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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 08:51 GMT
Xbox aims to be big in Japan
Xbox has sold 1.5 million units in the US
Xbox US launch was very successful
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By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida
line

After a strong start in the US, Microsoft is preparing for the real test of its Xbox games console when it goes on sale in Japan.

The software giant is confident that it will be able to build on its success in its home market when the console is released on 22 February.

"You're going to see a lot of enthusiasm around the Xbox itself and around the titles themselves," said Seamus Blackley, Xbox technology officer.

Making it big in Japan is crucial to the future of the console.

The Japanese buy a third of the world's games and the country is home to many leading game developers.

Moreover the Xbox needs to do well in Japan to create a buzz ahead of its 14 March launch in Europe.

Games 'richer'

For the Japanese launch, Microsoft has recruited leading software houses, including Sega and Konami.

Jet Set Radio Future game
Jet Set Radio Future looks like a manga comic
Among the 12 titles available for the launch is Jet Set Radio Future, a street-skating action-adventure game in the visual style of Japanese manga comics.

"With the Xbox, it's always about the games and gamers can see the difference," Mr Blackley told the BBC programme, Go Digital.

"Xbox games are a lot richer, they are a lot cooler, they are a lot more fun to play and that enthusiasm is what made the US launch so successful."

Tough competition

Microsoft will be looking to repeat the success of its domestic launch. By the end of 2001, it had sold 1.5m machines in the US, with an average of three games sold for each box.

But the company could face an uphill struggle in tempting Japanese gamers away from their Sony PlayStations or Nintendo GameCubes.

Playstation 2 from Sony
Sony is the market leader
The Xbox is more expensive than either the PlayStation 2 or the GameCube, retailing for 34,800 yen (189).

Sony remains the leader in the new-generation console market. The PlayStation 2, launched a year ahead of its rivals, is on target for sales of 25m units by March.

But Mr Blackley is confident that the Xbox will make an impression when it hits Japan and Europe.

"What we concentrate is on is making the best gaming experience," he said.

"The richness of the games means that Xbox is going to be the centre of gaming, the centre of innovation of games.

"The Xbox is going to be where it's happening."

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 ON THIS STORY
Seamus Blackley, Xbox technology officer
Xbox games are a lot cooler

In DepthIN DEPTH
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See also:

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Emotional future for video games
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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