Is This The Xbox 360's Retail Retreat In Japan?

2008 was a strong year for the Xbox 360 in Japan. With timed exclusives like Tales of Vesperia, Microsoft was able to draw both long lines and new gamers to its platform. 2009 was another story altogether.

Spring 2009 looked promising with otaku heroine and Japanese popstar Shoko Nakagawa getting her own Xbox 360. But within months, she gave away some of her Xbox 360 titles.

Gamers started to notice that Xbox 360 titles (or their spin-offs) started making their way to other platforms like the PS3. Combined with a history of hardware issues, the Xbox 360 began to look less appealing when compared to the PS3, which had started gaining momentum.

The retail rot set in.

Either stores began posting signs stating they would not buy back used consoles made before August 2007 (above) or completely stopped buying back Xbox 360s.

One retail shop put stickers with cute Christmas trees that read "Great for a Christmas Gift" on the PS3 and the Wii, but not the Xbox 360.

When listing used hardware that the store below would buy back, the Xbox 360 was ignored, left out.

In late December, major retailer Yodobashi Camera no longer offered extended warranties for the Xbox 360. It was the only console for which Yodobashi Camera did not offer an extended warranty.

The problem here isn't so much what Japanese gamers think of the Xbox 360, but what Japanese retailers think.

Western titles such as Modern Warfare 2 (first person shooters are becoming trendy of sorts in Japan) have helped the console weather the storm. While the near future looks equally bleak, Microsoft does have an ace up its green sleeve with its Natal motion controller. Initial media reaction in Japan has been positive and if sold and packaged right, Natal could definitely breathe new life into Xbox Japan.

Xbox360衰退の歴史 「こくないで、敗戦しても最良機」 [はちま起稿]

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Comments

    I think the reason that the Xbox 360 has almost no market share in Japan is out of some subliminal sense of loyalty. This may sound totally stupid but I think Japanese people would rather buy PS3 or Nintendo to support the big Japanese companies. Think about it, the 360 and PS3 are almost identical in terms of hardware. And for the most part software. They should sell the same amounts right?, but that’s just not the way it is. Japan may see the Xbox as the big bad American machine out to destroy Japanese games. Wow this is sounding like 1941 all over again

      It sure does seem like 1941 all over again.. with Xbox360 taunting and stripping away the titles that were once exclusive to the japanese consoles.. I think Xbox360 is wanting to be bombed, so then they can look like the good guys when they go to war with PS3 and Wii.

      Think about it, the 360 and PS3 are almost identical in terms of hardware. And for the most part software

      its not some sense of loyalty it simply comes down to A) why have 2 things that do the same thing B) which one breaks more often C) which one less has a Blu-ray player in it D) which one doesnt force you to buy first party accessories( HDD, memory units) E) which one sucked last generaton

      sure japanese company loyalty could be it but its more likely thats its brand name recognition japan knows the playstation the 360 is still the wierd kid sitting in the corner

      also to me halo 3 would be a non selling point if you hadnt played the earlier ones

    I would say it more has to do with the PS catering to a japanese audience, when the 360 does little to drawn them in. Sony has always had a foothold in japan, and it has more of the japanese style game exclusives.

    It's a bit like playing your 360 for years and then someone offering you a Wii with on par graphics. Why would you want it? It caters to a completely different market with completely different games, even if it does try and throw in the odd 'hardcore' style game here and there.

    Personally I hope that microsoft put some effort into trying to bridge that gap, bringing more or those style of games to their console and yes putting deep consideration into how to market natal.

    Actually EBGames in Australia has stopped doing extended warranties on xbox360 as well. They say its because of the RRoD that they have stopped doing Extended Warranties

    Also Prior to August 2007 was known for the xbox's laser problem where it would cause rings around the disc, and the life span of the xbox360 was also very low. Thats why they aren't accepting them 2007 models anymore.

    IF the Japanese are actually basing their opinions of video-games on the whole "American Company" thing, it's quite pathetic.
    I gather SOME may have that feeling, just there are some who are that anti-Sony they won't own even a Sony TV or Blu-Ray Player and all that.

    it's just like Apple - Mac vs. Windows and all that debate between fanboys.

    But its not just HARDWARE having a bit of trouble in Japan. It's also SOFTWARE. The Xbox is more of an online-service. FPS, TPS and those type of online games aswell as Madden and NBA etc...

    Thats not saying that RPGs etc.. aren't great on the 360, cause they are. But with Halo 3, COD4, World at War, Gears of War 1 & 2 and MW2 being most likely ALL in the Top 10 selling Xbox games, it shows that those sorts of games are most popular. And those sorts of games are NOT that popular in Japan.

    MS did try very hard (and only got minor success) in 2008 and some parts in 2009 with gaining exclusive rights to a lot of JRPGs and sequels to some highly regarded franchises within Japan. They are trying - but theres also the part where - Japan have had Nintendo and Sony for yeeeeears and Xbox is still relatively new. The Japanese seem like a loyal type that will stick with what they've had and therefore, stick with future products from that company.

    I guess there are plenty of reasons FOR the lack of success the Xbox has in Japan and we can debate over and over on what the primary reason is. There is also hardware issues - but looking at sales and popularity in other parts of the world - it seems, gamers have tended to look past the hardware issues of the Xbox 360 and continued to show it love.

    But, i stand by the fact that, well, the Japanese are missing out.

    The 360 does nothing for Japanese audiences? Really?

    The whole point of all those (initially) exclusive JRPGs like Blue Dragon, The Last Remnant, Lost Odyssey and Star Ocean: Last Hope was to cater to Japanese audiences. Mistwalker and Team Ninja are two Japanese studios making games that do appeal to Japanese gamers and making the games for the XBox 360 primarily (with occasional PS3 ports).

