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What does Japan really think of Xbox One?

Friday, 4 October 2013 08:22 GMT By Dave Cook

The Xbox brand’s performance in Japan is often painted as disastrous by analysts and critics, but what’s it really like? VG247′s Dave Cook asks two Japanese indie devs for their thoughts at grassroots level.

Japanese gamers and the Xbox brand haven’t exactly been getting along too well in recent years. Every week we post Japan’s Media Create charts and see a notable absence of successful games on Microsoft’s format. Sometimes less than 250 Xbox 360 consoles are sold in a given week. From the outside looking in, the East seems like a lost cause.

Gamers and members of the press are all too eager to pronounce the Xbox format a failure in Japan. There’s a lot of guesswork and too many assumptions. Something is clearly broken in Microsoft’s attempts to penetrate the market, otherwise the Xbox One would have a solid Japanese release date by now. Every day this is looking less like a failure, but a company that simply doesn’t care. With such a stranglehold over the American market, does it even need Japan?

I wanted to understand what it feels like to walk into any of Japan’s gaming stores and to see what – if any – presence Microsoft has on the shelves. Are Japanese indies being reached out to ahead of Xbox One’s launch? Do these small teams even care about the new platform? Would they even care if Phils Spencer and Harrison extended an olive branch in their direction via ID@Xbox? Spencer in particular seems keen, but is there any hope for the format?

After dwelling on these questions I realised I had assumed long enough. I wanted straight answers, so I decided to get in touch with two Japanese indie devs to get a realistic view on how well Microsoft is marketing Xbox 360 and Xbox One in Japan. I contacted Astro Port founder ‘Sak’ and ‘Nal’ from Edelweiss. Both are using pseudonyms, as is common in Japan’s indie scene, and both interviews have been translated by a publisher.

Mixed messages, half-baked ideas

Before looking forward to Xbox One, I thought it best to get a firm grasp of exactly what level of visibility Microsoft has in the Japanese market today. Incredibly, Xbox 360 is seen as something of a hardcore import machine that is played by the minority, rather than the widely-accepted juggernaut we see here in the West. Sak said, “Core gamers love the Xbox 360. They find its underground feel attractive. I’ve bought imports through Amazon, but I’ve never seen imported Xbox 360 games in normal video game stores. Mainstream gamers don’t buy import games.

“None of my gamer friends are talking about the Xbox One. It was covered in the media, but it was cursory coverage and it’s not as if it’s being promoted over other game consoles. I think there’s a strong chance that the Japanese Xbox One launch will fail.”

“It’s fair to say that Xbox 360 players in Japan are generally either core gamers or people who obsess over particular game characters. The latter are people who bought an Xbox because of games like the Idol Master series or Steins;Gate. Most mainstream gamers see the Xbox 360 negatively as ‘an underground games system for core gamers’.

“I honestly don’t think that Microsoft is trying very hard to make a success of the Xbox 360 in Japan. Or, maybe they are trying hard, but my impression is that they don’t understand the Japanese market, they’re shooting for targets that don’t exist, and aren’t putting in the amount of effort that they do in the US and Europe.”

Nal added, “The majority of Xbox 360 players are core gamers. The Xbox 360 has a relatively high proportion of FPS, shooting games, and ports of PC bishojo games and novel games, so I expect that the players reflect. Importing Xbox 360 games is straightforward. Microsoft doesn’t seem to have much interest in the Japanese market.”

There’s already a consensus between both developers that Microsoft doesn’t ‘appear’ to care about the Japanese market. Importing is seen as something of a hardcore hobbyists pursuit, while Xbox shelf space in stores is anorexic. What little advertisement Microsoft bothers with – Nal said – delivers a confusing mixed message. It’s not clear exactly who the Xbox brand is targeting.

He added, “I hardly ever watch TV, so I can’t comment on their TV commercials, but I feel that Microsoft isn’t putting much effort into the Japanese market. Shelf space for Xbox 360 games has clearly shrunk over the last two years and it’s common for small to mid-sized shops not to carry Xbox 360 games at all.”

Sak – once again – shared Nal’s point of view, “Promotion for the Xbox 360 in Japan is far inferior to other games consoles. Advertising in stores is usually for other games and there are almost no Xbox TV commercials. The Xbox 360 space is usually tucked deep inside stores. For better or for worse, Xbox has an underground feel to it, which is comfortable for core gamers, but off-putting for mainstream gamers.”

It almost sounds that Xbox systems in Japan are comparable to, say, the NeoGeo was here in the UK. It was an expensive system to import back in the day, and even if you had one the games would run you several hundred pound a pop. If you had one you were either seen as a hardcore purist or a silly sod with too much money in your back pocket. It’s little wonder that Xbox 360 has remained a niche format in Japan, given the cost involved when obtaining code.

“There is no dialogue between indie developers and Microsoft about selling their games overseas. Developers who have released games on Xbox Live Indie Games say that ‘there was almost no support from Microsoft, so we were left to struggle with problems on our own’.”

Forgetting about actual hardcore gamers for a second, I asked the duo for their thoughts on how the public at large perceive the Xbox 360, and if there is any scope for opinions to shift, given the correct application of advertising and dialogue between Microsoft and consumer. Their replies weren’t all that assuring. Sak replied, “While Microsoft Windows is indispensable in Japan, most people don’t see the Xbox 360 as necessary as long as we have Japanese games consoles.

