NEWS - Monday, September 27, 2004

Microsoft Still Fighting For Japan

Microsoft Corp. is looking to several anticipated titles, its online gaming service and a new video chat application to propel sales of its Xbox console in Japan during the year-end shopping season. The Xbox has done poorly since its launch here, ranking a distant third in sales to Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.’s PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Co. Ltd.’s GameCube. But that hasn’t reduced Microsoft’s commitment to the Japanese market, Peter Moore, a Microsoft corporate vice president, said during a presentation at the show Friday. "We know the success (the console has achieved outside Japan) has yet to be replicated in Japan, but you should know that Japan is a major part of our strategy," he said. "We are committed to Japan, to the Japanese development community, to the Japanese publishing community and most all to Japanese gamers." "Do not doubt our resolve and our will to win over and learn from our mistakes," he said. Of all the titles the company is showing, the biggest hype surrounds ’Halo 2’ -- the sequel to its ’Halo’ game which was launched two years ago and has sold 5 million copies around the world. Features new to ’Halo 2’ include the ability to hold two guns at once and fire them separately or at the same time. "If you press both at once it’s very powerful," said Frank O’Connor, contents manager of Bungie Studios, the Microsoft unit that produced the game, during a presentation. Players will have the chance to use a new weapon -- an energy sword -- and the game has been made more realistic with "lots of destructible environments and realistic physics," O’Connor said. As an example, he demonstrated the ability to fire at vehicles and cause damage to different parts of them. ’Halo 2’ will go on sale in Japan Nov. 11, two days after its U.S. launch, priced at ¥6,800 (US$62). The game will be compatible with the Xbox Live online service. Microsoft hopes that games like ’Halo 2’ will continue to push adoption of Xbox Live, for which it has set a target of 1.5 million users worldwide by the middle of next year, said Moore. On Nov. 18 the company will put on sale its Xbox Platinum Pack 3, which combines the Xbox console with four games -- ’Blinx 2: Battle of Time and Space’, ’Halo’, ’Top Spin’ and ’Project Gotham Racing 2’. The DVD playback kit and two months free subscription to the Xbox Live online gaming service will also be included in the pack, which will cost ¥19,000, said Yoshihiro Maruyama, general manager of the Xbox division at Microsoft Japan. On the same day, its ’Blinx 2: Battle of Time and Space’ title will go on sale. It will cost ¥4,800. Later in the same month, on Nov. 25, the company will launch a new video chat service for the Xbox Live service. Developed by Xbox engineers in Japan, the service will allow up to four people to video chat in the same session through the Xbox Live service. A pack including a headset and microphone and a video camera will cost ¥6,800 and include a year’s subscription to Xbox Live. Other upcoming Microsoft-produced games include ’Full Spectrum Warrior’, to be released Sep. 30 for ¥6,500. Those planned for 2005 include ’Conker: Live and Reloaded’, ’Fable’, ’Forza Motorsport’, ’Jade Empire’, ’Mech Assault 2: Lone Wolf’ and ’Sudeki’. Upcoming third-party titles highlighted by Microsoft include ’Dead or Alive Ultimate’, which will be launched on Oct. 28, ’Metal Wolf Chaos’, which will go on sale in December, ’Spike Out Battle Street’, on sale in 2005, and ’Out Run 2’, which will be available from the "autumn," the company said.

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