In a recent interview with Japanese gaming blog 4Gamer, Microsoft Japan president Yasuyuki Higuchi revealed that Japan won’t be getting the Xbox One until sometime after it debuts in America and Europe.
“For the launch of Xbox One Japan is a Tier 2 country and not a Tier 1 country, so it’ll come with the second wave, that will be delayed a little bit [compared to North America],” Higuchi told 4Gamer. When asked if this delay meant that the system wouldn’t be available in 2013, Higuchi said yes.
Microsoft neglecting the Japanese market isn’t a new trend. Neither the original Xbox or the Xbox 360 were very popular in Japan: while Microsoft did their best to court Japanese publishers and gamers at the launch of the 360, the system never really caught on there. While the 360 has consistently been the best selling console for the last few years in the States, the system has only managed to attract a very small audience of import gamers and ex-pats in Japan. Sales for 360 games are so poor that most Japanese publishers (including Microsoft Japan,) don’t even bother to localize their games into Japanese anymore: a lot of Western 360 games are released completely in English, and simply come with a small, printed card that explains the basic controls in Japanese.
By labeling Japan as a “Tier 2” country, it could be inferred that Microsoft is once again conceding defeat in Japan. Japanese gamers have been notoriously hesitant to try Western developed games, and the gaming market there is basically a two horse race between Sony and Nintendo. In the last few years, games like Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim have managed to attract bigger audiences than previous Western releases, but their sales still pale in comparison to domestically developed titles like Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy, or even Animal Crossing.
Of course, you could argue that the Japanese market isn’t as important as it once was, and Microsoft is just logically focusing on the bigger and more lucrative American and European markets.
While Microsoft seems to have given up on Japan, Japanese publishers and developers are still showing plenty of support for the Xbox One. Deadly Premonition creator Hidetaka Suehiro’s next game D4 will be exclusive to the Xbone, as will Crimson Dragon, the “spiritual successor” to Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series. Metal Gear Solid V, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Final Fantasy XV will all be getting Xbox One ports as well. Killer Is Dead director Goichi Suda told Now Gamer that he thinks it’s only a matter of time before Japanese gamers accept the Xbox, saying ““…Windows and a lot other Microsoft products have a track record of being successful in Japan, so I think it’s a matter of time [before] some kind of hook that will let the Xbox explode or shine in Japan. But what or when that is, is still kind of up in the air.”