“When gamers discuss which games console to buy, it’s always about Sony or Nintendo, and the Xbox 360 doesn’t come up. I don’t have any friends who have an Xbox 360 in Japan, so we can’t lend or swap games. Idol Master is a series of arcade games that were ported to the Xbox and have contributed significantly to Japanese otaku culture. Idol Master has a massive community and is probably better known than the Xbox 360 itself. Idol Master became a success in spite being the Xbox 360, rather than because of it.

“The Xbox 360 line-up is too weak to expand its user base beyond Idol Master fans and Microsoft have lost their opportunity attract new users. Japanese publishers have been reluctant about the Xbox 360, but there is a small number of core developers that support it.”

Sak himself is a fan of 2D shooters on Xbox 360, so it’s absolutely a system he uses, but beyond the Idol Master series he doesn’t see little room for outsiders to care. For Nal, Steins;Gate is his Xbox 360 game of choice, but feels that Microsoft as a company just feels too ‘foreign’ for it to make waves in Japan.

Nal continued, “Microsoft has become known as the Windows or MS Office company, but people don’t feel close to the company. It’s reassuring that it’s one of the world’s leading companies, but it also feels like a foreign company that is hard to become familiar with. The same applies to the Xbox 360.

“Steins;Gate comes to mind as a successful Xbox 360 game. For fighting games there was a pattern of core gamers gravitating toward the Xbox 360 and casual games toward the PS3, but because it takes a while for game user bases to form, recently the Xbox 360 is under-populated and core users are moving to the PS3.”

Are indies bothered about making games for Xbox?

As Nal suggested, the core userbase is actually starting to shift away from Xbox 360 and towards PlayStation 3. Such migration casts the future of Microsoft’s brand into further doubt across Japan, so it stands to reason that interest in developing for Xbox One could falter apace. There are some interesting high-profile games coming to Xbox One from Japan that seem to belie Microsoft’s silence on the country. Swery65′s D4 and Yukio Futatsugi’s Crimson Dragon spring to mind, while Xbox 360 shooters like Deathsmiles (above) are popular among gamers. But what of Japan’s bubbling indie scene?

“In the end, I think that the success or failure of the Xbox One will depend upon whether it has any killer software to attract Japanese gamers. Japanese people will probably buy the PS4 over the Xbox One, not because of differences in functionality, but because the PS4 is more likely to release games targeted at Japanese people.”

“I used to work on Xbox 360 games in a game development studio,” Nal explained. “The Xbox 360 is a great piece of game hardware and very easy to develop for, but the language barrier was a significant obstacle and we really felt the distance between Japan and the US. Questions to Microsoft Japan are relayed to the Microsoft in the US and it can take a long time to get responses.

“There isn’t much Japanese language support for Japanese developers, which is particularly unfortunate because we miss out on a lot of technical information that would be useful for game development in general.My impression is that Microsoft is pretty much indifferent about Japanese developers. I don’t believe that they dislike Japanese developers, but I personally feel that they can’t serious about Japan until they pay attention to and resolve the issue of the language barrier.”

He has a point. If the same level of support isn’t afforded to developers keen to use the Xbox platform – regardless of proximity – then it does suggest a sort of apathy towards foreign markets. That Microsoft allegedly doesn’t even have the means to communicate efficiently with potential partners seems to paint the company in a dubious light. After all, studios that could help the format flourish in Japan seem as if they’re being ignored. It’s a confusing angle.

Sak agreed with Nal but said that in Japan, indie studios and solo coders would rather push their games out on Microsoft’s Windows platform, rather than Xbox 360 itself. He explained, “Xbox Live and XNA are interesting to Japanese indie game developers, but developing games for new environments is risky and it’s difficult to approach Microsoft for support. While some Japanese indie developers have taken the plunge with Xbox Live, many say that they’d like to try it, but then find some excuse to do nothing.

“There is no dialogue between indie developers and Microsoft about selling their games overseas. Developers who have released games on Xbox Live Indie Games say that ‘there was almost no support from Microsoft, so we were left to struggle with problems on our own’. Microsoft doesn’t seem to understand that some features are considered must-haves in Japan, but not in America. On the other hand, some features that are must-haves in America, just aren’t in Japan.”

Based on Sak’s response, it seems that perhaps Microsoft is taking a blanket approach to Japan, pushing out the same policies, features and support that you would find in say, Europe, America and Australia. Such broad strokes simply cannot apply to what is a very different market. If true, this isn’t just negligence on the company’s part, it’s lazy, pure and simple.

At the risk of sounding defeatist, it seems that Microsoft sees Japan as a heavily-fortified walled garden. I’d like to think that it wants to break the Japanese market, but part of me sees Phil Spencer, Steve Ballmer and his cohorts standing at the base of that wall, scratching their heads as they realise they’ve brought too short a ladder, and then abandoning the idea completely.

We’re told Xbox One will launch across Japan in 2014, but little has been said on the matter. I agree with Keiji Inafune’s sentiment that Microsoft is merely focusing on markets in which it knows Xbox One will perform well. That makes sense from a business perspective, but some people, potential content creators like Sak and Nal clearly feel ignored right now.

What does Japan really think of Xbox One?

After all of these worrying messages from the ground in Japan, the appearance of Microsoft at Tokyo Games Show 2013 was a surprise for some. Was it an effort to show that the company does in fact care about Japan and is willing to take another stab, or was it just for show? I asked Sak and Nal for their opinion on hype for Xbox One in Japan, based on what their friends, families and colleagues have said so far.

