It's safe to say that in Japan, the Xbox line is a niche product. Microsoft sold two million original Xbox consoles while it was on the market in Japan and about 1.5 million Xbox 360 systems as of March 2013, putting it well behind the U.S. and most of Europe. But in an interview published in this week's Famitsu magazine, corporate vice president Phil Spencer reaffirmed that Microsoft remains dedicated to tackling the console market in Japan ... even though the Xbox One is launching later in Japan than the rest of the world.
"It will come out 2014 in Japan," Spencer said. "We'll announce details like the date and price once the time is right. The Xbox One is an extremely complete hardware platform. When we release it in a market as important as Japan, we want to be able to release it in its complete form, including local partnerships and language support. We need time to accomplish that no matter what, so we decided that we wouldn't make the November 22 [worldwide launch] date."
When asked about Microsoft's sales strategy in Japan, Spencer assured Famitsu that the Xbox isn't going anywhere, despite lagging firmly behind PlayStation 3 and Wii sales. "The first thing I want to say is that to us, Japan is always an important market," he said. "There are creators that have worked with us for many years now, and we've gotten lots of support from publishers as well. It's the same case for Xbox One. We've thought about how we can succeed in Japan, and we received a lot of feedback from Japanese game fans. One example of that is Kinect. We researched how much space was needed in rooms in typical Japanese houses in order to enjoy Kinect comfortably. In the same way, we're tackling how to formulate the Xbox One service so we can provide it as best as possible to Japanese game fans."
"The consistent concept for Xbox One across the world is to provide the perfect form for all experiences demanded by the users," added Takashi Sensui, general manager at Microsoft Japan and head of the nation's Xbox operations. "Thus, we want to provide a 'complete' experience that'll satisfy Japanese users as well. That doesn't mean localizing content, but also things like providing games Japanese users enjoy, as well as other entertainment and services. The basis of our Japan strategy involves gathering all of this together and providing it in one package."
Despite slow hardware sales, the Xbox 360 enjoyed a fair amount of homegrown Japanese support, from big titles like Lost Odyssey to a large selection of 2D shoot-em-ups from Cave and other outfits. Can gamers expect more Xbox One exclusive content? Yes, according to Spencer. "Actually, we'd like to work in tandem with Japanese developers to produce exclusive Xbox One titles for the Japan market," he said. "I think we'll be announcing these titles once the Xbox One release date draws closer. Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey on the Xbox 360 were wonderful experiences, and I'm looking forward to forming partnerships with new developers for this system as well. I feel it's going well, that we'll be able to respond to the 'love' Japan games fans have for Xbox One."
"I think the state of the Japanese market, and of game creators themselves, has changed since the Xbox 360 launch," Sensui said. "As a result, instead of doing the exact same thing as we did with the 360 deployment, we'd like to talk with developers and explore the possibilities when it comes to what sort of content we should release and how we should make users happy."