Under 5,000 Xboxes sold in Japan last week.
April 8, 2002 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Under 5,000 Xboxes sold in Japan last week. This is compared to 100k Playstation2s and 25k Gamecubes. Since its launch, the Xbox has sold 190k units in Japan versus the Playstation's 980k units sold in the first 3 days.

Is the Xbox doomed in the notoriously tough Japan gaming market, or does the Xbox just need a price cut to stay competitive?
posted by jragon (51 comments total)
Excuse my numbers -- the Xbox sold 4,300. The other (huge) numbers are correct.
posted by jragon at 4:02 PM on April 8, 2002

I think it needs either a price cut or tentacles.
posted by Settle at 4:03 PM on April 8, 2002

A price drop won't do anything to counteract shoddy customer service.
posted by machaus at 4:09 PM on April 8, 2002

Don't forget that Sony and Nintendo have dominated the Japanese game market for over a decade. Japanese gamers also have a different sensibility that Microsoft, maker of mostly American-style PC games, doesn't really fit into. Japanese gamers are more apt to play Final Fantasy X or Dance Dance Revolution than Halo. (plus, that scratched dvd thing aint helpin' neither.)
posted by eyeballkid at 4:13 PM on April 8, 2002

Call me mean, but I get this odd sense of satisfaction every time Microsoft encouters a speed bump on its road to world domination.
posted by epimorph at 4:20 PM on April 8, 2002

epimorph, you're mean.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:21 PM on April 8, 2002

posted by Settle at 4:24 PM on April 8, 2002

I think the problem that the XBox is having is that it is the most expensive of a crop of consoles that all came out at about the same time. The popularity of the GameCube shows that people only want so many features out of their consoles.

If it had something that truly set it apart from the rest, it might be worth it. I've played all the new consoles, side by side and none of them really stood out as head and shoulders above the rest.

I bought the GameCube because the kind of games it emphasizes are not the ones I would just buy for my PC. And because my wife is a lowdown Pikmin addict.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:32 PM on April 8, 2002

Here's a thought: why don't game-making companies just make computer games that work either on PCs or Macs? Preferably both. I understand the desire by game-making companies to create obsolescence and proprietary restrictions because it theoretically insures perpetual revenue, but the X-BOX looks like it's only going to be useful for six months to three years before it becomes obsolete.

I learned my lesson with the Atari 2600. I never bought an Intellivision. I never bought a Nintendo. I did buy a Sega CD but that was my exwife's idea and she got that when we divorced, and she was welcome to it cuz I don't think they even make stuff for the Sega anymore. The obsolescence of these game machines is shorter than most American marriages.

Who in their right mind would buy into the obvious marketing? I hope the end of the XBox will reveal a beginning of the end for all these silly gamebox toy thingies, and we'll all go back to making one all-purpose computing appliance.

Then the bastards can start working on my flying car. Dammit.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:34 PM on April 8, 2002

yes, i'm no fan of sorny or aoltw but when they're mean to microsoft it's funny for some reason.

mmm, pikmin......
posted by rhyax at 4:35 PM on April 8, 2002

It's not doing so well in Europe either.

I think the head of Electronic Arts said something along the lines of: "Microsoft is getting it's teeth kicked in with the XBox in Europe or Japan." Or something along those lines - don't quote me.
posted by mkn at 4:38 PM on April 8, 2002

As a Playstation 2 owner , I have to say that I'm jealous of some of the games/ graphics on the X-Box. It seems like a solid console (other than the controller). Also, it costs US $299, same as the PS2 (unless you want to argue the DVD remote thing made it slightly more expensive).

Personally, I think Microsoft is suffering from Japan's closed nature. It's a non-Japanese company in a market dominated by the Japanese and they've made a number of missteps to boot.

The X-Box will not be the end of "all these silly gamebox toy thingies"; more likely it's part of the leading edge of some fairly sophisticated set-top boxes that will be bringing video, music, etc. to your entertainment center. Rather than one "one all-purpose computing appliance" that is a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, it'll be the entertainment engine in your living room while your computer or network server sits in the den, where it's supposed to be. Why does one machine have to handle every computing need?

