The Microsoft’s Xbox One will be launching in Japan later this year, and I’ve got to say, things are not looking very optimistic for this console. The original Xbox saw lackluster sales during its lifespan in Japan, and the Xbox 360 did even worse. In fact, it took the 360 over five months to reach a third of the sales the PS4 had in its first two days. So why does Microsoft keep pushing? Simple, Japan is a big gaming market. Unfortunate for Microsoft though, it is not a simple market to enter into.
Here are a few issues the Xbox has been facing and will face with its upcoming release of the Xbox One.
Japanese people are fiercely loyal to their country. If given the option between a domestic product and an imported one, they will choose the Made in Japan one every time. You can see this in the cars they buy, the food they eat, and of course the games they play. Check out our what’s big in Japan articles and you will see that Japanese brand games sell significantly better than the gai koku, or foreign, ones. This is a tough hurdle that can only be overcome with exclusives, a better product, or at the very least, a lower price. Which leads me to the next reason why the Xbox One will fail.
2. Lack of exclusive games
Sure, Japan will see some terrific exclusive games with the Xbox One release, like Titanfall and Dead Rising 3, but is that enough to justify the purchase? The Xbox One’s lack of exclusives is a huge problem that Microsoft is facing worldwide, but is a nail in the coffin when Japan is concerned. Japan’s previously mentioned brand loyalty combined with Microsoft’s lack of exclusives spells doom for this next gen.
3. Lack of cute
This might be difficult to understand, but Japan loves its cute. Cute characters sell video games, and the Xbox One just does not have it. The system just does not have a Pikachu, Mario, or even a new age ‘mascot’ like Knack, that can appeal to the Japanese masses. And it needs one if it is going to even compete with Sony or Nintendo in Japan.
Herein lies the biggest issue that will keep the Xbox One from being a success: its lack of nostalgic appeal. Gamers around the world love nostalgic gaming, but the Japanese take it to another level. When you get a Japanese person to say, “懐かしい！” (“That takes me back!”) you know you’ve made them happy. The Xbox unfortunately just won’t have anything to bring out that nostalgic feel.
Japanese gamers grew up with Sony and Nintendo. That is what they know, that is what they like, and that is what they will keep playing. Even though the Xbox has been around in Japan since 2002, the system just has not made a large enough of an impact in the past to bring out a nostalgic value. Maybe in another ten years?
So what can Microsoft do to turn this around? Aside from introducing new cuter characters for some Xbox One exclusive games, there really isn’t anything more they can do. Japan is a tough market to enter, and even tougher if you don’t have anything new to offer. I’ll be anxious to see how the Xbox One launch fares, but I’m not holding my breath for a success story.
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