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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 12:35 GMT
Hundreds queue for Xbox in Japan
More than 250,000 Xbox machines are in Japan
More than 250,000 Xbox machines are in Japan
Hundreds of Japanese fans queued all night to buy Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, released in the country on Friday morning.

Microsoft boss Bill Gates visited shoppers in Shibuya, Tokyo, and told them: "Thank you so much for being here this morning as we kick off the next generation of video gaming."

But after a frantic start there were reports that sales of the new device tailed off later in the day.


There is almost no chance of Xbox becoming a major player in Japan

Junji Nakauchi, Marusan Securities
Some analysts think that Japan will prove a tough challenge for the new entrant to the gaming market.

This did not deter Xbox's first buyers, and 22-year-old student Yuzuru Saito, who had queued since midnight, said: "It looks really sexy; I can't wait to buy one."

Another shopper added: "I have been waiting out here since 6pm last night but it was well worth it. I can't wait to get home and try the machine out."

To woo the Japanese, the American software giant has designed smaller handheld controllers.

Upbeat

Bill Gates sounded upbeat at a news conference late on Thursday.

"We have been working hard on Xbox in order to bring a breakthrough in the game industry," he said. "For Microsoft, it is very important to be successful in Japan."

Bill Gates is hoping for big sales
Bill Gates is hoping for big sales
But analysts said that the console's price on Xbox was too high, at 34,800 yen (185) - against 29,800 yen (155) for PlayStation 2 and (130) 24,800 yen for GameCube.

"It seems there is almost no chance of Xbox becoming a major player in Japan," said Marusan Securities analyst Junji Nakauchi.

"The domestic market will be where Nintendo and Sony engage in head-to-head battle."

The Japanese have traditionally had a mixed response to US brands.

Coca-Cola, Disneyland and Starbucks have been huge successes, but Ford cars and US-grown rice ended up being flops.

Initial sales

By mid-afternoon on Friday, the Xbox had reportedly sold 670 boxes in the Shibuya store - where Sony moved 760 units of its PlayStation 2 console when it was released two years ago.

Even Gates has admitted that the success of the machine should not be judged on initial sales.

He said: "This is not the Christmas season. You shouldn't compare us to numbers like that.

"As we get into next December, we should be able to deliver good numbers."

Microsoft has sold more than 1.5 million Xboxes in the US since its November launch.

Microsoft will be hoping the Xbox launch in Japan will help promote the device's launch in the UK on 14 March.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"The real heavyweight battle is between Sony and Microsoft"
The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"The Japanese market will be hard to crack"

In DepthIN DEPTH
Video games
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See also:

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Xbox aims to be big in Japan
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10 Jan 02 | New Media
Record year for computer games
15 Nov 01 | New Media
Microsoft unleashes Xbox
30 Jul 01 | dot life
Happy 40th, computer games
01 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Games set sights on the future
11 Jan 02 | New Media
Xbox set for Japan
14 Nov 01 | New Media
Console wars hot up
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