After years of struggling in Japan, the Xbox Series X/S is showing more than signs of life in Japan. In comparison to previous efforts, it’s actually doing well.
Famitsu reports that as of October 10, Microsoft has sold 64,284 Xbox Series X consoles and another 38,307 Xbox Series S consoles. That’s a total of 102,591 Xbox Series X/S consoles sold in Japan since the consoles launched. For context, Sony has sold 922,929 PlayStation 5s and another 177,974 PS5 Digital Edition consoles, totaling 1.1 million sold in Japan since launch. This comparison, however, isn’t exactly a fair one.
The PlayStation has a stronger brand identity than the Xbox in Japan. Plus, Sony does much more marketing and publicity for the PlayStation in Japan than Microsoft does for its gaming machine. So the playing field isn’t quite even. The Xbox is a niche brand in Japan, which is not necessarily a bad thing! Taking that into account, these numbers are pretty good.
Historically, Japan has been a difficult market for the Xbox. Microsoft put lots of PR fanfare behind the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 launches in Japan. While there were a few glimmers of hope, like Tales of Vesperia’s success, the consoles never quite broke through. But when the Xbox One was released in Japan, however, things seemed downright dismal.
As analyst Benji Sales points out, it took the Xbox One over four years to reach 100,000 consoles sold. The Xbox Series X/S did it in less than one year and could surpass the Xbox One’s lifetime sales numbers by the end of 2021.
The Xbox Series S even topped the video game best-selling ranking at Yodobashi Camera, one of Japan’s largest electronics retailer.
So, what’s going on? At last year’s virtual Tokyo Game Show, exec Phil Spencer talked about Japan and underscored the company’s commitment to the market. “Japan is a superpower in this industry with iconic characters and games that are highlights in the gaming histories of hundreds of millions of players across the globe,” Spencer said in a pre-recorded message. He also talked about Japan’s importance in the gaming.
“Japan is our fastest-growing region worldwide,” Spencer continued. “Since we launched Game Pass for both console and PC in Japan this past April, we’ve seen more players on Xbox devices, games and services than at any time in our history in the market.”
Times have changed. When the original Xbox first launched, many Japanese gamers did not have a good impression of foreign-made video games. In Japanese, there was a saying throughout the PS2 era: yougee wa kusogee (洋ゲーはクソゲー) or “Western-developed games are shit games.” It was against this backdrop that Microsoft launched their first console. Japan was — and is — a difficult video game market to crack.
However, since then, numerous Western-made games have won over Japanese gamers. Many no longer have preconceived notions. As the tide has slowly changed, Microsoft’s decision to roll out Game Pass has no doubt helped its consoles find an audience.
In Japan, Xbox fans might not be a numerous as Sony’s and probably never will be, but they are growing.