As for consoles being silly, just remember that the video game industry (admittedly, PC games included, I think) is now grossing more than the film industry. Someone's playing with those silly toys.
posted by yerfatma at 5:18 PM on April 8, 2002

yerfatma - your link doesn't have any comparative monetary data for the movie industry, so it's tough to tell for sure, but in recent years when the IDSA was talking up their industry they compared world-wide game revenue to US ticket sales. No overseas receipts, no pay-per-view, no VHS or DVD. Dirty pool.
posted by NortonDC at 5:42 PM on April 8, 2002

Sony hasn't dominated the videogame market for a decade. They didn't even make videogames a decade ago. The history of Atari and Sega, contrasted with that of Sony and Nintendo, demonstrates that the videogame industry is far more open and fluid than Microsoft's press releases would have you believe. It's anyone's game, and Microsoft just happens to be doing a very bad job of playing it.

That said, I'm a GameCuber myself, though I honestly play more Dreamcast than anything else. Ironically, my two favorite DC games have their sequels on the XB (Metropolis Street Racer and Jet Grind Radio), but I suppose that's the way the chips fall. Anyway, the GC is cheap, home to Nintendo first-party games, and above all exceptionally portable. Since I like to take my systems with me on overnight trips, my mind was pretty much made up for me.
posted by Ptrin at 5:50 PM on April 8, 2002

I think the biggest problem Micro$oft is facing is the fact that it only recently crept into the console gaming market. Sony and Nintendo have been around for years. If there had been a WBOX(meaning.. a previous generation of XBOX), then if gamers were satisfied with it, they would buy the XBOX, and more of them would because of word of mouth, etc etc. Microsoft has the disadvantage for the sole reason that it (being the XBOX), hasn't saturated into the minds of gamers.

And the price doesn't help much either, as some of you have already stated.
posted by spidre at 5:55 PM on April 8, 2002

Here's a thought: why don't game-making companies just make computer games that work either on PCs or Macs?

Money. Sales of console titles are like an order of magnitude larger than their PC counterparts. Also, consoles are about quarter the price of a similarly specced pc or mac. Plus they fit under your tv, come with handy controllers, recquire minimal setup, and don't generally crash.

Oh, and definately tentacles.

(ob declaration of interest, I'm a PS2 programmer at Sony)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:02 PM on April 8, 2002

I'm with epimorph--it's always fun to see MS fail; but it's hard to take a side when they're up against Sony.
posted by Eamon at 6:08 PM on April 8, 2002

(I should clarify, I work for SCEA, not Sony Music, who, IMHO, and that of many of my colleagues, are a right bunch of wankers)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:31 PM on April 8, 2002

Hah, now that's what we want to hear more about. I'll tell you my stories from AOL's original music industry liason, back when that was one guy who piped up when the topic came up. Fair trade?
posted by NortonDC at 6:40 PM on April 8, 2002

why don't game-making companies just make computer games that work either on PCs or Macs?

Some other points could be that it is easier to code for hardware that doesn't vary much from the norm. Especially with PCs, so much time is spent testing out games on a variety of configurations. Another is an added layer of copywrite protection. However, it seems that the length of time that any of the methods work keep getting shorter.

Many people in Japan are very protective of their economic culture much like we were (and somewhat still are) when "Buy American" was a re-occuring theme. The latest fiasco being the mislabeling of imported meat to make it look domestic. (I'm still learning a bit, so correct me if I'm wrong)
posted by samsara at 7:17 PM on April 8, 2002

...and not to mention that the Xbox is HUGE. I would guess that Japanese engineers could have made it 1/10th the size at half the production cost. In contrast, it would be much like going out to buy a really fast car that had the body of a stationwagon (oh, and of course I meant to write copyright :)
posted by samsara at 7:34 PM on April 8, 2002

LOL... or the body of a van.
posted by Kafei at 8:08 PM on April 8, 2002

Is pikmin worth getting a gamecube? I feel like since it's from that-guy-who's-designed-all-the-Mario-games it's probably excellent. I've seen the promotional videos on the site, and it looks super fun.
posted by panopticon at 8:22 PM on April 8, 2002

Zachsmind...most consoles are built to last for five years. Of recent systems, the Saturn lasted 2, the PSX 5, the DC 2, the N64 4 and the PS2 is at 1 and a half already. At a max cost of $300 and much cheaper later in the lifetime ($50 for my new Dreamcast), any console is cheaper than even one video card for your computer.

