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Opinion: Xbox 360 'Big In Japan' Factors?

Following Gamasutra's <a href="http://gamasutra.com/features/20060719/wen_01.shtml">recent 'Analyze This' column</a>, which asked: 'How important should the Japanese mark...

Simon Carless, Blogger

August 1, 2006

3 Min Read

Following Gamasutra's recent 'Analyze This' column, which asked: 'How important should the Japanese market be in its overall strategy for the 360?', several Letter To The Editor replies have discussed Microsoft's fascinating dilemma in more detail. In particular, Reflexive Entertainment's Russell Carroll posted the following commentary: "It's interesting that the anti-American standpoint was pulled into the recent Gamasutra article as there have been many counter arguments using iPod as an example of an American product that has beat out similar products from Japanese companies including Sony. It is unlikely that the 360 is fairing worse in Japan than the original Xbox due to anti-American sentiments. The value of diversity of games that comes from being a leader in multiple markets I believe is the key reason for needing to succeed in Japan, not the 20% of the total games market that Japan represents. As was mentioned by Michael Pachter, it is very important to get good games, however, it is perhaps more important to get game variety, which is an area that the 360, like the original Xbox as well as the GameCube, have struggled (despite having some of the highest rated games of all time according to GameRankings). Variety can come from intentionally infusing it into the game library or as a secondary effect of sheer market dominance. Without Japan it will be very difficult for Microsoft to dominate the market turning the need for Microsoft to improve their approach and increase the variety of games available. Notably, Xbox Live Arcade helps to fill the hole, but it remains to be seen if it will be a strong enough selling point as the arguments shift to convincing buyers to chose one set of games available for download over those available for download on the other consoles. Certainly additional packaged products such as the colorful Viva Pinata can help improve the current hardcore gamer perception of the 360 at retail. Improving upon the hardcore perception is ultimately more important than success in the Japanese market and it will go a long ways towards winning that market as well. The celebrated 'Long Tail' effect strongly impacts the sales of consoles, as only a small minority of console owners own the so-called "biggest & best" games on their console (such as Halo or Zelda)." In addition, the presumably pseudonymous Nerex R. Terrene posts a mammoth reply to the problem, starting from the following viewpoint: "I have to agree with the analysts that Microsoft does not necessarily need to make the Xbox 360 a success in Japan to be a success for revenues. What seems to stay understated, however, is concrete insight in about why exactly the 360 is failing in Japan. Essentially there are a couple stinging and obvious flaws the console has that are being completely overseen, the main and biggest one: The 360 is anything but “Kaizen”. The search for the perfect product is something that has driven the Japanese market since many years. “Kaizen” or “change to the better” is the most prevalent market strategy in which a product's greatest competitor is itself, in essence. Instead of focusing on the competitor's newest features and how to top them with a new product as much, it is common, necessary, and needed that a product always try to be the best it can be. If that demand is not met: New version!" Gamasutra welcomes new insight on this particular issue, submitted via our Letter To The Editor interface.

About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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