Why can't Microsoft sell Xbox consoles and games in Japan?

While Microsoft has sold tens of millions of Xbox game consoles in North American and European market, the company has had little success in selling Xbox consoles and games in Japan, home to Sony and Nintendo. Indeed, a report back in 2011 stated that the Xbox 360 console had only sold 1.5 million units in Japan since its launch six years before. Today, a new and extensive article takes a look at the reasons why Microsoft has failed to break into the game console hotbed of Japan.

Eurogamer's feature features a number of people who worked at Microsoft in 2001 for the launch of the original Xbox, including former third party developer head Kevin Bachus and former head of Microsoft Game Studios Ed Fries. They tell stories of Japanese developers who were afraid of upsetting Sony and Nintendo. Fries also indicated there were cultural differences. He said:

We were told we couldn't call it the Xbox because X is the letter of death. We were told we couldn't make it black because black is the color of death. I was like, isn't the PlayStation black? Rules that apply to you as an outsider don't necessarily apply to insider products.

This year, Microsoft decided not to attend the annual Tokyo Game Show for the first time since the original Xbox launched. However, Fries believes that Microsoft should continue to try to break into the Japanese market for the next version of the console. He believes Sony is weaker than it has been in the past and that Nintendo is sticking with low powered hardware for its Wii U. He added: "There's room for it to be the biggest, most powerful machine. With the Japanese game market not as strong, maybe Japanese gamers are more open to western content."

Source: Eurogamer | Image via Eurogamer

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ACTIONpack said,
I general think that because Sony and Nintendo are Japanese companies and are very similar to the Xbox that developers don't want a US company taking over the market in Japan. Its a racial/county bride.

Japenese aren't that xenophobic, seems that quite a few people think that.
The Xbox doesn't sell because it doesn't have any of the major Japanese gaming titles.
Sony's main market is Japan.
Microsoft's main market is US. (not even EU -.- fu MS)
Go to a japense gaming store, and you will find titles you have NEVER heard of, nor ever will.

Samsumg had to pull out of Japan as well. This is not something particular to MS. It's simply hard for a foreign company to break into Japan.

I always wondered why Microsoft didn't open a Japanese game division where the essentially gave them seed money, the japanese run studio hire who they wanted, and made any game they wanted without having to get US Microsoft approval, and the only right MS would have is the ability to import it in to the united states.

As long it start's turning a profit, have a hands off / import option.

I think Japanese are not interested to see an US company succeeding, and especially
Microsoft, while they have been the leaders in video games for many years.
All the remaining: X letter, black color, cultural difference are pretext, or even lies.

S7R1K3R said,
Apple does very well in Japan so there goes your theory.

Apple doesn't offer a video gaming console, and I don't think the games on the ipad could be considered as serious.
EDIT: For a long time, Video Game has been considered as a part of "Japanese culture". That's why an outside company is perceived as an intruder.

bigmehdi said,
I think Japanese are not interested to see an US company succeeding,

If you were strictly talking about gaming consoles then be more descriptive, Although I do agree with you in that the "culture" over there is being prejudice towards an outside gaming manufacturer.

The Japanese know great consoles
Rofl @ the Bill Gates pic with cheeseburger and original Xbox -- errr, DeathBox controller.
edit: can anyone translate what the top right of the picture says?

Edited by Tha Bloo Monkee, Dec 14 2012, 11:39pm :

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
edit: can anyone translate what the top right of the picture says?

The literal translation is "We met at a rare place."

I've never been terribly good at understanding Japanese slogans (and I work in the marketing section of a Japanese company...), however I expect the suggestion is that you can meet Bill Gates eating a burger and playing Xbox.

Just to follow-up:

I asked one of my Japanese colleagues if he could understand the meaning of the caption:

"It's unlikely that we would ever meet Bill Gates at a burger shop, but we could meet at a rare place. Also, the shape of Xbox controller looks a little bit like a hamburger."

Then he said this:

"To be honest, I also don't really understand what the caption means".

Terrific marketing!

why don't Microsoft just create a Japanese company to sell the product? let 100% Japanese run the company.

call it ChiisanaSoft or something. and make some crazy Japanese commercials.

If more japanese game developers bring popular series onto the Xbox then maybe theres a chance.
Maybe they need to research the japanese market more to see what most gamers there want.

Somehow if I want a console I would buy a PS3 and not a Xbox
It all about the games not so much about the console.

We were told we couldn't call it the Xbox because X is the letter of death.

Are those people for real? It's almost 2013 for heaven's sake. I'm glad the Dutch culture doesn't suffer from that degree of superstition...

Who cares about Japan. Sell to China and India with downloadable titles so piracy isn't an issue.

There is huge money in China and India to be made. Japan is all about mobiles and who cares, it's Japan.

Even Sony is going to be suffering in Japan next year when they launch the PS4, it's Japan.

Ofc. they can't sell when using a picture with Bill Gates as above, most boys and men would feel gay buying such a box, and most girls/women don't exactly see the man as a "sex symbol" either.

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