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Sony sells just 321,000 PlayStation Vitas in two days

By comparison, the Nintendo 3DS sold 371,000 units during its first two days on the market earlier this year. Basically, Sony's handheld device may already be in trouble.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony's PlayStation Vita sales were behind the pace of the Nintendo 3DS in its first two days on Japanese store shelves.

According to Japanese game-tracking firm Enterbrain, Sony sold 321,400 PlayStation Vita units during its first two days on store shelves--50,000 units behind the Nintendo 3DS, which sold 371,000 units during its launch period earlier this year.

Sony launched the PlayStation Vita in Japan over the weekend. The handheld game player boasts the familiar PlayStation action buttons on the right side and dual thumbsticks. It can connect to the Web via Wi-Fi and 3G and features both front and rear cameras. The device's 5-inch OLED display doubles as a touch screen, and on the back, Sony has added touchpads for "greater hand control."

As impressive as those specs might be for long-time portable gamers who remember the first Game Boy, both Sony and Nintendo are fighting an uphill battle in the marketplace.

In 2009, Nintendo's DS line generated 70 percent of all the portable game revenue in the U.S. Back then, Apple's iOS and Android together captured 19 percent market share and Sony's PSP had 11 percent share.

In just two short years, according to research firm Flurry Analytics, Nintendo's share has dropped to 36 percent and Sony has dipped to 6 percent of total portable game sales. By the end of this month when all 2011 portable software revenue is tallied, Android and iOS are expected to account for 58 percent of it.

The issue for both Sony and Nintendo is that they're offering products that make gaming their focal point. Smartphones running iOS and Android, by contrast, allow people to place calls, surf the Web, access popular applications, and play games. smartphones are an affordable option for many customers, given all their features. With a two-year contract, for example, the iPhone 4S sells with $200.

"Portable console gaming no longer has a practical place in the current landscape of casual flick, drag, and swipe games," CNET's Jeff Bakalar wrote in a discussion on portable systems earlier this year. "There is no room for the 3DSes and Vitas of the world when all-in-one functionality is now more important than high-tech, gaming-focused mobile systems."

But Sony's concerns over Vita sales may go beyond market factors. As noted, Nintendo sold more 3DS units in its first two days on Japanese store shelves than Sony sold Vitas. Soon after initial excitement surrounding the 3DS subsided, Nintendo had an exceedingly difficult time selling the portable. In fact, during the second quarter of the year, just 710,000 3DS units were sold worldwide.

Whether or not Sony's Vita will follow suit remains to be seen.

Sony plans to launch the PlayStation Vita in the U.S. on February 22. The Wi-Fi-only version will go for $249.99, while the 3G-capable model will retail for $299.99.

(Via Reuters)