at least some soft marketing out of the Vita’s marketing budget (as opposed to SCEJ’s).

  • Teras

    I live in Greece and this is the first game I couldn’t find anywhere in retail form.

    Some retailers list the game but you have to place an order with them so they can bring it, since they don’t stock it. Now, I realise that the small greek videogame market is nothing to draw conclusions from but still this is the first time I’ve seen this happening. That’s the reason that I bought the game in digital form from the PSN.

    The problem with the western market is the audience that forms that market. It’s us. Every developer/publisher in the world is under the impression that we mostly buy action packed shooting blockbusters in the 1st or 3rd person genre. That’s what the sales tell them and they can’t lie much.

    It pains me to see that COD:Declassified, an awful game that seemed to be developed by 5 geeks in a basement as a school assignment, had TV promotion and a gem like Soul Sacriifce doesn’t even have a poster but that’s what marketing is. You’ll put your money on the winning horse.

  • Lester Paredes

    I’m a little late to this party, but I must say, my Gamestop had real marketing. Not ‘in the windows’ marketing, but there was a poster above the PS Vita kiosk for the game. Perhaps it helps that an employee at that store happens to love these kinds of games, but he’s one of the lowlier peons. Just a ‘game advisor’ which is a dumb way of saying: Cashier/sales floor clerk. I sure hope Sony manages to fix this problem. More marketing will equal more sales. Also: Sony? Get rid of the ‘console quality on the go’ tag line. As close as the Vita has come, it only hurts the system when features in the console version don’t translate into the handheld, or the handheld is a slightly up-resed port of the DS/3DS version, or the framerate struggles. You’re only inviting people to compare and contrast between the PS3 and Vita versions of games. Get rid of the tag line and people will start to compare the Vita to the 3DS and iOS, which is what it should be compared to, after all.