Microsoft’s Xbox game console franchise – while it is the face of a platform that competes with Sony’s PlayStation globally – represents a conundrum of sorts for the software and gaming giant when in Japan. That it took Microsoft’s console unit eight years to update Xbox 360 is a testament to the enduring value and engineering that went into the best-selling console, rather than Microsoft’s dillydallying. But while the franchise has found relative success in North America, Europe and other markets – it has continually failed to attract the Japanese gaming market.
In Japan, Microsoft’s Xbox is nearly a non-entity – many big game publishers offer token support for Xbox Japanese releases, but the preference in the past few years has always been Sony’s PlayStation 3 rather than the Xbox 360. A lot of Japanese gaming aficionados and zealots noticed that the Xbox One launch event was fairly “western” in approach. Microsoft’s launch event highlighted functions that were seemingly designed for American television. The new games that were revealed – FIFA, Call of Duty: Ghost, and Quantum Break – were all made by Western developers. A two-second appearance by Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima was all there was for fans of Japanese games to get excited about, which is really not that much. They fear that this could mean another Microsoft console that offers only token support for Japanese releases.
Microsoft vice president Phil Harrison moved to allay these fears as he answered questions from Japanese pop-culture & gaming site Kotaku.com. He said that if Japanese gamers felt left out from the launch content, it was not intentional, and that yes, Microsoft did have better plans for Xbox One in Japan. “If that was your take-away, that was not intentional,” Harrison semi-apologized, promising better coverage at this summer’s E3 gaming convention. “You will see at E3 games from four continents—three, well, yeah, three and a big continent. You will see, throughout the rest of the year, between now and launch, a number of occasions where we will tell a more local story that is customized and more regionalized,” the Microsoft executive explained. “This (launch event), by necessity, had to be a more global message. Since we were doing it here in America, a lot of the TV was Americanized,” he added. So it looks like Japanese gamers can hold their breath for just a bit longer until E3 comes along, before deciding if Xbox will – as with its fist 2 iterations – continue to fail the Japanese gamers’ test.