Japanese retail chains are reporting that pre-orders for Xbox now make up the entire initial shipment that will be injected into the territory. In other words, it would appear that Xbox will sell out in Japan on day one.
Whether this news has been subjected to a certain amount of spin from Microsoft remains unclear. Both Microsoft and Nintendo were fairly dishonourable in the release of figures during their recent battle for American launch supremecy, to the extent that any new claims of super-sales come tainted with suspicion.
If the Xbox does go on to sell out across Japan, it will be the sealing victory for Microsoft’s bid to enter the living rooms of the world.
Many analysts were keen to write off the Xbox in Japan. The initial reaction to the hardware was a PR disaster for Microsoft, and Xbox overlord Robbie Bach. Its outing at the Tokyo Game Show last spring left the company licking its wounds after the sheer size of the hardware was openly mocked by attendees of the show. Some very clever, well thought-out and expensive marketing seems to have turned the tide.
With the machine launching on February 22, Bach has taken residency in Japan in the hope of ensuring launch success. At a press conference held in Tokyo yesterday, he made some interesting comments about launching the Xbox, into Japan and America. “I'm often asked why Microsoft decided to enter the console gaming market,” he said. “It's because the world has gone through a digital entertainment revolution in recent years. Console games provide an interactive medium to explore that revolution. As for the Xbox's performance in America, more than 1.5 million units have been sold since launch.” This statement overlooks the fact that Microsoft was planning a machine for “…games and only games.”
Speaking of the company’s online strategy, Bach was keen to point out the dominance of the Xbox over rival machines from Sony and Nintendo. “'I think the GameCube will mainly appeal to players 12-14 years old and younger. In order to understand our online vision for the Xbox, you have to think 3-4 years in the future. We believe the Xbox will be the driving force behind the spread of broadband services in Japan. PlayStation 2 owners will need to add hard-drive and Ethernet peripherals in order to transform the console into an online platform. We're committed to making the Xbox the leading console in Japan.” Nintendo has made minimal online commitments and remains tight-lipped about the future for GameCube. PlayStation 2 will go online but needs additional hardware to enable this.”
We will bring you full Japanese launch details later in the month.