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December 9, 2005

Xbox 360 launches in Japan shortly

Posted by David Hunter at 10:34 AM ET.

As mentioned last week, Microsoft has a round of festivities planned for the Japanese Xbox launch at 7AM on December 10 in Tokyo which due to timezone differences is less than 7 hours from the time of this post. Martyn Williams explains what’s at stake at InfoWorld:

The launch is important for the software maker as its previous Xbox console never gained much traction in Japan despite doing well in the U.S. and European markets. Not only does success in Japan mean higher sales for Microsoft, but it also gives the console a better image among Japanese software developers, and that could mean more and better games on sale everywhere.

Microsoft began its Japan market push early. In May, when the rest of the world was learning about the Xbox 360 through a 30-minute sponsored program on MTV, Japanese media and retailers heard details direct from the company and game developers at an event in Tokyo. Japan was the only place where Microsoft held a live event that day.

More than elsewhere, Microsoft faces significant competition in Japan from both Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. and Nintendo Co. Ltd. Both companies plan to launch new consoles in 2006, so some local gamers may hold off on choosing a next-generation console. Sony and Nintendo have yet to demonstrate prototype systems, so it’s so far impossible to tell just how well the three consoles will compare with each other.

Microsoft’s wish for strong sales has already given Japanese users one reason to smile. The company is making just one version of the console available here, but it is broadly similar to the higher-spec version available overseas and costs less. The console will cost ¥37,900 (US$320) compared to U.S. prices of $300 for the basic system and $400 for the higher-spec system.

There’s more from Reuters:

Xbox 360 will the first next-generation game machine to enter the market, putting the world’s biggest software maker at an advantage versus competitors Sony and Nintendo, which plan to launch their latest consoles next year.

But some have tempered expectations for Microsoft’s Japan launch even though the console quickly sold out in North America and Europe. It remains in short supply in those markets.

“Preorders on the Internet look solid, but I don’t think the retail stores will sell out of Xbox 360s in the first day,” said Takeshi Tajima, an analyst at BNP Paribas in Tokyo.

“Serious game fans will likely rush to buy them, but I think most people are going to wait and see,” said Tajima, who added that “Dead or Alive 4,” a 3D fighting game that was supposed to be the hot new game for Xbox 360 in Japan, has been delayed until after the launch–removing a key reason for fans to rush to buy the console.

And Hans Greimer at the AP:

Part of the problem with the first Xbox in Japan was the lack of role-playing fantasy games, which are favored here over the shoot-’em-up arcade-style games that proved big Xbox hits in the United States.

Microsoft has made a point this time of signing on designers popular here to make games exclusive for Xbox 360, such as “Final Fantasy XI.” Microsoft is planning to release 10 titles in December and has 100 in development.

“We had missteps that we wont repeat,” said Asako Miyata, an Xbox spokeswoman in Tokyo. She added that the new streamlined, off-white console was designed partly by Japanese teams to appeal to Japanese tastes.



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