Microsoft Corp has announced that it will not be releasing its Xbox console in Japan until February of next year.
“The Xbox is Microsoft's biggest challenge in the 21st century,” Hirohisa Ohura, managing director of the company's Japanese unit, told a news conference. “We want to first succeed in the United States and then ride the wave of popularity into the Japanese market.''
This announcement, coming on the back of Nintendo’s glorious SpaceWorld 2001, will do nothing to bolster Microsoft’s bleak prospects in Japan. It is now a recognised fact that the console is not well liked in Japan. A disastrous Tokyo Game Show earlier in the year served only to compound the mistakes made at the initial unveiling of the console.
As the PlayStation 2 bandwagon continues to gather pace, Nintendo is about to launch its massively anticipated Japan-centric competitor, the GameCube. This puts Microsoft in the weakest position out of all the major console manufacturers in Japan.
This news will also pay detriment to the Xbox’s campaign to be welcomed by Japanese developers. Liberal use of the company’s checkbook has secured several deals in the East, not least a four game agreement with Sega. How it expects to further its progress remains to be seen.
The Japanese development community will be immersed in GameCube and PlayStation 2 for a clear five months before the Xbox sees a commercial release in Japan. If the machine is not taken up well at launch, development support for it could start to disappear in Japan at an alarming rate. And every successful console needs a good Japanese level of development support.