Published December 14, 2005
TOKYO – Microsoft Corp.'s new Xbox 360 video game console got a lukewarm welcome in Japan on its debut weekend, with fans buying fewer than half the games available in stores, a market researcher said Tuesday.
Microsoft, which started selling the Xbox 360 in Japan on Saturday, is trying to break into the world's second-largest video game market and challenge the longtime dominance of Sony Corp.'s PlayStation.
Microsoft sold 62,135 machines over the weekend, or just 39 percent of the 159,000 consoles it is estimated to have shipped to stores, according to data from market researcher Enterbrain Inc.
The figures indicate a slower start than the original Xbox, which failed in Japan. The first Xbox sold about 123,000 units in the first three days of its launch in 2002, according to Tokyo-based Enterbrain.
The Xbox 360 debuted last month in the United States to winding lines of customers to snag machines and top billing on Christmas wish lists. Japanese gamers may still be waiting to see what Sony's upcoming PlayStation 3 looks like.
Sony has locked up about 80 percent of the Japanese market, compared with Xbox's 5 percent, and is planning to release its next-generation PlayStation 3 early next year, although a date has not been announced.
Xbox had been hoping its earlier release would win converts.
But Enterbrain said some stores reported customers canceling pre-reserved Xbox 360s because of the postponed release of the popular game "Dead or Alive 4."
Still, despite the slow start, Enterbrain said there was still "plenty of room" for the Xbox 360 to increase its market share as more titles come to market.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft is planning to release 10 titles in Japan this month and has 100 in development.
Microsoft Japan President Darren Huston told The Associated Press Saturday his company aims to sell 1 million Xbox 360s in Japan by mid-2006.
That compares with just 1.8 million original Xbox units sold in Asia, including Japan, in its first three years.
Worldwide, Microsoft is aiming to ship between 2.75 million and 3 million machines within 90 days of the U.S. launch.
Microsoft's first Xbox got off to a rocky start in Japan, where some of the world's most dedicated and finicky gaming fans were turned off by its design, limited game selection and perceptions of shoddy quality.
Microsoft has made a point this time of signing on designers popular here to make games exclusive for Xbox 360, such as "Final Fantasy XI." The company also redesigned the clunky black case, with help from Japanese teams, to create a streamlined, pearl-white look that is more appealing to Japanese tastes.
The first Xbox's tendency to scratch disks also ruffled feathers in Japan. While the problem didn't affect the game's performance, it was viewed as a symptom of poor attention to detail.
It is unclear how Japanese might react to reported problems in the Xbox 360 that cause it to crash in the middle of games.
Huston said Saturday those incidents are "quite isolated." He added that there is a Japanese hotline for customers to call if they experience problems and that the company will replace faulty equipment free of charge.