    Apart from MGS4, I can't think of a single internationally-released Japanese-style exclusive game for the PS3. Final Fantasy 13 may be exclusive to PS3 in Japan, but it is multiplatform in the West.

    I agree with Andrew. There is a very significant amount of "national loyalty" involved. Japan as a nation can be (but is not always) shockingly racist (in the sense of racially collectivist and thinking in racial categories).

    However, there are other reasons for the 360's lacklustre sales. First, PSP's sell like hotcakes over in Japan and PS3 has interoperability. Second, network externalities; more people have friends on PSN than on Xbox Live. Third, PS1 and PS2 have created significant brand loyalty (not related to nationalist sentiments).

    Also, backwards compatibility with older games. I have significant reason to expect that Sony will eventually reintroduce PS2 BC to the PS3 (my logic is based on 1) the leaked Sega memo, 2) the filed patents, and 3) the fact that the PS3 has the ability to create internal PS2 game memory cards. If PS2 BC is dead, why would the PS3 allow you to create internal PS2 memory cards?). The vast majority of Japanese gamers probably have PS1 and PS2 game collections. The future reintroduction of PS2 BC on the PS3 will allow Japanese gamers to have 3 consoles worth of games all playable on a single console. This consolidation is a big advantage for a small, crowded nation like Japan, which loves space efficiency.

    Finally, and this may be considered controversial, but the PS3 genuinely does offer very impressive value for money at the current price point. Given the Japanese economy has been pretty stagnant for almost two decades, you'd expect there to be significant concern for value for money. And, no offense to users of other platforms, but I think on balance, the PS3 PROBABLY offers the best value for money FOR MOST USERS OVER THE LONG TERM.

    Now, I'm a multiplatform gamer that proudly owns a PC, Wii, 360 and a PS3. Whilst I think for pure gaming the 360 offers the best experience generally, the PS3 makes up for this by including a significantly wider range of functionality. If we were to divide raw functionality by price, then the PS3 really kills every other console in terms of functionality per dollar. Of course, whether this translates into best value for money for any particular user requires knowing that user's priorities and then looking at utility-per-dollar.

    However, for most users (who place larger prioritization on multimedia features and less strong prioritization on pure gaming), I'd think they'd look at the PS3 and see a higher initial cost for a long-term greater payoff. Given, again, Japan's concern for space-efficiency (and the PS3 integrates several devices worth of functionality into one device) and value for money (which the PS3 has a very, very substantial amount of), I am sure that a significant number of Japanese users have been swayed by this.

    The short answer is I think that whilst the 360 clearly has significantly attempted to please the Japanese market with exclusive games, this has not necessarily been enough to counteract 1)national loyalty, 2) brand loyalty, 3) backwards compatibility and legacy gaming, 4) handheld interoperability, 5) long term concerns over value for money.

    This won't explain every customer purchasing decision but I think these 5 factors go a great deal of the way to explaining 360's poor relative sales.

    Note however, the 360 has done MUCH better in Japan this generation than the Xbox did last generation. Also note that the 360 has sold more than a million consoles in Japan. I think it is fair to say that Microsoft have a foothold in the Japanese market and it will probably grow a bit more. Next generation will probably expand it significantly.

    You can't compare the wii to the 360. they're different completely.

    the 360 isn't right for the japanese market.
    -the console is a rip off.
    -you have to buy a wifi adapter.
    -it has no bluray, because the hd-dvd died.
    -you have to pay a subscription fee.
    -online content is overpriced. points system is misleading as you don't know off the top of your head how much 80/120pts is in real money.
    -avatar marketplace.
    -games are dominately online play requiring you to pay for gold subscription to actually get your money's worth. its designed this way so microsoft get all your money.

    I was in Tokyo last year for a good while (6 months). The Xbox is a non-factor in the gaming market there as far as I could tell. I saw barely anything related to 360 the whole time I was there, while Nintendo and Playstation are everywhere. TV commercials, magazines, advertisements on trains, billboards, posters, everywhere; and most stores that sold electronics would have entire levels dedicated to Playstation and Nintendo products.

    One reason seemed to be no titles catering to the Japanese market on the 360. If you haven't been to Japan then you won't realise the sheer amount of games released there that never see the light of day outside Japan that we don't even hear about. The store shelves are stuffed full of titles I've never heard of, or seen here. I picked one up, Initial D Drift- it's pretty good. 360 had barely any titles are all that were Japan only.

    For a country that is extremely Xenophobic and stupid Microsoft of Japan's initial lack of customer support, whereby, they outright denied the problems related to the hardware issues which plagued and damnned the Xbox 360 from the get go, and up until recently with only the problems diminishing when the Japsers were introduced.

    Now, group the above into one's conscience - together with word of mouth, lack of cultural identity with the install base - and you have a scenario that is still hampering the console's success in the land where they slaughter whales for scientific purposes!

    As much as I have to say about the issue of ethnicity and race in japan, i'm not willing to put this down to loyalty to japanese companies alone. While it may seem here that there is a growing number of JRPGs and fighting games on the xbox, these really just represent the big names. There are reems of them that we never here about over here, often but not always poor quality licence cash ins. These tend to come out on the japanese brands. There are more subtly things as well; the aesthetic of the xbox design is more western (compare, for example, computer case designs popular among asian and western consumers) and the xbox controller is simply too large for many asian (and a fair few non-asian) girls' hands!

    The Xbox has a number of games that appeal to very niche Japanese markets such as NSFW games, Shm'ups and JRPGs.

    So the Xbox is doing everything, even outdoing the PS3 to appeal to the Japanese.

    So why isn't it selling? Simple the console lacks appeal to this "nex gen" cycle for the Japanese, much like Nokia phones are struggling to catch up to the Apples own Iphone.

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