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Last Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Xbox still hopes to storm Japan
By Jonathan Fildes
Technology reporter, BBC News website, Tokyo


Peter Moore
Xbox Peter Moore is leading the charge in Japan
Microsoft is still determined to crack the Japanese market, Xbox boss Peter Moore has told BBC News.

The firm has announced a raft of games for the Xbox 360 aimed at breaking Sony and Nintendo's grip on the territory.

Historically, Microsoft has had huge problems selling the Xbox in Japan, the second largest games market in the world after North America.

"There is probably no more challenging a market for us than the Japanese market," said Mr Moore.

Japanese gamers are fiercely loyal to home grown brands and games.

New Xbox 360 titles include role playing games Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon, designed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi.

Microsoft said that there will be 110 titles available for the Xbox 360 in Japan by the end of the year.

Visitors to the Tokyo Game Show give their impressions of the consoles and games.

Mr Moore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's gaming arm, said: "It's the home of some of the most creative developers in the world, some of the most demanding gamers in the world and for me it's a springboard for Asia."

Success in Japan is a rite of passage in the gaming world; the market is one that can almost make or break a console.

Sony, for example, sold more than 23 million of its PlayStation 2 consoles in Japan. Worldwide it has sold more than 100 million since its launch in 2000.

Conversely by the end of 2005 Microsoft had sold just 1.8 million of the original Xbox in Asia, including Japan, out of a global total of 22 million.

Admitted problems

"We didn't get the right content and we admit that we didn't do a great job here," Mr Moore told the BBC news website at the Tokyo Games Show.

But, he said, the company were determined to get the Japanese market right for the Xbox 360.
Blue Dragon
Blue Dragon is a key title, if Xbox is to crack Japan

According to figures released at the start of September by research firm Enterbrain, Microsoft has so far sold 158,654 of its Xbox 360 console with more than 5 million units sold worldwide.

"We need to give Japanese gamers a compelling reason to buy and I think this is it," Mr Moore said, talking about the line-up of new titles designed for Japanese gamers.

One of the most anticipated titles is Mistwalker's Blue Dragon, a quirky role playing game that has already set the Tokyo Games Show buzzing.

The game features artwork by acclaimed Japanese cartoon artist Akira Toriyama and music by the same composer that wrote the score to the hugely successful Final Fantasy series.

Mistwalkers other game debuted at the Tokyo Games show, Lost Odyssey, features characters designed by Japanese Manga artist Takehiko Inoue.

Reduced price

Microsoft has said that it will start selling Blue Dragon bundled with a reduced price Xbox 360 console when the game is launched in early December.

Other games aimed at the Japanese market include Namco Bandai's newly named Eternal Sonata.

The company are also pushing their online gaming service Xbox live in Japan, teaming up with developers Konami, Namco Bandai and Capcom to offer arcade style downloads.

"We're doing a lot to feel more Japanese, less American and less like an imported product," said Mr Moore.

"I'm very heartened to see the excitement around out booth at the [Tokyo] games show."
Xbox 360
The Xbox remains a curiosity in Japan

The Redmond based company are not just trying to break into Japan with software. It has also announced the release date of their HD-DVD player for the console in Japan.

The drive will debut on November 17th and will cost 19,800 yen (90). The basic Xbox 360 machine combined with the add-on player will cost 49,600 yen together.

But Microsoft will not have it all its own way.

Sony's PlayStation 3 is launched in Japan on 11 November while the Nintendo Wii will hit Japanese shelves in early December.

Nintendo's system will cost less than 25,000 Yen while following a price drop announced at the Tokyo Games Show, Sony has said the 20 gigabyte version of the PS3 will sell for 49,980 yen

Sony, which has a devoted fan base in Japan, is confident that their product will be a hit.

"I can't speak for every Japanese consumer, but I do feel that what we have showed at the Tokyo Game Show has shocked and impressed them," said Phil Harrison, President of worldwide studios for Sony Computer Entertainment.

"I feel that the Japanese market is very loyal to Sony and we are very loyal to them."


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