In a press release sent out to Japanese retailers yesterday, Microsoft's Asian division announced that the price of the Xbox in Japan will drop to 16,800 yen (about $154) effective November 20. On the same day, Microsoft will also release a limited-edition "Xbox Platinum Pack" that includes a console, two games, a DVD Playback Kit, and two free months of the Xbox Live online game service for 19,800 yen ($182).
This marks the third price markdown for the Xbox in Japan -- the console debuted in Tokyo on February 22, 2002 for 34,800 yen ($320), but was discounted nearly $100 three months later following slow sales and problems with consoles scratching up game discs. This new price slash, coupled with the value-priced Platinum Pack (which comes with Halo and Project Gotham Racing 2), is part of a move by Microsoft Japan to make their system competitive in the upcoming holiday shopping season.
To help explain their strategy to the local press, Microsoft held an informal press conference yesterday with Yoshihiro Maruyama, the new general manager of the Japanese division's Xbox unit. Maruyama started by explaining that the price cut, while following similar discounts from Sony and Nintendo in Japan, was not a reactionary move: "This discount was in the works for the end-of-year shopping season before SCE's announcement. The timing was on our own terms, and we aren't simply following the leader here." So what brought about the price cut? According to Maruyama, it stemmed from a desire to make the system more accessible: "The Xbox's installed user base is in a very difficult position, but we wanted to give as many users as possible a chance to play online with the Xbox Live service, the console's main weapon."