As for the Xbox, the problem is that the games popular in Japan aren't on the XBox. Big-selling series in Japan include Crash Bandicoot, Super Robot Taisen, games by Square, Onimusha, Dragon Quest, Smash Brothers, Resident Evil, Gran Turismo, Virtua Fighter, that Sega dating game whose name I dont remember, soccer and baseball games. None of these are premiering on the Xbox. That's why it isn't selling. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Of course, the price isn't helping things.
posted by Kevs at 9:05 PM on April 8, 2002

Think.. PS2 has GTA3, Unreal, and Gran Turismo 3. These three are the best in their fields. Sure, X-Box has Halo, but Project Gotham doesn't match GT3.. and it still hasn't got GTA3 (although it's supposedly on the way)

So I'm not surprised the PS2 is doing better. You can buy the dirt cheap PS1 games to play on it, you get better brand name games, and it's cheaper!

That said, I'm surprised Gamecube is doing well, because the games suck, but it's much better for the kids.
posted by wackybrit at 9:05 PM on April 8, 2002

That said, I'm surprised Gamecube is doing well, because the games suck, but it's much better for the kids.

Bingo. When I play games on a console, I'd rather play something like Mario Kart than Quake3. And so would most young kids. And a good deal of women.

Nintendo isn't very hooked into the Quake3 demographic, but then again, that was never really their intent. I think they've done a great job with the market they set out to win.
posted by jragon at 9:54 PM on April 8, 2002

Come on you guys! The X-Box isn't a stationwagon, or a van. It is a big, honkin' in-your-face, American SUV. That's why it isn't selling.
posted by donkeymon at 10:25 PM on April 8, 2002

I imagine that most people are assuming that the X-Box games will all be out on the PC sooner or later. The only reason (assuming I had the money) that I'd get one is Halo and that's coming out on PC (though no one seems to know when).
Off topic: has anyone seen those cool Halo warthog jumping vids?
posted by davidgentle at 10:44 PM on April 8, 2002

Sooner or later the games for the XBOX are going to surpass everything else on the market due to it's superior hardware (and excellent developer toolkit, it's still early days for MS. Don't forget that the PS2 had the advantage of being an established player coming in on the laurels of PSOne, and it still foundered in it's infancy with a dearth of both titles and consoles upon launch, it's only now that it's getting into it's stride, the same will hold true for XBOX.

One thing to remember is that nobody makes money from selling the consoles, it's all about the number of games sold and from this perspective XBOX is in great shape as piracy is already rampant on the PS2 with the XBOX being a far tougher nut to crack, the latest figures had XBOX with six of the top twenty titles while PS2 had eight, meaning the number of titles each XBOX owner is buying is far higher than for PS2 owners.

Bottom line is it's too early to make any judgements, give XBOX a year and make your calls, till then buy all three and have at it :)
posted by zeoslap at 11:06 PM on April 8, 2002

This is nothing to be surprised about - or to worry about, if you hold Microsoft stock - as it's simply their standard model for taking over a new market. The first release always sucks, and sells poorly as a result. The second release still sucks, but Microsoft pushes it hard, takes advantage of their foothold, and sells a lot of units anyway. The third release still sucks, but by now Microsoft is a major player, strong-arms everyone into cooperating, and sells unbelievable quantities of a product that still doesn't measure up to the competition. By the time the fourth release rolls around, the development team has finally started to catch up to the marketing department, and with a reasonably mediocre product plus a steamroller promotional campaign Microsoft pushes over the halfway mark. Then it's easy sailing while they tie up the loose ends and plow the profits into their next market.

All of their major products were built this way: Windows, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer. They'd have done it with MSN had antitrust concerns not tied their hands at the initial launch, and they were on the way to doing it with NT before Linux came along (glory be to Linus, and to rms his prophet).

Microsoft has unbelievable amounts of money, and they have to spend it somewhere. In Sony the depth of their pockets may well have met its match, but they can certainly last until this clash of the titans is fought with equal weaponry.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:29 PM on April 8, 2002

I would guess that Japanese engineers could have made it 1/10th the size at half the production cost.

Based on what? Because Microsoft couldn't possibly hire talented engineers? There was an article in Wired about how they controlled manufacturing costs through outsourcing. I'm not saying the machine is perfect; I'm saying your claim is ludicrous. Unless you're saying Japanese people are inherently better engineers.

