Xbox 360 Not a Hit in Japan

Confirming initial reports, a survey released Tuesday shows that Saturday's debut of the Xbox 360 in Japan fared much worse than the launch of the original Xbox in the country in 2002. Microsoft's failure to excite Japanese gamers could mean early trouble for the console outside of the Western world.

The Asian market is crucial to any game console's success. For example, 20 percent of the more than 100 million PlayStation 2 systems were sold in the region. However, Microsoft still has time to increase sales, as the Xbox 360 will be the only next-generation console on the market for at least the next several months.

According to Enterbrain, publisher of the popular Japanese gaming magazine "Famitsu," 62,000 Xbox 360s sold. This would mean only 39 percent of the estimated 159,000 consoles available at launch were purchased.

The survey also noted that weekend sales were 50 percent less than the numbers for the original Xbox launch in Japan.

The lakcluster response from Japanese gamers stood in stark contrast with the launches in the United States and Europe, where Microsoft easily blew through its initial inventory in both regions within days. It was estimated that 300,000 consoles were available at launch in Europe.

The Famitsu survey said that Microsoft's biggest mistake might have been the postponement of "Dead or Alive 4." 61.5 percent of potential buyers were planning to purchase the game, and many retailers reported cancellations of pre-orders after the announcement of the delay was made.

The disappointing sales also call into question Microsoft's target of 1 million systems sold in Japan by mid-2006. If sales do not accelerate soon, the Redmond company may have trouble hitting its goal with the PlayStation 3 expected to arrive Japan in spring 2006.

Sony has an 80 percent market share within the country with the PlayStation.

Microsoft has said that the Xbox 360 was designed with the Asian market in mind. The original Xbox was criticized by Japanese gamers as being ugly in design, having a poor selection of games that were of bad quality.

Discs had a tendency to become scratched by the original Xbox, which was seen by many as poor design. Thus, Microsoft redesigned the Xbox 360 from scratch, and signed exclusive rights to popular Japanese games like "Final Fantasy XI."

Analysts say to watch sales in January, as they should start accelerating due to the availability of new games. According to Microsoft, 10 new titles will be released in Japan this month, with an additional 100 in development.

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