“None of my gamer friends are talking about the Xbox One,” Sak replied. “It was covered in the media, but it was cursory coverage and it’s not as if it’s being promoted over other game consoles. I think there’s a strong chance that the Japanese Xbox One launch will fail. People expect multi-functionality from PCs, but it not from a gaming machine. This is also a problem for the PS4. The official sites for both consoles seem more like consumer electronics than games consoles. There is lots of flashy talk, but they don’t look much fun.

“Ease of development is a strength of the Xbox 360, but I hear that the Xbox One is 64-bit, so I’m concerned that the PS4 will be at an advantage in terms of ease of development. I like the Xbox 360 and enjoying playing on it, but there’s no escaping that the present situation for the Xbox in Japan is tough.”

“In the end, I think that the success or failure of the Xbox One will depend upon whether it has any killer software to attract Japanese gamers. Japanese people will probably buy the PS4 over the Xbox One, not because of differences in functionality, but because the PS4 is more likely to release games targeted at Japanese people.”

Nal painted a different market, one in which excitement for home consoles in general has started to wane in the face of smartphone apps. He told me that mobile gaming in Japan is booming and now poses a significant threat to Japan’s consoles. “Personally, I feel that the Xbox One is easily the underdog,” he explained. “This was probably true of the Xbox 360 too, but unfortunately, it will carry the reputation that the previous version wasn’t very popular.

“I think that many Japanese gamers aren’t enthusiastic about next-generation hardware in general, anyway. There seems to be a trend away from rich and engrossing games on consoles, and toward simple, community-based, time-killing smartphones games. For core gamers choosing between the PS4 and Xbox One, presently it probably there doesn’t seem to be any aspect in which Xbox One excels. Kinect is about the only outstanding feature, but Kinect is not popular at all in Japan.”

At this point there seems to be a lethargic approach to Xbox One and Microsoft’s gaming presence in Japan. I wanted to close my line of questioning with both Sak and Nal by asking them for their own thoughts on what Microsoft needs to do if it truly does want to stake a claim in the Japanese market. After reading through what they both had to say on the matter so far, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of positivity, but they were surprisingly frank on paper.

“Microsoft need to change the perception that ‘Xbox games = not for Japanese’,” Sak began. “AAA movies are major entertainment in Japan, but AAA FPS games are only for core users. Another approach would be to focus promotion on creating awareness for major characters from Xbox One games. While it’s not necessarily a good thing, characters come first in Japan. Everyone knows Snoopy, but almost no-one has read the comic. (They also don’t know how much cynicism there is in the comic.) Despite this, Japanese people think they know Snoopy.

“I think it’s necessary to first create characters that ‘even’ Japanese people will be able to find attractive. Also, Japanese people are more influenced by image than they are reality. There is a sentiment that ‘I don’t want to actually play games, but I’d like to thought of as a gamer’. It’s important for them to cultivate the impression that ‘it’s cool to play Xbox One games’.”

Nal offered a different take on the issue, “PS3 struggled in the early days because it was difficult to develop for; if the Xbox 360 had taken the opportunity to gain ground during that period, it would probably have become established in Japan.

“Ease of development is a strength of the Xbox 360, but I hear that the Xbox One is 64-bit, so I’m concerned that the PS4 will be at an advantage in terms of ease of development. I like the Xbox 360 and enjoying playing on it, but there’s no escaping that the present situation for the Xbox in Japan is tough.”

A lost cause?

So is Japan a lost cause for Microsoft? I genuinely believe that nothing in this world is beyond repair, and some of the issues raised by Sak and Nal seem to have relatively easy fixes. For one, a Japanese-speaking support base would be a good start, and a way for indies to approach the company with their projects, as well as receive localised tech support. It’d also make sense for Microsoft to establish a clearer marketing strategy that paints the console as something for the mass market, rather than the hardcore curio it’s seen to be.

Of course, it’s all well and good to say these things are simple remedies on this side of the fence, and I think we often assume too much about the ‘why’ behind Microsoft’s flagging presence in Japan. We’re yet to crack the issue, despite the superb insight offered by my interviewees. At executive level, it seems Microsoft is experiencing a degree of turmoil in America, with shareholders allegedly calling on Bill Gates to retire so that the company can usher in new innovation and strategies. If rumours are to believed, Ballmer’s presence has been counter-productive for years.

Microsoft absolutely can make waves in Japan, but first it needs to stop treating it like a ‘Tier Two’ country and realise that there are potentially vast spoils to be made if it targets the country correctly. Unfortunately, I get the impression that such efforts would be too little, too late at this stage.

What’s your take?

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54 Comments

  1. Mr Tom

    I’m not entirely convinced Microsoft needs to care what Japan thinks of the Xbox One. Japan have clearly shown in the past they’re not interested in foreign consoles, and are moving to a mostly mobile gaming landscape.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. ps4fanboy

    that is one big article.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. DrDamn

    @1
    I think they’d like to be successful there, but I also think they don’t care enough to make the investment this time. With 360 they started off with some decent investment in Japanese games. Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon etc. I’m not sure whether it was that this didn’t give them the momentum they wanted or that the momentum didn’t justify the expense. They face bigger barriers than simply the right exclusive games though.