XBOX is in great shape as piracy is already rampant on the PS2

How do you figure? Sony's been pretty vigilant about stomping on mod chips this time around.
posted by yerfatma at 4:36 AM on April 9, 2002

Why do so few American companies hire decent industrial designers to make their products look good? The X-Box is hugely ugly compared to the competition. Sometimes it seems like Apple is the only American technology company that cares about how their products look.
posted by kerplunk at 5:21 AM on April 9, 2002

You people saying the GameCube has no great games are not in the same world I am. I bought my sister's kids a Gamecube just to have an excuse to play Super Monkey Ball. That game is amazing: instant accessability, super high replayability, deceptively simple controls, all age appeal, equal male/female appeal, and it's highly social with up to four simultaneous players in the addictive party games.

It's the total package.
posted by NortonDC at 5:27 AM on April 9, 2002

For those of you holding out to make a console purchase, price drops are probably imminent.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:51 AM on April 9, 2002

The main problem for the x-box right now is a lack of hit titles that are unique to its console. Almost all the great games on the x-box can also be had on the ps2 and some on the gamecube as well.

It takes at least a year for a console to generate momentum. The fair comparison would be to wait until this coming Christmas and then see how each of the consoles does.

That being said MS has a tough row to hoe; the ps2 has some pretty significant momentum already - a slew of hit titles, a huge installed user base, and the guaranteed developer commitment (ie more software) that this brings with it, plus the library of titles from the PSX1 that so many folks have around.

My money is on Sony winning this round of the war. Watch for x-box2 to do better. Microsoft rarely does well with version 1.0 of anything anyway, but they do learn from their mistakes.
posted by Tempus67 at 6:06 AM on April 9, 2002

yerfatma:I'm not saying the machine is perfect; I'm saying your claim is ludicrous. Unless you're saying Japanese people are inherently better engineers.

Hmm, I'm not implying that any country has inherenetly better engineers. Japan's electronic industry does takes pride in, and excels in making devices smaller and feature rich. (They always seem to have the real drool-worthy gadgets and systems way before they hit the U.S. market too.) A remark from one of the first Japanese Xbox customers was something to the effect of, "I wish they could have made it smaller." For your amusement, a picture of the Xbox being laughed at in Japan... Still the claim I made was more of a gross exaggeration :)
posted by samsara at 7:26 AM on April 9, 2002

You people saying the GameCube has no great games are not in the same world I am.
Amen. Unfortunately, the Cube's quality releases are, shall we say, front-loaded: the triple blockbuster of Smash Bros. Melee, Pikmin, and Super Monkey Ball is basically *it* until Mario Sunshine gets released in the summer, or at least until the Resident Evil remake ships.
posted by darukaru at 8:55 AM on April 9, 2002

Basic truths number 1, number 2 and number 3 in the video game business: consumers buy games not consoles. If the games they want are only available on one console, that is one they will buy. Right now Sony has a huge library of games across many genres for the PS2 (by the way, that is also why they don't dominate the top selling charts - the sales are spread across a much larger number of titles than Xbox).

I bought a GameCube because I enjoy the style of Nintendo's first party games. They tend to have much more charm and personality than games on other systems. Bottom line Pikmin and Mario make me smile and giggle and feel happy while games aimed at so-called "mature" gamers like Quake and Grand Theft Auto make me feel depressed and angry.
posted by cakeman at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2002

One thing to remember is that nobody makes money from selling the consoles

We do. So do Nintendo. Of course we make shedloads more from the games themselves, but we definately make a profit on the boxes (per unit manufactured, it's a little more complex when you factor in R&D costs).

Oh, and zeoslap, better hardware does not make better games, or a bigger audience. Especially considering the marginal (at best) differences in visual quality between the three players in this round.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2002

piracy is already rampant on the PS2

...actually, that's almost a selling point, and pretty much everyone in the industry has learned to live with it (although I don't think you'd find anyone higher up than the development floor actually admitting that, besides, it's illegal, and I couldn't condone it). Copy protection only really has to be good enough to delay the pirates for the critical first few weeks of sale.

Plus, even with the latest goodies you still have to crack the box open, and many games will recquire you to do a bit of soldering. That last sentence alone will have scared off the bulk of the casual warez bandits, and the rest probably wouldn't have bought the game in the first place.

