The Next Generation – Overlooking Japan


The PS4 and Xbox One won’t be launching until 2014 in Japan, why the change? 

Japan once represented 50 per cent of the global videogame market. Today, that number is just 10 per cent. Still impressive for a single country but indicative of the changing patterns in the industry.

When Sony announced the PS4 they did so in New York at a time that worked for Japanese viewers (it was somewhat less appropriate for European gamers). Square Enix and Capcom both took to the stage to voice their support for the console, it would be months later, at E3, when we learned what Square Enix was up to but the intent was clear. We also discovered that Deep Down is a PS4 exclusive.

By contrast, Microsoft’s Xbox One announcement occurred in the middle of the night in Japan and while games took a backseat to entertainment generally the few titles that were shown came from Western developers and publishers. Of course, Dead Rising 3 is being published by Capcom but it’s being developed by Capcom Vancouver.

At E3 Microsoft announced its launch territories – there were 21 of them, the list was then reduced to 13. Japan never made the cut.

At E3 Microsoft announced its launch territories – there were 21 of them, the list was then reduced to 13. Japan never made the cut. It’s a ‘tier two’ country with an unspecified 2014 release date for the Xbox One in the country, according to Microsoft.

Yasuyuki Higuchi, the CEO and president of Microsoft Japan, has even admitted that the Xbox One “is geared towards a Western lifestyle, and we’re looking at whether or not to launch it ‘as is’ in Japan. We’re still figuring out how to deal with things like music and video services in each country. To be honest, [releasing Xbox One in Japan] as is would be difficult.”

The Xbox brand has always struggled in Japan and though it’s popular for some niche titles it’s never been a roaring success with many retailers simply no longer stocking the Xbox 360 and overall sales of the platform being in 100s each week.

In light of which, it’s easy to see why the country might not be high on Microsoft’s list of priorities. Sony however, is of course a Japanese company and yet when it came to reveal it’s launch plans for the PS4 – 32 countries made the list for November – and yet the company’s home territory did not make the list.

At a press conference earlier last week Sony announced a February 2014 release date for the console in Japan with a free copy of Mark Cerny and Sony Japan Studios’ Knack as compensation for the delay. You would think Japanese gamers would be up in arms over the delay (I’m going to find it hard enough to wait 14 days for the PS4 to come to Europe) but no, it seems they loved Sony’s press conference.

Despite their happiness with the conference it seems Japan has been relegated from its position as one of the vitally important markets in this industry.

“Historically we have launched in Japan first so this is a pretty big change for us and indicative of where gaming has the most heat right now,” Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America told Bloomberg during gamescom. “[Japan] is obviously an incredible important market for us, it’s the home market, but the battle for next-generation hearts and minds is being waged in the West right now and I think it is a recognition on our part that this is the market we want to lead with.”

The Tokyo Game Show begins on September 17th and both Sony and Microsoft has said there will be no surprises – it would indeed be a surprise if they’re being entirely truthful on that front – when the annual event kicks off perhaps Japan will finally be brought back into the spotlight.

Gen four will come to Japan in 2014 but the question is, how many will care?

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About Stephen Daly

Co-editor of game culture and lifestyle site gamemoir.com and a news editor for Gameranx. You can follow me on Twitter at @StephenDaly_ or email sdaly@gamemoir.com.

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