    Does it matter? Big picture for them? Probably not they don’t *need* Japan. However for me personally a Japanese influence and Japanese games are a plus point for PS4 over X1. If they are not even relevant in Japan then that impacts my purchasing decision as a UK purchaser.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. VibraniumSpork

    @3 Jesus, ‘Blue Dragon’…remember when that was supposed to be ‘the next big thing’? Action figures and all sorts planned. A ‘LOL’ seems appropriate now…

    Lots of good intel in this article. This bit surprised me: ” Xbox 360 is seen as something of a hardcore import machine that is played by the minority.”

    So to the Japanese it’s kinda like a next-gen Neo-Geo? Weird, I though they just thought of it as some western Fisherprice thing rather than an elitist console. I’d have thought that’s an angle MS could otherwise exploit – ‘This is what real gamers play’ etc.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. merkwuerdigich

    You forgot one important factor: popular Japanese game sites (e.g. はちま起稿, オレ的ゲーム速報@刃 and other equivalents of Kotaku, Joystiq, Destructoid etc. in terms of popularity) are VERY heavily biased against Xbox and Western products in general. There’s a LOT of cherry picking and sh*tty journalism on those sites, which plays an impostant part in building an agressive and generally close-minded attitude towards Western-made hardware and software (well, except for US-made Playstation exclusives – try guessing why).

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @4 I found that weird too yeah, but it is seen as something of a purist’s machine, based on what the devs told me. Very niche.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. fengato

    It’s a war that can’t be won – smart to have moved on.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Clupula

    Well, Microsoft should just completely forget about Japan and leave that to Sony and Nintendo. I’d be very happy knowing I’d never have to worry about missing out on any Japanese console titles if I bought a PS4.

    That’s what sells me on a system. You all can keep Titanfall and Destiny and Watchdogs. I’ll wait for NIS and Grasshopper and Vanillaware’s PS4 titles.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. kuraudosan

    @5 All that matters most in Japan is that the fan boy is performing the obstinate negative campaign every day every night.

    (はちま起稿, オレ的ゲーム速報@刃)Thats game blog sites are carrying out the biased media account, and I am very much disgusted.

    There is only taking out an exclusive title continuously for overcoming.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Silent Killer01

    “Xbox one ?… The new One or the first one.”

    #10 2 years ago
  11. zoopdeloop

    @8 +1

    Microsoft’s first move entering the console market was to bring the western FPS trend over to the consoles as well as the social aspect of it aka competitive multiplayer with the majority of people and communities beeing “dicks” try to prove they have bigger dicks.(few exceptions)Japanese aren’t like this and don’t like the FPS genre.Can’t blame them.They will always see Microsoft that way.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. antraxsuicide

    Japan is a Tier Two country though; there’s no denying it. Nintendo sold a whopping 12% of Wiis in Japan, and it’s smaller for PS3. Even Japanese companies don’t do well there. The only reason it’s profitable is because they don’t have to market that much (being Japanese is pretty much all the marketing you need).

    For MS to succeed in Japan, they’d have to spend millions in marketing for 10 million console sales over a period of ~8 years. Not worth it in the slightest.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. game_on

    @8 + 1
    Couldn’t agree more with you. Never cared for those strange Japanese rythm RPG games, so let those stay in Japan and I will play Dead Rising 3 and Ryse on my Xbox One over here in Europe. Just don’t know when…

    #13 2 years ago
  14. DarkSoulz

    WoW Who the hell cares, Japan made shit games since Nintendo fell. NO market there either.

    Is MS keeps up their shit with their Servers, Japan can suck it and play single player games only.

    As my opinion I could care less on indie games, not blowing time or money for a game that can run on Steam or Tablet.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Dave Cook

    @14 OK, Japan has no market and as a country makes bad games.

    Are you smoking crack?

    #15 2 years ago
  16. jason9540

    @14 Japan make the best games, they put a lot of time and effort into them that’s why most rpg’s are over 30hrs long and challenging.

    American games tend to be shooters that focus multiplayer not single player which i don’t mind cause i play rpg’s for single player.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. KineticCalvaria

    @15, the real question is… are you?

    #17 2 years ago
  18. AmiralPatate

    They probably think it would take too much time and money to gain foothold on the Japanese market to even think about it. Better to lose the market than to spend bazillions and lose the market anyway.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Dave Cook

    @17 Why’s that? Did you disagree with my article? ;)

    #19 2 years ago
  20. antraxsuicide

    @18 +1

    Exactly. It’s just not worth the marketing budget. Japan won’t buy non-Japanese products anyway, so why bother?

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Dave Cook

    I think there’s a question of culture here. Japan won’t buy US products is being bandied around here.

    Why then, does the West always buy Japanese products?

    I’m not saying this just in reference to games, but the West seems to really look to Japanese devices with enthusiasm across the board.

    Is it purely a culture thing again?

    #21 2 years ago
  22. AmiralPatate

    @21
    I think it’s a culture thing. I remember reading something about Japan being kinda not very open to the outside, at far as culture goes anyway.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. yeoung

    @14:

    Might wanna check how Monster hunter is doing there? Pokemon? The arcade scene is still going very strong in Japan too. Japan is actually one of the few countries where arcades are still pulling in masses every single day.

    I’d argue that with all its karaoke, mass-cosplay rallies and whathaveyou, Japan is much more socially oriented in terms of games and game culture. Lastly, Nintendo didn’t fall. They’ve had a setback with the Wii U, yes, but they aren’t down for the count just yet.

    “Japan made shit games since Nintendo fell”

    I mean, really? Really?

