The Xbox never caught on in Japan. The 360 is having problems too. Ever wonder why? There are any number of reasons why Japan won't embrace the console now, but let's go back to the very beginning.
"...when I went to Japan to show the console, man, they really had a problem with it. I was told a number of crazy things, like the controller should weigh the same as water in your hands", former Xbox boss Ed Fries tells Develop, describing some overseas testing prior to the original console's launch in 2001.
"We heard all kinds of negative things from Japan, like we couldn't use the name Xbox because ‘X' means death, and the console couldn't be black, because that also was the colour of death. The first Xbox consoles we released in Japan weren't black, in fact, they were a smoky colour – but I was always thinking to myself, ‘hang on, isn't the PS2 black?!'"
Yes, Ed, it was.
It's said first impressions are the most lasting, and if Microsoft's console tested poorly prior to release then it was always going to have an uphill battle in Japan, regardless of how valid the market's objections to the Xbox were.
Inside story: The birth of Xbox [Develop]