NEWS - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Xbox 360 Still Faces Uphill Battle in Japan

A new survey by Japanese news agency C-News suggests that Japanese consumers are still not interested in the Xbox 360, with only two per cent of respondents choosing Microsoft’s new console as their favored next-gen system. 1,000 Japanese consumers aged between 10 and 59 were questioned for the survey, with 60 per cent choosing the PlayStation 3 as the next-gen system they’re most interested in, followed by the Nintendo Revolution on 8 per cent and the X360 on just 2 per cent. The poor showing for the Revolution is perhaps understandable, given that Nintendo has released only sketchy outline details regarding the console so far - but the figure for the Xbox 360 will come as a disappointment to Microsoft, which has focused heavily on the Japanese market in recent months. Respondents cited the Sony brand, along with a perception that the PS3 will have the widest range of software and a technological edge over its rivals, as the key reasons for picking the PS3 over the other systems. Microsoft has been aggressively pursuing Japanese developer support for the Xbox 360, and has signed up titles from independent studios Mist Walker, Game Republic and Q Entertainment, each of them headed up by a well known Japanese game design luminary. A special event is also planned later this month in Japan, where Xbox Japan boss Yoshihiro Maruyama is expected to reveal a number of new third-party relationships and locally developed titles for the Xbox 360, in an effort to secure as much local content as possible for the launch of the system at the end of the year. However, it seems that new franchises will only go so far for Xbox 360; Mist Walker’s RPG Blue Dragon may sport character designs from Dragon Quest artist Akira Toriyama and a design by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, but it’s Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy themselves which Japanese gamers want - with the survey showing that 80 per cent of those polled want to see major franchises on the next-gen systems, as against only 60 per cent who want original titles. Role-playing games, unsurprisingly, led the field in terms of the genres demanded by gamers - with 71.2 per cent ticking this box in a multiple-choice question - followed by 52.8 per cent who want simulations and strategy games, 47.9 per cent who want general action titles, 41.1 per cent adventure titles, and just 23.4 per cent shoot ’em ups. It will be interesting to see if the unveiling of multiple new Japanese games later this month will have any effect on consumer interest in the Xbox 360. The lack of local software was often cited as the key reason that the original Xbox failed in the region - selling only 460,000 units over its lifespan to date - but some commentators have suggested that there is also a basic unwillingness among Japanese consumers to invest in a console produced overseas.


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