It was always going to be a tough sell to the Japanese, but Micro$oft were insisting that they were going to crack it. It seems that they have failed. The Xbox 360 sold less than 30% of its available stock in its first weekend and many retailers have been cutting prices to shift them faster. This is a huge difference to the US and Europe where supplies have run out very quickly, although it’s estimated that 10% of all 360s sold in the US went directly onto eBay.
So why has this happened? The Japanese market is often quite insular, with Japanese brands leading the way in terms of hardware and software production. The 360s launch line-up is distinctly western in its approach to gaming, with many racing games and (American) sports simulations. More of a problem is the reliance on First-Person-Shooters. The Japanese are known for some reason to suffer motion sickness while playing these, more so than gamers in the west. My girlfriend suffers from the same problem and it can leave her feeling rather unwell! If you take out the Call Of Duty franchise and Perfect Dark Zero then you have a distinctly bland first release schedule. Kameo remains an interesting attempt at next-gen gaming (whatever that may mean) but one that doesn’t wholly convince many players. Many Japanese gamers cancelled their pre-orders for the 360 system when the fighting game Dead Or Alive 4 was pushed back in the schedules to late December. This leaves the only really interesting titles being racing games, and, while nicer graphics are always good, the gameplay isn’t really introducing anything truly new into the mix that make a killer application to inspire people to buy the 360.
It may be that sales pick up when Dead Or Alive 4 is released; however when initial sales of 62k in the first weekend for the 360 are compared to 123k in the same period for the original Xbox it doesn’t suggest that Micro$oft will be dominating the key global gaming territory of Japan this time around. $ony now have to live up to their reputation and produce something great in the PS3, because many gamers may be waiting to see which system gets the better game line up. If $ony can take advantage of Micro$oft’s mis-step then they will likely continue to control the Japanese market and maintain the interest of one of the most lively game producing arenas for yet another generation of consoles.