Microsoft has completed its final major launch for the Xbox 360, as the console became available in Japan on the morning of Saturday December 10th. Although launches in the rest of Asia and Australia are not scheduled until March
, the console has now debuted in the three largest video games markets: North America, Europe and Japan.
After a self-avowedly disappointing result for the original Xbox console, which has sold less than 500,000 units in Japan to date, the Japanese market remains by far the most difficult for Microsoft. The Xbox 360's launch in Japan, in an attempt to buck this trend, features six titles (Perfect Dark Zero
, Ridge Racer 6
, Need for Speed: Most Wanted
, Every Party
, FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup
and Tetris: The Grandmaster Ace
), including three Japanese-created titles, but key Japanese launch game Dead or Alive 4
is now not due until at least the end of the month.
Impressions of the launch have varied considerably, according to different sources, with consumer website GameSpot painting an almost entirely positive picture of the occasion. The Xbox 360’s launch ceremony took place in the popular Shibuya Tsutaya shopping center at 7am, and was attended by crowds of approximately 250 people, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft corporate vice president of worldwide marketing and publishing Peter Moore was in attendance at the event, which featured a recorded video message from Bill Gates. GameSpot reports that all the consoles at Shibuya Tsutaya were sold out. Away from Shibuya Tsutaya, though, the console’s debut does not appear to have been greeted with the same level of interest by Japanese consumers.
A BBC report on the launch quotes an unspecified Japanese store official as describing the customer reaction as “subdued”, with less than 50 consoles sold in the first two hours. Comments from a Japanese-based reporter for video game weblog Kotaku also note some lack of demand in areas away from Tokyo's main, hardcore gamer-friendly shopping districts. However, the hardware's initial sales figures, independently audited by Media Create, and the true arbiter of sales volume, will not be released for around ten days.