What does Japan really think of the XBONE?

#1SolnotPosted 10/4/2013 6:13:21 PM
http://www.vg247.com/2013/10/04/what-does-japan-really-think-of-xbox-one/

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.

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.

“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.
#2Solnot(Topic Creator)Posted 10/4/2013 6:13:41 PM
“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, XBROS?
#3slyman19Posted 10/4/2013 6:21:38 PM
MS needs to give up on Japan. They`re an extremely xenophobic nation. Xbox could have an exclusive Monster Hunter, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and Metal Gear and it wouldn`t do a damn thing simply because it isn`t a Japanese console.
#4Cosmic_DiabeticPosted 10/4/2013 6:23:31 PM
if The Xbox Department had been run by a bunch of Japanese they all would have committed seppuku by now
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"i've had sex with a chick who was a psy major, so yeah i think i know what aspergers is" -LiquidFuze180
#5aiyobroPosted 10/4/2013 6:42:18 PM(edited)
The xbox is basically trying to butt in on Sony and they don't like that with the major RROD issues it's stupid to buy something and have to send it back

I don't like that there's a sony and microsoft anyway, Nintendo is at least conservative and releases stuff when THEY want to release it and not the other way around

Everybody gets hyped up for these American games and then they come out and they're in dire need of patches for like the first 6 months
#6ryugambaPosted 10/4/2013 7:15:52 PM
Nothing can help MS in Japan.

They already tried really hard with the 360, it didn't work.
They had so many great exclusives japanese games: many JRPG exclusive from mystwalker, tri-ace, the tales of series etc...shoot'em ups, some others exclusives like ace combat and katamary or even Lost Planet + the usual xbox titles like dead or alive and ninja gaiden.
Man, they even realeased some pure otaku games like idolmaster or those novel games....

People over there just don't want to buy it, let's move to something else.
#7Cowboy082288Posted 10/4/2013 7:20:50 PM
Considering how bad console games sale in japan as a whole, I'm wondering why Sony, Nintendo, or MS care about making a strong effort to market their consoles there. Japan is ruled by 3ds and mobile devices.
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PSN/XBL/Steam - cowboyoni
#8grampamurkedPosted 10/4/2013 7:22:50 PM
I'll pose a better question. Who cares? If they can turn a profit without Japan why bother being concerned about it? Do you hold stock in Microsoft?
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Xbox One on day one. Gonna miss my job, well not really.
#9aiyobroPosted 10/4/2013 7:25:53 PM
Hopefully china picks up on it but like I said I'd rather only two videogame console makers and I already pointed out one.
#10NeoMonkPosted 10/4/2013 7:26:16 PM
slyman19 posted...
MS needs to give up on America. They`re an extremely xenophobic nation.


Fix'd...

Seriously though, It's comments like those that make me sad for our children...
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