July 25, 2005

Microsoft Woos Japanese Users to Xbox 360

TOKYO -- Microsoft Corp. is putting efforts into attracting Japanese users for its new Xbox 360 game console, seeking to avoid the lack of appeal that dogged sales of the earlier version of the machine in the world's second-largest game market.

The world's largest software maker revealed on Monday 45 game titles to be available for Japanese users of the new console, scheduled to go on sale in time for the year-end holiday shopping season before market leader Sony's planned launch of its new PlayStation 3 early in 2006.

A shortage of games to draw Japan's discerning and sophisticated users was the main reason behind the lack of success of the current generation Xbox.

"I've always said that Japan is a vitally important market for the Xbox platform," Peter Moore, Microsoft's vice president in charge of Xbox marketing, said at an event to introduce upcoming games for the console.

"I know that the success in this country is the ultimate tribute to the compelling power of our new platform," he said.

This time, Microsoft said 38 publishers, including Square Enix Co. Ltd., Electronic Arts Inc., and Namco Ltd., are developing 45 game titles. More than 100 other titles are being worked on.

Microsoft said in May it won a deal to feature Square Enix's popular "Final Fantasy" games, which up until now had been a cornerstone for Sony. Sony controls more than two-thirds of the game console market with its PlayStation series.

Square Enix's chief executive Yoichi Wada told Reuters in May that the company had decided to develop a Final Fantasy game for the Xbox 360 after Microsoft agreed to allow users to play against opponents connected via personal computers in addition to other Xboxes.

Microsoft has also said it offered game publishers a bigger cut of the proceeds from game sales and hired key executives from within the gaming industry to court developers.

The company has already announced plans to launch the console this year in the United States ahead of the holiday season, which begins in late November.

It had previously said Japanese and European launches would follow within six weeks. It declined to reveal the exact date of the launch and the console price.

Microsoft's new white-and-silver concave console will feature three PowerPC-based microprocessors joined onto one chip to deliver powerful computing and advanced graphics, as well as a detachable 20-gigabyte hard drive and a wireless controller.

"With this next generation, Japan is right at the center of the Xbox 360 universe," Microsoft's Moore said. "This time the rest of the world is starting to realize that the Xbox 360 is a real contender right here in Japan."


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