    @21:

    It is no secret that the Japanese are a tad xenophobic, but aside from that, Japan is also a lot more handheld focused as opposed to consoles. Seeing as gaming is so ingrained with the culture there, there’s a lot of Japanese made games that capitalize on that. These are also the games who don’t make it to the west for that very reason.

    Hell.. I’ll be missing out on Yakuza 5 for that same reason. Sadface. Then there’s still the trend of easterm surrealism v western realism debate. Western games are a lot more grounded in terms of graphics and gameplay. Putting traditionally western games and traditionally eastern games side by side on a gameplay and narrative-based comparison reveals the difference. It’s Double Dragon v Sengoku, GTA v Yakuza, Skyrim v Zelda, and so on.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. antraxsuicide

    @Dave

    Yeah, it’s culture. In the West, we’re totally okay with imports (and even view them as ‘superior’ in a rich snob kind of way), whereas Japan is very domestic with its purchases.

    I believe the story went around a year ago about a major game store that had stuff like Skyrim and CoD in a bin labeled “Western Dog Shit,” or something to that effect. Foreign games of any kind just aren’t their thing. Just look at how Japanese people have responded to Inafune’s comments in the past year or so. They refuse to believe that they might be doing poorly, because they’re Japanese. Japanese people don’t fail.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. monkeygourmet

    Im suprised MS doesn’t ship the Xbone with a ‘Duke’ Mk. 2 in Japan, just to piss them all off…

    #25 2 years ago
  26. Dave Cook

    @24 bloody hell that’s a bit strong isn’t it? I can believe it though. Inafune’s comments have caused a bit of a stir, I agree :)

    #26 2 years ago
  27. KineticCalvaria

    @24, I agree, that about sums it up.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. ChunkyLover112

    They LOVE it!

    #28 2 years ago
  29. absolutezero

    Japan loves Western, especially American culture.

    Bands are greeted with some of the most loyal fanbases around.

    Baseball is a national sport BASEBALL.

    Pro-Wrestling the most American of all “sports” is still huge in Japan just like the US.

    Theres more going on here than simply just lol-culture.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. antraxsuicide

    Yeah, it’s a bit too much sometimes. And like another poster mentioned, they’ve also got a huge handheld thing going on over there. Home consoles not only sell much less, but software doesn’t do that hot either on consoles when compared to handheld sales.

    Let’s check out Pokemon X & Y numbers later this year. It’ll be outrageous how many copies they’ll sell.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. Dave Cook

    @29 Ever seen Anvil: The Story of Anvil?

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Joe Musashi

    I don’t believe Japan has an issue with western imports in general. Apple perform extremely well out there. I’m sure there is a fondness for locally manufactured stuff in Japan but, again, I don’t think that’s any different to the rest of the world either.

    I think Microsoft has a tough sell – for whatever reasons. Though the alleged size of the XB1 and the space requirements of the Kinect could be regarded as a negative to a region where space is such a premium.

    I also don’t believe Microsoft can just say “Fuck it, I’m out”. The impact this would have on their brand as a whole and the other array of products and services that Microsoft represent could backfire. Being seen to snub Japan with the XB1 could see Japan reciprocate with anything with with word Microsft on it. So I’m sure an effort will be made, but it will probably be functional whilst the product maintains its niche ‘hardcore’ status. (Not an unflattering status to have in videogames!).

    It could be worse. Remember when this was the reception the original XBox received?

    @29 I’m still undecided on whether that’s a spoof film or not. Too many coincidences!

    JM

    #32 2 years ago
  33. Ireland Michael

    @24, 29 Both are extreme, broad generalisations of a multifaceted culture.

    Popular trends are copied from all over the world, and influence each other. Just because Japan adopts some popular American past times doesn’t mean they love western culture, especially considering how many of their own unique customs and activities.

    At the same thing, the supposed xenophobia towards the west that exists in Japan is no different to the “‘America, fuck yeah!” attitude the exists in the US. But it would be naive to assume all American people are like that, rights? Exactly.

    It’s very easy to take the extreme spectrums of a country’s stereotypes and generalise them as all-encompassing mentalities true of everyone living there. They never are.

    While there is certainly a decent niche for Japanese games in the west, if the entire western Xbox market had been 95% JRPGs and other popular eastern style video games, you can be guaranteed the format never would have taken off here. You’re kidding yourself if you think it would have.

    Xbox doesn’t sell in Japan because it doesn’t have games appealing to Japanese tastes. It’s that simple.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. absolutezero

    Heard of, but never seen unfortunately.

    Hell even David Beckham got a rapturous welcome in Japan. Head on over to Pixiv (which is basically the JP variant of Deviantart) and type in any old Western title, chances are that you’ll get some hit or another drawn by a Japanese fan.

    @33 Theres well recorded and detailed accounts of the Japanese obsession with the US. The iconography, the dream of America. Hell there are even JP books written about the subject, like Ryu Murakami’s “In the Miso Soup”. Cowboys, Manifest Destiny etc etc Its legitimately huge in Japan and it has been for years.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. Ireland Michael

    @34 Most accounts of “the Japanese obsession with the US” are written by westerners. Japanese society most definitely does not have “the dream of America”, and I can safely say this on the word of actual western and eastern people who *live* there. I think they probably have a better idea of their own society than you do.

    Just because someone said it doesn’t make it true.

    #35 2 years ago
  36. absolutezero

    Well I can safely say I can fucking say it after witnessing it for myself.

    In person. With my eyes.

