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Why are some buying Vita console but no games?

Believe it or not, Japanese retailers sold more Vita systems than game cards over its launch weekend
Believe it or not, Japanese retailers sold more Vita systems than game cards over its launch weekendSony

Usually, when a new gaming system launches, you can expect retailers to sell one or more games for every system sold, since gamers need some kind of software to play on their new hardware. But at the moment, Vita sales are outpacing games sold at retail.

Tracking firm Media Create (as reported by Andriasang) estimates Japanese retailers sold about 300,000 total units of Vita software in its first two days of availability, compared to around 325,000 total Vita game systems.

How do you explain what at first seems like thousands of Japanese consumers carrying around a useless game machine with no games to play on it? 

Well, for starters, Media Create only tracks brick-and-mortar retail sales, yet the Vita is the first system to offer its entire game library for download through the PlayStation Store. Retailers did report extremely strong sales for Sony's high-priced proprietary Vita memory cards over the weekend, which would suggest a lot of players are taking advantage of that extra space to store loads of downloaded games.

The Vita also comes with a lot of non-gaming features that don't require owners to purchase any retail software. It's possible those game-free Vita buyers could just be using the system to take photos, watch downloaded videos, browse the Web, post to Twitter and more, though early reviews of the hardware suggest these features don't exactly amount to killer apps.

Nintendo's 3DS also sold slightly more hardware than software when it launched in Japan earlier this year, according to Media Create, showing that downloadable portable games might really be growing in popularity for a segment of Japanese early adopters.

Despite launching with a lineup of 20 games, only four titles accounted for a combined majority of those launch weekend retail sales: Sony's "Hot Shots Golf 6" with over 60,000 sales; Naughty Dog's action-adventure title "Uncharted Golden Abyss" with nearly 50,000 sales; historical strategy brawler "Dynasty Warriors Next" with nearly 30,000 sales, and action RPG "Lord of Apocalypse" with over 28,000 sales.

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Kyle Orland has written hundreds of thousands of words about gaming since he started a Mario fan site at the age of 14. You can follow him on Twitter or at his personal web site, KyleOrland.com.