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As U.S. launch looms, Vita sales plunge in Japan

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PlayStation Vita (AP)

Sony's hoping for a big splash when the PlayStation Vita goes on sale in the U.S. next week, but the news from the company's homeland is pretty discouraging.

Sales of the handheld gaming system in Japan for the week ending Feb. 12 hit an all-time low, with less than 14,000 Vitas being sold. That's a drop of more than 3,000 from the previous week.

Check out the Vita hardware review

It's the latest in a series of disappointing Japanese sales figures for the Vita. While the system saw a big surge during its December debut, Japan's Media Create (which tracks sales in that country) says Vita has failed to maintain that momentum and hardware numbers have fallen fairly consistently over the following month-and-a-half.

To put things in perspective, the aging PSP outsold the Vita by almost 2,000 units in Japan last week.

Sony has shrugged off the Japanese numbers as it preps for the Vita's U.S. bow, saying it doesn't expect the trend to repeat itself.

"The [Japanese] sales numbers are within the range that we've been expecting, but they didn't hit the highest, the kind that would have made us ecstatic," Shuhei Yoshida, president of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, told VentureBeat.

"Looking very objectively at the market situation there in Japan, especially on the portable, PSP is still very popular. … [Also,] Nintendo dropped a surprise last year. They had a good lineup of software as we prepared for the PS Vita launch. So we had the perfect storm of 3DS going into Christmas, PSP still very popular, and publishers have to really think about how they're going to allocate resources to three portable platforms, in addition to all the other things going on in the social and mobile spaces."

5 must-have Vita launch games

Vita is launching in the U.S. with a lineup of strong franchises, including Uncharted and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and will be backed by a $50 million marketing campaign.

Even if the Vita fails to catch fire immediately, that's not a sign of failure. Nintendo's 3DS, you might recall, shot out of the gate initially, but quickly lost its breath — and sales began to spiral.

A price cut and the introduction of popular software titles turned things around for the struggling system, though, and by the end of 2011, it had surpassed the first year sales totals of the mighty DS system. The company expects the total number of units sold to top 4 million by the end of the month.

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