    #36 2 years ago
  37. Dave Cook

    @34 Watch it mate seriously, it’s a documentary. They were one of the world’s biggest metal bands, but they very quickly fell from grace. Metallica supported them for one, yet few know who they are today. It’s weird and no one really knows why they disappeared the way they did.

    Today they’re absolute rock gods in Japan. The country loves them. They’re the basis for the movie Spinal Tap. It’s a really eye-opening thing to witness.

    #37 2 years ago
  38. Ireland Michael

    @36 You witnessed a very selective, very small portion of an entire country. It’s certainly a subset, and I’m not denying it exists, but as soon as you head out to the more rural areas of Japan, barely any of that stuff is evident at all.

    Eastern wrestling predates American wrestling by thousands of years, as just one example. Wrestling is not an even remotely American construct.

    That would be like going to Las Vegas and assuming all Americans are loud, rich, gun tooting snobs.

    What you’re mistaking as American obsession is actually mass globalisation. This is occurring is almost all developed countries.

    #38 2 years ago
  39. sebastien rivas

    @35
    Agreed one that one.
    Japanese are particular in that sense but in many ways it is a good thing too.

    @34
    There is no obsession, just your understanding that makes it a fact. “America number One, hehehehe”. No, this does not exists as a general culture or xbox1 as much as xbox 360 would just fly off the roof but it does not so, yeah, we can safely assume PR/marketing, branding, and products have a great role to play in Japanese acceptance.
    What is strong assumption and could make sense is this. If a brand fails, then it takes at least twice as much efforts to make it successful. It takes time, sweat, and money. Is Japan big enough for such venture to make MS profitable over the course of X period (I would guess 5 years)?!?!?

    A completely wrong approach would be to try mixing western and Japanese culture in hopes that a 2 in 1 works

    #39 2 years ago
  40. Cobra951

    Thanks for the article. Like #4, I learned something today. I had no idea that the Xbox 360 was considered a hardcore niche machine in Japan.

    Microsoft definitely should not give up, but I don’t blame them for concentrating on their better markets at launch. As the article points out, the advantage in ease of development made no difference in Japan, and MS are losing that advantage this coming gen. It will be quite a challenge. Then again, nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

    #40 2 years ago
  41. Dave Cook

    @40, no, thank you for reading :)

    #41 2 years ago
  42. Pitts

    I too can’t see that it’s worth their time to worry about it. I wonder what MS truly thinks.

    Though I’m not saying I wouldn’t be excited to see MS better support development for Xbox over there– clearly that would be amazing. And probably get us more games localized outside of the island.

    EDIT: Forgot to say I really enjoyed reading this. These kind of informative interviews are what keep me coming back to the site!

    #42 2 years ago
  43. fearmonkey

    @14 – You have to be trolling, your name is Dark Souls and your saying they make crap games……

    I found it interesting that they listed two japanese games for the 360 that I have never heard of, MS never brought those to the states, even as a download.

    @33 -That America F**K yeah” attitude isnt really all that prevalent anymore, more so in the rural areas still.

    @37 – I have been wanting to watch that documentary. I remember Anvil, I was a big metal guy growing up. There are alot of bands that started to take off and then just disapeered like that. Anvil was one that had some major backing.

    I had a female friend that I worked with for a bit that lived in Japan during the 80′s and 90′s and she told me lots of stories where foreigners weren’t welcome. There would be signs on businesses that “foreigners not welcome” and such. I have wondered what Dave wondered, why we tend to love japanese products, and then the japanese not like ours. It could be the supposed Xenophobia, or just pride in their countries products. MS did have a semi successful product there once, the MSX computer.

    Anyone remember Sudeki on the Original Xbox? I loved that game, and thats when MS was trying to get the market there. In The early 360 days they tried to get Japanese RPGS on the system, and had some decent ones, but then gave up.

    The 360 became the home of the shooter and had barely any JRPG games, platform titles, and games that would interest the Japanese. MS would need to have some titles that really were geared to them and keep trying till they got a hit, and I am not sure they are willing to do that anymore. The idea that each Xbox One can be its own dev kit sometime soon would be great for Japense Indie Devs, and MS should push that.

    #43 2 years ago
  44. Ireland Michael

    @43 “That America F**K yeah” attitude isnt really all that prevalent anymore, more so in the rural areas still.”

    That was entirely my point. You can’t spread those kinds of stereotypes across so many people.

    And in the same vein that parts of Japanese culture have extreme xenophobia, those kinds of attitudes exist just as much in American towards other cultures. Just different people with different stances.

    #44 2 years ago
  45. mistermogul

    Remember the original Xbox had a controller way too big for the average Japanese hand so they got off to a bad start from the offset.

    In fact I’d say they got the country wrong from the start but I now feel they can’t be bothered with Japan. Why bother when you are doing fine everywhere else?

    #45 2 years ago
  46. Dave Cook

    @42 thanks mate :)

    #46 2 years ago
  47. Ireland Michael

    “@45 “Remember the original Xbox had a controller way too big for the average Japanese hand so they got off to a bad start from the offset.”

    I’m still convinced that excuse was bullshit. Like an urban myth.

    “Why bother when you are doing fine everywhere else?”

    Because its one of the biggest technological markets in the world.

    #47 2 years ago
  48. Gareth Harmer

    Nice article. I can’t help but think that they’ve been put off my Microsoft’s US-centric marketing strategy of focusing heavily on the sports and social features. Gamers want a games console, but that message isn’t coming out through their marketing.

