There are no shortage of articles on the internet commenting on the failure of the 360 launch in Japan – including the one posted right here on Nerd Approved.
All of these articles seem to have one thing in common – they view the future of the 360 in Japan as being rather bleak. But is this really a fair assesment? And why the hell do Americans care so much?
To answer these questions we must first determine why the console is not selling in the first place. Spong.com has a great article that asks the Japanese gamer what they believe is the cause of poor sales. Answers seemed to focus on a few key elements:
1. Problems with the original XBox and the XBox 360 on the hardware end at launch has given the Japanese consumer the impression that Microsoft is building a second rate product.
2. Promotional efforts were misguided. “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.
3. When it comes to gaming, the Japanese trust homegrown companies like Sony and Nintendo. This is a tough shell for Microsoft to crack.
4. Finally we have, in my opinion, the most important factor in getting a foothold in the Asian market – the games themselves. Microsoft’s launch lineup was way too western in its scope. Crammed with sports, racing, and FPS games – the lineup didn’t stand a chance in Japan. It seems that the Japanese gamer is far less focused on competitive gameplay – they prefer an RPG over a FPS anyday.
So, does Microsoft’s failure to anticipate these obstacles (again) mean that the console is doomed for all eternity in Asia? Not necessarily. In my opinion, Microsoft has a few things working in their favor. First and foremost on that list is time. The XBox 360 has nearly a year to work out the kinks before they face any serious competion from Sony and Nintendo. To put it another way – ever since the release of the new console, I look at my original XBox and all I can think of is the word “obsolete.” It’s too young for that nostalgic appeal, and it is too old for the hardcore gamer. So it is stuck there, right in the middle – in that dreaded obsolete zone. How long will it be before the tech savvy Japanese consumer feels the same way?
There is also the issue of future releases from Japanese developers. Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy XI” will debut on the 360 as will DOA 4.
Microsoft has been working hard to bring top Japanese game developers on board to build games for the new console. If they are able to add more talent to the list, there is a good chance that consumers will follow – especially given the lack of alternatives.
That having been said, why is it that Americans care so much about how the 360 sells in Japan? Is it national pride? Are we irritated that the Japanese find our gaming products to be inferior? Or is it a product of the ongoing struggle between the Microsoft fans and the throngs of people who have jumped ship to Mac, Linux, and Firefox shouting their various concerns over security issues, open source software, and monopolies? Is it that many Americans are rooting for Microsoft to fail in Asia? Chances are, it is a little bit of everything.
Regardless of how people feel on the subject, the XBox 360 is by no means doomed in Asia. Japanese gamers are most likely waiting to see how things pan out before deciding to make their move. If Microsoft can remarket themself in Japan and stop trying to cram Western gaming down their throats (before the competition gets to market) they have a chance at converting some of the “softcore” gamers that remain on the fence.
Posted by Sean