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The Xbox failed to take root in Japan due to a weak launch, failure to mesh with market

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The launch of Microsoft's Xbox in Japan started on the wrong foot when company chairman Bill Gates' speech at the 2001 Tokyo Game Show slipped from talk of the industry to a sales pitch for the console, according to Eurogamer.

In a story compiling interviews with Xbox staff members, the switch in Gates' keynote angered listeners and drove away much of the console's audience.

"That turned a lot of developers and publishers away," former North American publisher Hudson Entertainment president John Greiner told Eurogamer. "He was supposed to be talking about the industry but he was really just plugging the Xbox. Of course! That's America."

Greiner called the Japanese market a "unique iconic" one, stating that most of the Xbox team's decisions come out of America and are "hard for the Japanese to work with."

Team Ninja lead developer Yosuke Hayashi explained that Sony and Nintendo are successful in Japan because they are native companies, while Microsoft roots make it a difficult sell in the country.

"There's just something about the hardware that gets made in each region that works for that particular region, and the people there just know it and they get it," he said. "It's a natural evolution of being created there. That's one of the things which might have hampered Microsoft or made it one of the challenges to reach the people over here."

"Of all the countries in the world, the more we understood Japan the more we understood it was going to be difficult," added Xbox co-creator Ed Fries. "About Japan culturally, about their long history in the video game business. There's a cultural conformity that happens in Japan. All those things conspired to make it hard for an American product to come in and compete head to head with entrenched Japanese competitors."