NEWS - Friday, December 16, 2005

Japanese Gamers Comment On Xbox 360

No one really seems to know what the Japanese gaming community makes of the western aggressor/courtier Microsoft and its new console, except that about 60,000 of them have bought into the new offering. We decided that the best thing to do would be to ask. Prowling the virtual streets of Tokyo, helped in no small part by our friends over at Anime kings MediaBlasters (with special thanks to Anna) we asked Japanese gamers their thoughts on Microsoft’s new machine. Interestingly, the main vibe is upbeat, belying sluggish sales and the Western media’s thinly disguised glee at what on the surface seems a botched venture. Though from the selection of gamers we spoke to, most are willing to buy into the 360 – when the right software arises and interestingly, several claimed the marketing support for the 360 didn’t get the message across... “There’s nothing special about the way Microsoft promotes 360. Many softcore gamers don’t care for high specs or high definition,” one gamer said. “Microsoft in Japan didn’t really explain what Xbox 360 is capable of,” commented another. “ The main reason why Japanese people weren’t attracted to Xbox and 360 was that the promotion was terrible. Bad promotion, yet pretty expensive compared to other game systems.” So the marketing for Xbox 360 generally saw a thumbs down. Bear in mind that two of the three gamers quoted above already own a 360 and the level of frustration and the mixed message becomes apparent. Another blight Microsoft needs to work at in Japan is the image the Xbox brand has for being faulty. The early glitches the original suffered with eating up game discs - a point all but forgotten in the West - plays heavily in the purchasing decision for the new generation of console. When asked ’Why do you think the Japanese people are not interested in Xbox 360?’, concerns over build integrity were prominent. “Because when Xbox came out, there was a problem with the system. That probably scared Japanese game companies and Japanese gamers away from Xbox,” said one gamer. “I believe it’s a matter of which game system is most popular. Because of the Xbox’s system glitch, even after it was fixed, people just believed that the whole PC for your game system idea was over, and moved on. There are just that many game systems, and new gadgets in Japan, so you can’t hold onto the idea that didn’t work the first time.” Echoing this, another said, “The problem Xbox had in the beginning is still holding people back from buying Xbox and Xbox 360.” We know that Microsoft has carried out exhaustive consumer focus tests in Japan, as it did everywhere else in the world. Even so, we can’t help but wonder if Microsoft knows that those isolated incidents on chewed-up game discs - seized upon so readily by a somewhat xenophobic Japanese games press intent on keeping this outsider on the outside - had such a massive damaging impact. “The problem with Xbox scared them away,” stated another gamer. So what does Microsoft need to do to prise the Yen from the Japanese gaming community? The answers were varied, offering an interesting insight into the gaming scene in the East. It would also appear that the traditional resistance against western-developed first-person shooters is dwindling. One called for “Localization of American FPS games,” and others echoed these sentiments, again calling for more access to the software generally seen as unmarketable to the Japanese consumer. The fact that the machine is American also cropped up time and time again. “I wouldn’t mind if the games are created by American people, but they should try to bring more games into Japan,” we were told. “Japanese people think that most games for Xbox and Xbox 360 are American games. Japanese people aren’t used to watching American comic-style characters or CG violence. Also, it takes some time to get used to the system itself. Online games for Xbox (and 360) are mainly shooting or fighting games, and many Japanese people don’t like the type of games where you need to be really good. And also there are not many RPG (or online RPG) for Xbox.” The genres available for Xbox 360 have also seemingly been poorly explained to the Japanese audience. “They should release more game series that are popular in Japan,” we were told. “If they released DQ (Dragon Quest) or Final Fantasy, that would definitely attract Japanese gamers.” Seemingly, the potential of Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Blue Dragon has been overlooked. Backward compatibility was also mentioned frequently. “There aren’t many Japanese games for Xbox as it is, not only I can’t play (sic) Xbox games on 360, there are even fewer Japanese games for 360. And also, even for Xbox, there were so many games that weren’t sold Japan. I wanted to play Winning Eleven...” We hope you enjoyed this brief insight into the state of the Japanese Xbox 360 push seen through they eyes of its game-buying public. As ever, let us know your thoughts in the forum below.

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