Reports emerging this morning indicate a rather sorry start for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console in the notoriously difficult to crack Japanese market. Just over a third of the consoles shipped to Japan for launch were sold over the launch weekend. Stores are already drastically cutting prices to shift stock.
Tracking companies Media Create and Enterbrain have reported their findings for sales of the Xbox 360 in Japan over the weekend, with the lower of the two estimating the number of consoles actually sold at just 28% of those shipped to retailers. Also, the tie ratio, a measure of the number of games sold per console, was only 0.91, which means not everyone actually bought a game to play on their new 360. Even though there was a free Final Fantasy XI beta included in the box, plus widely available U.S. import games, this still comes across as slightly strange.
Stores are hurriedly slashing the costs of the console to as low as £182 this morning, according to Kotaku. Which, when we are hearing stories in the UK for consoles changing hands on eBay for upwards of £600, is a bit of a stinger for UK gamers.
Enterbrain, the renowned publisher of leading Japanese game magazine "Famitsu", commissioned an independent study which found that only 62,000 of the 159,000 units available in Japanese stores were purchased last weekend (10/11 Dec). Famitsu’s editor-in-chief, Munetatsu Matsui, blamed the postponement of the launch of the 'Dead or Alive 4' for slow sales (out Dec 29).
"Xbox may have started out slowly but sales will likely gain momentum in January when new titles like 'Perfect Dark Zero' come out," said Matsui. "There is still plenty of opportunity for Xbox 360 to increase market share in Japan."
"It sounds like a pretty weak start,'' said Eiji Maeda, a video game industry analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo. "It will be important to watch how sales are in the last week before Christmas.''
A pretty weak start is something of an understatement. It’s a weaker start than that of the original Xbox, which sold 123,000 units in the first three days after its launch, back in 2002. And is generally considered to have failed in Japan, having only so far sold fewer than 500,000.
The recent official confirmation from Sony that PS3 will be launching in Spring 2006 has undoubtedly contributed to the poor initial take-up of the 360. Sony still has an 80 per cent market share in Japan
Microsoft Japan President Darren Huston told The Associated Press over the weekend, that his company aims to sell 1 million Xbox 360s in Japan by mid-2006. With only around another 938,000 to go now, SPOnG has to question whether this is a realistic target for Microsoft. We’ll be watching closely what happens over the next few months, especially as soon as Dead or Alive 4 and Perfect Dark Zero hit the shelves.