There's an excellent Gamasutra (reprinted from an old Game Developer) article about this, from one of the guys that wrote Spyro. But you need a login.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:50 AM on April 9, 2002

I really don't think the 'Women only play kiddie happy games and thus like the gamecube more' is a worthy argument. For women gamers or for gamecube peoples.

I play Xbox, and convinced my husband of it over the cube.

I know it's easy (and popular) to hate Microsoft, but their system really is worth having (at least to us, video game fanatics), plus the games are cool. For a console in only it's 5th month, it's already got more games we want than we can afford.

Microsoft is really not all that worried about sales, which I know is the real argument here. It seems like they're working on some huge scale chess game, moving the pieces around, and we're not even close to the end game.

Anyway you slice it, more consoles = more competition, which is good for the gamers!
posted by dreamling at 2:20 PM on April 9, 2002

inpHilltr8r: piracy is already rampant on the PS2 > ...actually, that's almost a selling point.

Think you missed my point i.e MS and Sony aren't trying to make money selling huge numbers of consoles they are trying to get people to buy the games which is where all the profit is. If Sony sells 1000 consoles and 1 game while MS sells 1 console and 1000 games MS is the big winner here.

You also say that the quality difference is marginal in this round but the titles for XBOX at launch already look better than the second generation PS2 titles whose developers have had an extra year to get to know the system, the XBOX boasts 3D 5.1 audio, HDTV resolution (1920x1080), 733MHz processor, built in hard drive etc etc vs the PS2's Stereo sound, 1280x1024 resolution, and 294MHz processor. more details here trust me this time next year you'll need a PS3 to compete :)
posted by zeoslap at 3:23 PM on April 9, 2002

Mars Saxman may be correct, his note certainly rings true. Originally, I thought that the xbox would do well because (please correct me if I'm wrong) it is easier to code for, cheaper to make games for, and has better graphics. However the difference in graphics between the x-box and the play station just aren't that apparent.

I really don't want to see MS dominate this market.

Indeed we will have to wait for the next round, to see how things work out. I always thought that the market could only support two main players, but perhaps that's not entirely true. I'm surprised at how well the game cube has done.

"Anyway you slice it, more consoles = more competition, which is good for the gamers!"

At first, that might be the way things are, and things might continue that way for a while. However - more consoles = more competition = not so good for the companies that make consoles and increased likelihood that one of these consoles won't be continued.

It's a personal call, but I think the Playstation has the most interesting and varied range of games at this point in time.
posted by lucien at 5:30 PM on April 9, 2002

If Sony sells 1000 consoles and 1 game while MS sells 1 console and 1000 games MS is the big winner here.

Whereas if Sony sells 10 million consoles, while MS sells 500,000 consoles. All the publishers will look at the size of the market (20:1) and the cost of development (1.2:1), and the x-box starts looking a lot like the dreamcast...;)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:03 PM on April 9, 2002

Well we'll see but MS has plenty deep pockets to ride out a slow start and the XBOX is one serious piece of kit, that, in my opinion, will come into its own sooner or later.
posted by zeoslap at 12:17 AM on April 10, 2002

inpH, when you said we do refering to making money from consoles, who is we ?
posted by zeoslap at 12:21 AM on April 10, 2002

His employer, which he named in the thread.
posted by NortonDC at 4:22 AM on April 10, 2002

That's right, although I can't claim to speak for them, for obvious legal reasons, and certainly nothing I've stated is from any privileged or confidential information, not that I get to hear any of that anyway.

Anyway, E3 should be interesting this year. 2nd gen x-box titles, PS2 online, first playable Mario (fingers crossed), and price cuts all round.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:49 AM on April 10, 2002

My bad, missed the employer mention, wasn't being snotty either if that's how my question came across I'd figured it was either Nintendo or Sony just curious which, but yup E3 should be a goodun.
posted by zeoslap at 2:59 PM on April 10, 2002

I haven't been to E3 in a while. I took in #2, #3 and #4, maybe one more, I forget. Of interest to me: id will be showing the new DOOM.
posted by NortonDC at 3:45 PM on April 10, 2002

Enter the Panasonic Q, and the long-term prospects for the GameCube are looking a whole lot brighter.
posted by lucien at 12:38 AM on April 12, 2002

« Older "It's the ring. It's getting heavier".   |   Real World Studios Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments