Sony’s problematic 2011 continues with Vita glitches

The good news for Sony is that initial sales of the portable PlayStation Vita in Japan have been relatively strong. The bad news is that many customers appear to be struggling to turn the device on.

The Vita is the follow-up to the PlayStation Portable and launched in Japan this past weekend, though it won’t debut in most of the world until February. One Japanese research firm has come up with an extremely specific estimate of 321,400 sales in the first two days, which compares with about 375,000 at the same stage for the Nintendo 3DS. The question now is whether those sales will hold up or collapse as happened to the 3DS until Nintendo dropped the price by around a third.

Unfortunately for Sony, while those who’ve got the device working generally seem happy, there have been a lot of complaints about malfunctions, to the point that Sony has had to apologize for slow responses to calls to its telephone help lines.

It’s not clear how many of the problems are with the devices themselves, and how many are the result of users struggling to understand poor instructions. Cited problems include the console not switching on, freezing during play, and location data not appearing correctly. As well as issuing a software update, the company is giving advice with numerous variations on “switch it off then on again”, along with workarounds such as initially saying you don’t want to link the device to a Playstation Network account during set-up, then adding your details through the set-up menu.

It remains to be seen whether this is genuinely a serious and widespread problem, or if it’s simply a case of social media meaning those who do experience the faults are able to make a lot more noise than in the past.

One games industry expert noted to the BBC that, while hardly designed this way, the staggered release schedule effectively means Japanese customers are a large-scale testing group and Sony should be able to fix the glitches before the worldwide release.

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