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Why Vita TV Launched in Japan First

...and why it's still coming to the West despite a lukewarm reception.

Vita TV is a great idea, as we've already discussed. So why has Sony been so coy about its plans to bring the little wonderbox to the West?

Well, it turns out Japan, where the microconsole launched on November 14, was something of a testbed for the new technology, and that the positioning of the device may end up being somewhat different in "some of the other markets" Sony is planning on launching Vita TV in.

Vita TV sold about 42,000 units during launch week -- not awful, not great -- but it was important not necessarily for sales figures, but for helping to establish a relatively new market in Japan: streaming.

"This may sound slightly counter-intuitive," Sony Computer Entertainment boss Andrew House told our sister site Eurogamer, "but we wanted to launch in Japan first because I feel there really hasn't been a critical driver or device that's driven the adoption of streaming content overall."

It's true; compared to the US and Europe, where services such as Netflix and its ilk have been building a firm footing and becoming the de facto means of media consumption for many users, Japan has been lagging behind in the adoption of streaming services. House saw this as a good opportunity to position the Vita TV as an easy means of getting up and running with streaming, plus a way of playing many popular Vita games on the television.

Vita TV has been off to a slow start in Japan, but why hasn't Sony brought it to the West, where there's already a clearly established market in streaming services, then?

"It's a very different landscape when you look at the US and Europe," said House. "Much greater establishment of streaming video services, and much greater understanding of what the concept's all about. So we see strong market potential elsewhere in the world, but it will be a different road to market for the US and Europe than has been the case in Japan."

Part of the reason for hesitant adoption of Vita TV in Japan, aside from the fact that streaming services are a relatively unknown quantity over there, is the fact that Vita TV is incompatible with a number of high-profile Vita titles -- specifically, those that make use of the handheld's unique features such as its front touchscreen and back touchpad that don't directly translate to the Dual Shock 3 controller the Vita TV uses. It's possible that Sony is waiting for many of these games to be updated with "Vita TV modes" incorporated -- or perhaps, given the microconsole's heavy emphasis on streaming, for the company's Gaikai service to finally roll out in 2014.

Either way, it seems that Sony is committed to bringing the Vita TV to the West, which is a good sign -- we just don't know when or how it's going to do it.

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