Xbox tries to woo PlayStation players at the Tokyo Game Show

The US manufacturer of Xbox video game consoles has never made its mark in Japan in terms of sales, but after two decades and several missteps, it has no plans to give up.

Last week, Xbox shared news about the games coming to the Tokyo Game Show and said more Asian titles would be added to its Game Pass subscription service over the next year. He announced that “Deathloop”, which was a timed PlayStation exclusive, is available for Xbox starting September 20.

The presentation was part of Xbox’s broader strategy to win over Asian audiences and gain market share from Japan, a country that has traditionally shunned its consoles. In 20 years, Xbox has sold a total of 2.3 million consoles in Japan, according to Weekly Famitsu magazine.

“We’ve been on this journey for a long time and we’re not giving up,” Sarah Bond, corporate vice president of Xbox Game Creator Ecosystem and Experience, said in an interview with the Washington Post after returning from Tokyo.

Bond said Xbox is betting that the company’s investment in a number of Asian titles will pay off and show that Xbox is more than Halo and Forza. Typically, Asian gamers have preferred to buy PlayStation and Nintendo devices, where they can find more Japanese RPGs and narrative-based games.

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“We are invested in both the depth and breadth of stocks on our platform, and that’s exactly how reputation is built,” said Bond. “We see that game creators are more willing to take risks with Game Pass because they actually know they will be better able to find an audience. Someone will fall in love with something that isn’t necessarily that big, the brand, but it’s a truly, truly delightful experience for gamers. “

Bond said there are over 250 developers in Japan making over 150 games, including titles like “Tetris Effect: Connected” and “Craftopia”. Those titles will come to live on the Xbox platform, although many are not exclusive. During the Tokyo Game Show, Xbox announced that pre-existing PlayStation titles such as “Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Anniversary Edition” and “Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch” are now available on Game Pass. He plans to bring “Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes” and several Persona titles to Game Pass over the next year.

“While Xbox Series devices are not expected to sell close to Sony’s PS5 in the next few years, Microsoft is now more competitive than it has been for at least a decade. [in Japan]”said Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst at market research firm Ampere Analysis.” This shows that Microsoft’s approach to the market is paying dividends. “

Microsoft noted that its current generation of consoles are selling better than previous generations, although they haven’t shared specific sales figures.

Bond said the company has reflected on its past mistakes, such as launching the Xbox One console in Japan nearly a year later than in other markets.

“When we were talking about the Xbox One launch, there are a lot of things about that launch that we know we didn’t do well,” said Bond. “It took a long time to learn from our mistakes and really apply them and start building both our hardware, our product range and our relationships with the creators.”

For the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S consoles in 2020, the company released the new consoles in Japan at the same time as other parts of the world. The Xbox Series X generation is the best-selling generation to date, according to Microsoft. Market research firm Harding-Rolls found that Xbox sold fewer than 100,000 consoles in Japan last year, compared to Sony and Nintendo’s combined sales of more than 6.7 million.

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Harding-Rolls said Microsoft’s small improvements on a small market share have lagged far behind Japanese consoles and mobile devices.

“There is only so much that Microsoft can achieve with its console product strategy in Japan, and [that] underlines why it is trying to reach gamers on all devices with its cloud gaming strategy, “he said.

Bond said Microsoft’s investment to grow its audience in Japan and beyond would take time.

“A generation of hardware takes a long time to build all that engineering,” he said. “It takes five to seven years to carry it out. Building relationships takes a long time. And building a real AAA game can: we have seen that it took up to six years to build a AAA game. “

In June, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer acknowledged that Japanese developers don’t always come to Xbox, and the company has been working to add more games from the country, such as upcoming Persona titles and an unannounced game that creator of the Metal series Gear Hideo Kojima is supervising. Persona game developer Atlus did not respond to a request for comment.

Bond was jaw-dropping about his meeting with Spencer and Kojima last week, saying simply, “We are working with creators in Japan to create really special things for people who play on Xbox, and we will continue to do so.”

Xbox’s current business model involves selling its hardware at a loss, and last year in Epic Games v. The trial Apple, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of games, Lori Wright, verified that the company had never made a profit selling consoles and, instead, focused on selling software and subscriptions. Bond confirmed that the model remains the same, even as more game titles are added to Game Pass.

“The way our business works is to build a console and then subsidize the console so it’s affordable for the consumer,” Bond said. “So consumers shop on the console, they buy games, they buy subscriptions and then, as a result, we make and earn on it.”

The tech giant keeps an eye on most of Asia, and not just Japan. In April, Xbox announced the launch of the PC version of its subscription service in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Microsoft’s acquisition of more studios has helped its Asian ambitions. Bond noted that the eventual arrival of “Deathloop” on Xbox made sense, as the game is made by Bethesda, which was bought by Xbox last year for $ 7.5 billion. In the same deal, the company also acquired Bethesda’s Tango Gameworks, the Tokyo-based studio behind “Ghostwire: Tokyo.”

From 2020: it’s time to ditch the console wars narrative

Despite the audience differentiation between PlayStation and Xbox, there is still a fair amount of overlap in the titles offered on the two platforms. Earlier this month, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan said Microsoft’s promise to keep Call of Duty on the platform for at least three years beyond the current deal between series publisher Activision and Sony was “inadequate on many. levels “, as first reported by GamesIndustry.biz. (Microsoft announced in January its intention to acquire Activision for $ 68.7 billion in a landmark deal currently under review by regulators.) Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, responded to Ryan’s statement saying it “doesn’t make sense for Microsoft to remove Call of Duty from PlayStation, given its position as the market leader.”

Bond said the way Xbox thought about expanding to other markets was considering there are over 3 billion players, but only several hundred million consoles. His approach is to stop focusing on the consoles.

“What we’re really focused on is making it possible for any of the 3 billion players to play any game on any device,” said Bond, when asked if the ancient console wars between Xbox and PlayStation would continue. “It could be a console, it could be a PC, it could be a phone, it could be a tablet, it could be another type of PDA.”