While the Xbox 360 has seen healthy sales in the Western world, it has scarcely 1 percent of the Japanese game market. The man in charge of changing that is Takashi Sensui, general manager of the Xbox division in Japan. Today, ITmedia published an interview with Sensui, who is working to get more Xboxes into Japanese living rooms with a better lineup, better marketing, and better Xbox Live support.
Sensui says Microsoft Japan has fundamentally revamped the Xbox 360's advertising campaign--dubbed "do! do! do!" Shiyo ze!--by promising 80 new games by year's end and hiring local celebrities. "Japanese pop band Tokio provided the single 'do! do! do!' that gave this campaign its name," he said. "Our use of Tokio has made a good impression. ... They have been very effective in that they have shrunk the distance between the Xbox 360 brand and the users."
In addition to aggressive advertising, Sensui stated that his division's strategy for Japan has two points. "As a gaming console, the Xbox 360 needs a large [software] lineup; it also needs to give users a sense of security regarding the future [of the console]. ... [B]readth of genres, famous titles, and new, next-generation games are all necessary. ... We must convey to the users the value of the Xbox Live online services and HD-DVD player."
Speaking of the HD-DVD add-on, Sensui called it an "unknown quantity" because "there are various factors that we cannot control directly," such as whether HD-DVD will catch on with the public. But Microsoft's decision to offer the add-on was not intended as a gauntlet at the feet of the PlayStation 3's Blu-ray, he said.
"We are doing nothing more than offering next-generation DVD as an option," Sensui said. "Many users won't need it. I don't think the outcome of the competition between next-generation DVD formats will necessarily affect the competition between next-generation game consoles."
He dismisses Microsoft's other competitor, Nintendo, whose GameCube console beat the Xbox for second place in Japanese console sales. "The Wii clearly reflects Nintendo's vision, and I think this hardware will fulfill certain needs," he said. But the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, he said, will fulfill different needs--particularly with regard to price point. "I think the Xbox 360 is the best value for the money," he said. "Even so, we need to make it even more attractive. However, we are not considering a price drop at this point."
Regarding the question of how to turn the 360 into a hit in Japan, Sensui sees two roads to success. "One is to have hit titles, like Blue Dragon. If the software takes off, there's no doubt the hardware will become popular. The Nintendo DS, which got traction from its software, is the simplest example of this pattern. However, I think the Xbox Live community has the potential to create an even bigger hit."
Critics have called Microsoft's global launch of the Xbox 360 last year jumping the gun, but being early to the party has its advantages, Sensui said. "The third-party developers had many experiences along the way, and resolved the problems inherent to next-generation games one at a time; because of this, we now have a quality line-up. ... I don't think we were too early at all."