Will Microsoft launch the next Xbox in Japan?

When Microsoft announced that the next Xbox will be unveiled on 21 May, the internet was quickly flooded with speculation from eager fans. In the west, that is – in Japan, where Xbox fans are few and far between, the reaction has so far been mixed.

Sales of Xbox 360 units regularly trail last in the sales charts in Japan, where the console has never achieved a foothold. Its last big push here, around the release of Kinect, failed despite exclusive games from high-profile Japanese game creators such as Suda51 (Diabolical Pitch) and Masuya Matsuura (Haunt) – simply because Japanese homes are typically too compact for Kinect to work properly.

Since then, Xbox has lost exclusive Japanese series such as Ninja Gaiden and Idolmaster to Sony and Nintendo consoles, and the 360 version of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance wasn’t even released in Japan. There was no Xbox booth at 2012’s Tokyo Game Show, and many high-street retailers have cut back stocks of the console and its games.

Japanese games players today vented their concerns over Twitter as the next gen reveal was announced. “I wonder whether the next generation Xbox will even come to the Japanese market at all,” mused Twitter user Verteth. “I feel a lack of motivation from Microsoft…”

“Japan release, region lock, compatibility with 360 software, these are the three things I’m worried about,” posted RinaK10. “If it doesn’t come out in Japan I’ll cry.”

A tweeter named RossoRR pointed out that a Japan release is likely because the news of the reveal appears on the Xbox dashboard in Japanese. “Woah! When I turned on my Xbox this was on the dashboard! Celebration! That confirms a Japan release.”

Indeed, major sites such as Famitsu, 4gamer and the Japanese Engadget all reported the news in Japanese, which suggests that a translated press release has been circulated, at the very least.

Other games players seem to have made up their mind already, and are dead set against the next Xbox regardless of what is announced next month. “It’s trending, so I guess hardcore Xbox fans really do exist in Japan,” conceded Garbagememo. “But I don’t want Microsoft to take over the living room, so I hope it doesn’t become popular. The same goes for Google Chrome. In that case, PlayStation is the lesser evil.”

A Twitter user named Lerushion had more pragmatic concerns: “PS4 is coming out this year and Xbox is rumoured to do the same. I’d prefer an Xbox for this generation, but I don’t have the space to use Kinect even if it’s included!”

While Kinect is indeed useless to the majority of games players in Japan’s densely populated cities, where the average living room is the size of a bento box, one Twitter user pointed out that Kinect has uses beyond gaming. “If the next-generation Kinect is merged into the next Xbox it could be a contender in the set-top box or smart TV battle,” wrote Inuro.

Finally, the mystery behind Xbox’s lack of popularity in Japan was solved once and for all by Twitter user Hanaemon, who wrote, “The reason is because its logo looks like a shiitake mushroom.” And you know what? It does.

sssss