    If MS are going to make any headway in the early phases, they need to take a long, hard look at how they’re pitching this thing. For me, all they’ve managed to do is persuade me to switch to Sony.

    #48 2 years ago
  49. sebastien rivas

    @48
    You bring an interesting point. One point from which game devers could adapt fifa 14 for example to Asian teams!

    #49 2 years ago
  50. Clupula

    @47 – I don’t think it is. As an American, I’ve always hated how big the Xbox controllers were and part of that was how they were designed for people with ridiculously huge sausage fingers.

    #50 2 years ago
  51. dizzygear

    So where *are* the japanese indies on PS3/WiiU/Vita/3DS than? The second picture is from Fairy Bloom Freesia. An excellent 2.5D beat em up that is available on Steam but not on the consoles.

    #51 2 years ago
  52. ysleiro

    I’m not going to say “who gives a f**k about Japan”, but it seems MS has indeed said something to that effect.

    It’s not logical for them to spend a gazillion dollars on a market they CAN’T win or even put up a fight in. Japanese people just don’t buy outsider’s stuff.

    From a gaming perspective though I do kinda feel like “who gives a f**k”. Japan isn’t what it used to be. They aren’t leaders in the this industry anymore. Yeah you got your hardcore JRPG fans that still eat that shit up, but come on.

    Japan has been TOTALLY surpassed by the west, both in development technologies/methodologies and creation of truly immersive plots and characters.

    ps. CLEARLY there are exceptions, but it’s obvious they aren’t the status quo.

    #52 2 years ago
  53. MrWaffles

    Xbox is too big for japanese homes.
    Xbox is too chubby.
    Xbox feels 90s ‘extreme’.
    Xbox is not kawaii.
    Xbox is too loud.
    Xbox has no japanese mascot
    Xbox has no japanese idol
    Xbox live offers no anime

    Is like trying to sell squid flavored rice cake in walmart, you can push it in people’s face with marketing dollars, but the product itself is the weakest point.

    -Waffles

    #53 2 years ago
  54. XanderZane

    It’s pretty hopeless for the XBox One in Japan. The XBox 360 did ok with 1.6+ million units sold, but that was mainly because the PS3 hadn’t launched yet and when it did, it was severely overpriced. Plus many of the JRPG Japan gamers craved were on the XBox 360 only at the time. It will be a miracle if it even sells over a million this generation. The 360 should be like $100 in Japan right now, but I’m sure it’s more.

    #54 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • Mortal Kombat X: what does a modern fighting game look like?

    Mortal Kombat continues to evolve as NetherRealm adds RPG systems and daily challenges to a solid fighting game, says Sherif Saed. “Mortal Kombat X takes many cues from games like Destiny, Call of Duty, and GTA Online with hourly, daily and weekly events.” For as many of its familiar facets, Mortal Kombat X has enough […]

  • J-Stars Victory VS+ coming west in June – new trailer

    J-Stars Victory VS+ will make the jump (see what I did there) to the west after all. J-Stars Victory VS+ is the western title for the fighting game which stars characters from a variety of Shonen Jump-published manga. Bandai Namco has announced the fighter will release in Europe on June 26 and in the Americas […]

  • Codemasters F1 license good through 2016

    Codemasters has at least one more F1 game in it. F1 2015 isn’t out yet, so Codemasters is naturally not talking about what it might get up to in the future. We do know what it can get up to, though; Codemasters’ Steven Embling told Videogamer has the option to continue the series. “We have […]

  • Project Cars has pretty deep graphics options on consoles

    Project Cars offers players a wide variety of ways to customise their graphic settings on PS4 and Xbox One. Project Cars is a graphics showcase and all early indications suggest it’s going to be one of the best-looking games out there. Slightly Mad’s commitment to graphics seems to go deeper than making things pretty, though: […]

  • Super Smash Bros. patch nerfs Diddy Kong – report

    Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U is great but Diddy Kong is a beast and must be stopped. The latest Super Smash Bros. 3Ds and Wii U patch seems to have nerfed Diddy Kong, a character so over-powered that serious tournament players generate controversy by choosing to use him. Nintendo doesn’t publish patch notes, […]

  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer shuttered

    Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer 2K Australia has been closed down. Kotaku broke the news, and also had word from an anonymous source, who said that all staff have been let go. 2K responded to our request for comment with the following statement: We can confirm we have taken steps to begin the studio closure process […]

  • Samorost 3 trailer shows Amanita still in fine form

    Samorost 3 looks as delicately beautiful as its siblings. Samarost 3 developer Amanita Design has a reputation for gorgeous, slightly surreal world building. This new trailer for its latest adventure looks just as if not more lovely than the previous Samarost games and Botanicula. Samarost 3 is coming to Mac and PC later this year, […]

  • Amnesia dev’s new project SOMA now in beta

    SOMA is nearly here and I am torn between excitement and horrified dread. SOMA is the latest horror project from Frictional, the team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We’re pretty excited to see what Frictional comes up with next, and we won’t have too long to wait, apparently; the developer has announced that SOMA is […]

  • Steam Guard mobile authenticator now in beta testing

    Steam is now testing its latest security measure. Steam helps you protect your account by offering two-factor authentication, a solution so beautifully elegant and effective that it’s astounding every gaming network doesn’t do the same (looking at you, Sony). Valve’s version is called Steam Guard, and it works via email. This isn’t always super convenient, […]

