Xbox 360: not big in Japan

And the PS3 is on its way too

Just in from Gamesville The Xbox 360 launch in Japan – it's a turkey. And much much more... By Games Digest

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The Xbox 360 launch in Japan – it's a turkey

The Xbox 360 launched December 10 in Japan. And initial estimates for sales in the opening weekend are around 62,000 units, according to Japanese gaming magazine gurus Enterbrain/Famitsu (via Reuters). That's less than a third of the total Xbox 360s that Microsoft had available for the launch window. And, more shamefully, it's around a half of the 123,000 Xbox units Microsoft sold in the opening weekend for its original console launch.

Think it couldn't get worse for Microsoft's Japanese executives? Sony have just reaffirmed their intention to launch the PS3 in spring 2006. Now, spring is a nebulous concept in the games industry, and that could see the PS3 launching as late as May or even June. Also, Sony are not saying where. Could be a global launch, like Microsoft's Xbox 360 roll-out. Or it could be one territory first. But if it is one territory first, chances are it will now be Japan. Sony has always launched there first before, it's their home territory, and now it will give Sony a chance to demonstrate, in a very key gaming market, how it will dominate the next generation over Microsoft.

Why has Microsoft failed so badly in Japan? It hasn't learned the lessons of its own past, apparently. Microsoft executives had many times in the run-up to the Xbox 360 launch stated how they would crack Japan this time. But actions speak louder than words. 212 Xbox games were backwards-compatible on the Xbox 360 at launch in the US. How many in Japan? 12, including two versions of Ninja Gaiden. That's shameful. Even if there wasn't the demand for games to be backwards-compatible, it sends out a strong message: "We don't care about Japan".

Then the launch line-up – again shooter, racing and sports heavy. Not ideal even for European and US audiences, but for Japanese gamers? Woeful. Beat 'em up Dead Or Alive 4 slipping to late December caused a wave of pre-order cancellations. The epic role-playing games Japanese gamers love are all somewhere into 2006 at the earliest.

The Xbox 360 is an excellent console. But Microsoft's launch has been badly botched on this and other measures. Going into Christmas it now has no goodwill factor, no momentum amongst mass-market gamers anywhere, not enough stock to satisfy the hardcore in the US or Europe, and the looming spectre of the PS3 coming soon in 2006. The Xbox 360's turkey launch in Japan isn't going to taste too nice come Christmas in Redmond.

Pre-owned games threaten games industry?

Trade magazine MCV has reported that games publishers are considering legal action to stop the sale of "pre-owned" games. To anyone outside the games industry that means second-hand games. Second-hand games sales terrify the games industry in a way that MP3s terrify music companies. The market for second-hand games is worth £100m annually in the UK, MCV estimates. And GAME stores take a hefty chunk of that, promoting second-hand games alongside new purchases. It's this games companies particularly object to – they think it devalues new games, forcing games stores to mark down prices too fast. Either that, or they want a cut of each resale.

Rumours have it that Sony went so far as to flirt with the idea of locking games for its next PS3 console to the first console a game was played on. But after an outcry, they appear to have backed away from that idea. The odd issue is why the games industry hates reselling games so much. It doesn't seem to upset DVD, music or book companies. And anyway, the games industry only has itself to blame. When one version of FIFA Soccer is virtually indistinguishable from the next, where's the imperative to buy the new one?

Electronic Arts buys mobile games company

Electronic Arts is set to spend $680m buying Jamdat. The mobile games market is exploding currently, and looks set to rival the ringtone market soon. Which is amazing, considering how difficult the average mobile phone game is to actually get onto the average phone. Given this, it's no surprise to see the world's largest and possibly most aggressive games company muscling into the market. The new EA mobile company will apparently be releasing 50 games in the next year, many no doubt based on existing EA franchises like FIFA Football, SSX snowboarding and Need For Speed racing.

UK Xbox 360s turn up on eBay

Over a tenth of American Xbox 360s sold at launch turned up on eBay straight after, according to Dow Jones. Most selling for $800. And that phenomenon has apparently been replicated in the UK. Bad enough that sneaky punters have been queuing for profit, rather than love of the game, widespread reports put many stores and store staff putting their Xbox 360s up on the auction site rather than sell them for less to people who actually walked into the shop. A final word, if you are going to buy an Xbox 360 on eBay, watch out it's not just a picture of one…

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