Denki News

July 3, 2006

The Xbox in Japan

Filed under: Japan, Video Games — icruise @ 3:57 pm

The Xbox has, to put it mildly, not been a success in Japan. When it first came out, Japanese players complained that the system and controllers were big and unwieldy, and the types of games generally made for the Xbox tended to be things like first-person shooters, which are generally not very popular in Japan. Admittedly, the original Xbox has passed the apex of its popularity even in the US, but you know things are bad when only 10 Xboxes were sold in Japan last week. No, that’s not 10 in one particular store or city. Not 10 in one particular prefecture or region. 10 Xboxes for the entire country. By comparison, the Gamecube sold 120 times as many consoles, the the PS2 sold 2,500 times as many consoles, and the (admittedly still brand new) DS Lite sold more than 15,000 times as many consoles as the original Xbox.

I also know from personal experience how unpopular the Xbox was, because I’ve never translated a Japanese Xbox game — there just aren’t that many domestically made games for the system in Japan. I’ve translated lots of games for the PS2, a few for the DS, PSP and Gamecube, but none for the Xbox. It’s bit of a viscious circle, because without games made in Japan that appeal to Japanese tastes, people aren’t going to buy the system, and without a relatively large installed base, publishers aren’t going to make the games.

But Microsoft isn’t giving up. They’ve released the Xbox 360 in a relatively competitive way in Japan. Instead of releasing a BS “Core” system for slightly less money that lacks most of the things that make the system attractive (as well as any means of saving your games), they have only released the higher-end hard drive-equipped system in Japan. Plus, they have priced it about $50 less than what the same system would sell for in the US. It’s still up in the air whether they are going to be able to come up with games that more Japanese people want to play, but it is encouraging to see some Japanese-made games like Ninety-Nine Nights coming out. And I’ve recently been asked to translate an Xbox 360 game (no, I can’t tell you what it is), so maybe that’s a good sign, too.

I didn’t have an Xbox 360, but I’ve ordered one now that I’m going to be translating this game. I happen to be in Japan at the moment, so I was able to order it from Amazon Japan for about same price as the Core system in the US. Unfortunately, many Xbox 360 games are region-coded, so I won’t be able to play a lot of US games, but it will play “Asian” games (games intended for Chinese-speaking regions, but which usually have English as well). I’ll post a mini-review with my thoughts in a few days.

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