  • Godzilla battles Mothra in new trailer

    Godzilla lets you stomp around cities and battle classic kaiju. I’m in. Godzilla is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 in early July, but we haven’t seen a great deal of it since its December reveal. The new trailer below gives you an idea of just what Natsume has done with one of the biggest […]

  • Tales of Zestiria to launch this year – new trailer

    Tales of Zestiria continues Bandai Namco’s delightful new habit of bringing the popular JRPG series to the west before the shine wears off. Tales of Zestiria is coming west in northern autumn, the publisher has announced. That’s not a bad turnaround, given it first hit Japan in January, and localisation of text-heavy titles is expensive […]

  • Project Cars release date locked down, new trailer released

    Project Cars finally has a release date. Project Cars will release on May 8, Bandai Namco UK has announced. We haven’t yet had an update from Namco Bandai’s other regional offices, but its probably safe to bet the racer will release around the same time in the Americas, Europe and ANZ region. We can now […]

  • Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains trailer shows combat, online multiplayer

    Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains has plenty to offer fans of the anime. Previously known as Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind, the Spike Chunsoft action game is coming west thanks to Atlus. Gematsu reports it’s due in both Europe and North America in May, via the 3DS eShop. The trailer below […]

  • Bloodborne stamina recovery rate affected by equip weight

    Bloodborne players have unearthed an important gameplay detail not mentioned in the game’s menus or manual. In Bloodborne, players need to manage their stamina carefully for best results. A far more aggressively-tuned affair than past Souls games, Bloodborne does away with equip weight limits, and items have no listed weight details. As far as players […]

  • Street Fighter’s Ryu, Fire Emblem’s Roy spotted in Super Smash Bros. patch – rumour

    Street Fighter’s Ryu is rumoured for future Super Smash bros DLC following datamining of the latest patch. Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U were updated recently, and hacker shinyquagsire23 claims to have found some interesting files while poking around in the 3DS patch data. As detailed on Reddit, the audio files included a new […]

  • Suikoden 3 PEGI rating suggests PS2 Classic re-release

    Suikoden. Suikoden 2. And now: Suikoden 3. Suikoden 3 has been rated by PEGI for PlayStation 3, presumably ahead of an upcoming re-release. Gematsu turned up the rating, and although we have no further information at this time, it’s not much a leap to assume the RPG will turn up as a PS2 Classic on […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront gameplay reveal to be streamed live, new Instagram tease

    The Star Wars Battlefront gameplay reveal will be live-streamed during a panel hosted by EA as part of the Star Wars Celebration festivities this Friday. This is according to an announcement from Verizon and Disney courtesy of MP1ST. The main stream for the event kicks off at 10am PDT/1pm EDT on Thursday, April 16. It […]

  • GameStop to launch retro game and console trade-in experiment

    GameStop wants to get into the retro game and console business, providing it’s a worthwhile endeavor. To test the possibility, it will soon allow customers in Birmingham, Alabama and New York City to trade-in classic consoles and games in-store. Speaking with IGN, a spokesperson for the company said the initiative will kick off on April […]

  • Battlefield Hardline’s first patch addresses five priority issues requested by the community

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch is in the works, and today, Visceral Games has added Punkbuster and Nvidia DirectX driver fixes to the list of issues to be addressed. Miscellaneous fixes for “the most frequent crashes” will be included in the patch, as well as the following “top five priority” issues voiced by the community. Punkbuster […]

  • GTA 5 user videos: Franklin’s exploits, a traffic jam tickle our funny bone

    Since GTA 5 was released on PC this week, the amount of videos being created with the new editing tools are releasing at a quick rate. Below, are three in particular I found amusing. The first one is from James McVinnie, originally posted on Reddit, showing what occurs after he happens upon vehicles in a […]

  • Invisible Inc. is coming to PS4 and has left Steam Early Access

    Invisible Inc., from Don’t Starve developers Klei Entertainment, has been announced for PlayStation 4 and the game has also a release date on PC. The game has now left Steam Early Access and will arrive on PC May 12. Per a post from studio founder Jamie Cheng on the PS Blog, the game will contain […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Ascendance DLC dated for PC and PlayStation

    The Ascendance DLC pack for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare now has a release date for PC, PlayStation 3 and PS4. It contains four new maps, the OHM 2-in-1 directed energy light machine gun, the OHM Werewolf custom variant, and the new Exo Grapple ability and playlist. The Infection episode of the exo Zombies saga […]

  • Killing Floor 2 PC specs and Digital Deluxe Edition contents announced by Tripwire

    A Digital Deluxe Edition for Killing Floor 2 along with PC specs for the title have been announced, along with the new of a Steam Early Access launch later this month. According to Tripwire Interactive, the Digital Deluxe Edition will run you $39.99/£26.99/€36.99 starting on April 21 on Steam. This edition contains the following additions […]

  • Content in Wolfenstein: The Old Blood tips its hat to Return to Castle Wolfenstein

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, the standalone prequel to last year’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, will contain a few nods to the franchise classic Return to Castle Wolfenstein, according to the developers. According to developer MachineGames, the setting works “well with the pulp B-movie thing we’re going for,” and created a prequel instead of DLC for […]

  • Bloodborne is the latest to receive the Honest Game Trailers treatment

    Smosh Games has released another entry in its Honest Game Trailers series, and this time, it’s poking Bloodborne. According to the trailer, the game is “more disturbing” than the scene in South Park: The Stick of Truth where you are “crushed by your own Dad’s balls.” It also has more “stupid top hats than a […]