Apparently there's insufficient demand for the UMD transfer service outside of Japan.
Earlier in the month, Sony announced that its UMD transfer service, which allows Vita owners to transfer UMD-based PSP games to their new handheld in exchange for a small fee, would be restricted to Japan. Angry hooting ensued.
Today, in an interview with Wired, Sony World Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida said that there simply isn't enough demand to make bringing the service to the west worthwhile.
"The system has been introduced in Japan, where there is a much larger demand for PSP games," he explained.
"When you look at the release schedule of new titles there are still lots of PSP games being released in Japan and being announced for release. Lots of people who are interested in trying Vita are also interested in playing PSP games that they might purchase before Vita comes out, and will not necessarily choose the digital version. So there is a lot more demand... to introduce a program like that."
While backwards compatability is important during a console launch, when the game lineup is at its weakest, it does become less important as the system matures. The (relatively) small subset of gamers for whom backwards compatibility is a sticking point doesn't justify the cost of the program. Acquiring the correct licensing for all the various western territories would cost Sony a small fortune.
Yoshida went on to argue that UMD games are cheaper in Europe and the US than they are in Japan, meaning western gamers are more likely to just rebuy the games rather than use the transfer service.
"When you compare that to the price of games here, PSP games in Japan are sold at a much higher price, so people see the value in spending the $5 to $10 to get the digital copy," he said. "But when the games are already sold at a lower price in the U.S. we see less value in introducing that kind of system."
When asked why the transfer system charges Japanese customers to download copies of games they already own, the answer was simple, money.
"There are many, many games that are sold at an affordable price," he said. "Because people in Japan are not getting the digital copy for free, because it costs us money to develop and maintain the system so we are asking people to pay somewhere between $5 and $10 to receive the digital copy in addition to what they have on the UMD."