Xbox in Japan & Australia
|We take a look at how the Xbox is doing in other regions of the world, more specifically, Australia and Japan and the factors resulting in its success and demise.
|05.06.05 - 8:59 pm
Xbox Australia, it is a testament to the power of advertising, Xbox Japan however, stands as a testament to the dangers of a nation in gaming recession. As an Australian Xboxer, I can tell you first hand that Xbox's arrival on the console scene was a phenomenal event for the Australian gaming community. The sheer magnitude of advertising for Xbox dwarfed the Dreamcast's "look how weird I can be" ad campaigns. The PS2 had little-to-no advertising build-ups, but its reputation alone ensured its success. The Xbox had no such reputation to rely upon, so Microsoft ingeniously focused on the next best thing, media bombardment.
Microsoft's campaign of plastering the entire Sydney CBD (Central Business District) with green Xs caught everyone's attention (and some negative press to boot), the almighty X preceded any major event that graced Australian television. As a result the Australian gaming community couldn't help but be interested.
The launch of the console was immediately successful, however, a gargantuan price drop in the price of the Xbox produced even more staggering sales results (a move in which the PS2 soon followed suit, dropping its price to almost match the Xbox's).
In Xbox Australia's first year it held 32% of the gaming market and had sold 250 000 units (in a country with a population of only 19 million). It sold 30 000 more units in its first year than the PS2 did in its opening year in Australia, and in the past 12 months 876 000 game units were sold for the green machine. With Microsoft's business plan for Australia right on track, the introduction of Xbox Live this October will introduce even more popularity for the console, and bring Australian gamers into the online arena.
On a side note, Microsoft's policy of putting the developer first, and focusing on a large developer community has also enhanced its appeal in Australia. Previous to the advent of Xbox, the Australian developer community was very small, limited in funding and contributed almost zero percent of overall games bought in Australia. Post Xbox however, there has been rapid change. Australian themed games, such as ones based on Australian sports (Like Rugby League and Aussie-rules football) have been put into production with the increased consumer base that the Xbox vs PS2 war has brought about. Furthermore, publisher Eidos have opened several branches in Australia specifically for scouting out Australian talent.
Australians love Xbox, they've embraced the console without prejudice and relish in the amount of attention their market has received from Microsoft. It's all looking peachy for Xbox down under, but what of Australia's pacific neighbor, Japan? Well now that's a different story.
The PS2 launch frenzy in Japan left little room for competitors, the poor downtrodden Dreamcast can testify to that. However, both Microsoft and Nintendo held firm to the belief that after the buzz had died down they could ease their consoles into the fiercely competitive market.
A bad start in Japan for Xbox would eventually turn into a bad year, and despite Microsoft's focused efforts, the Japanese shell is shaping up to be dilly-of-a-pickle to crack. Culture voids between the predominately American developer base (partly why the Xbox has done so well in Australia, due to the fact that Australia is basically a mini-America culture-wise) have left Japanese Xboxers out in the cold. Fighting titles developed or published by Japanese companies have proven most successful; particularly with the DOA3 launch title.
But can this culture divide be unequivocally attributed to the relative failure of Xbox Japan? To put it bluntly, Gamecube is basically a bundle of Japaneseness (that's a word now, an XGB exclusive) and its launch has proven just us unsuccessful in Japan as it has been worldwide (aside from recent small gains in market percentage). So how can you please a nation that didn't even register Halo on their radar? Some would say you can't, but that good ol Microsoft's "can do" spirit is going to have a shot at it anyway.
Developer support is once again Microsoft's trump card. Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball has worked wonders for Xbox's Japanese market, and as such the curve-loving folks down at Team Ninja are getting a lot of attention from Microsoft.
If you could draw a comparison between Xbox in Japan and PS1 in Japan, you'd be quick to notice that the PS1 had little success for over 3 years after its release. However, with today's climate of cut-throat, do or die console marketing, it remains to be seen how Microsoft will respond to the icy reception its console has received in Japan, and how it will fair in the future.
When all is said and done, there is no single factor that can be attributed to the Xbox's success or failure in Japan. In this humble writer's opinion, Xbox gamers should instill some faith in Microsoft, cross your fingers, and then uncross them, because you'll need to prepare yourself for a slaughtering this October, the Aussies are going LIVE, and we play prison rules!