Square Enix lines up behind Xbox 360

Square Enix says it will release a title for the Xbox 360, giving the console a boost from a major games publisher.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 games console got a big boost on Wednesday when Square Enix, the last major Japanese games developer not to have embraced the console, said it would release a title on the platform.

The game, called "Infinite Undiscovery," was given a brief preview at a Tokyo news conference but few details of the role-playing game were announced. Square Enix didn't share a release date.

"We are working to ramp up the action and create a dynamic, compelling next-generation RPG," said Hajime Kojima, a producer from Square Enix. The concept of the game is to play in a world that is constantly changing in real time. Even when you pull up the menu screen the action won't stop on screen.

The debut of role-playing games like "Infinite Undiscovery" is key to Microsoft's success in Japan. Gamers here prefer RPG titles over the first-person shooter games that are popular in North America and Europe and the company's original Xbox suffered in Japan because there wasn't enough attractive software for local gamers.

"The genre will be RPG (role playing game), the most popular in the Japan market," said Takashi Sensui, general manager of the Home and Entertainment Division at Microsoft's Japan unit.

The support of a major publisher like Square Enix will likely help build buzz around the Xbox 360 in Japan. The console hasn't sold as well as the PlayStation 3 or the very successful Wii but has been doing much better in the marketplace than its predecessor, the original Xbox.

In the week from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 sales of the console in Japan totalled 1,635 units, according to Media Create. That made it the number four console behind the Wii at 39,371 units, the PlayStation 3 at 18,068 units and the PlayStation 2 at 14,280 units. Media Create receives actual sales data from around 3,000 stores across Japan and uses that to estimate nationwide sales.

Square Enix announced its support at an event where Microsoft also previewed upcoming games that will be on display at next week's Tokyo Game Show.

Among the other games previewed was "Ninja Gaiden 2," a bloody role-playing game in which main-character Ryu Hayabusa slashes his way through a quest to save the human race. The game, which will be published by Tecmo Ltd., is a sequel to a title published for the Xbox and will be an exclusive title for the Xbox 360.

"Our goal with Ninja Gaiden 2 is to create the world's premier action game," said Tomonobu Itagaki, leader of the Team Ninja studio that will produce the game. He said there were between 10 and 20 features that developers wanted to put into the original Ninja Gaiden game but that never got in. Now those features will be available on the new game.

Microsoft also gave "Lost Odyssey" a launch date. The game, which had people at last year's Tokyo Game Show waiting more than an hour to play a demo version, will be launched in Japan on Dec. 6, in the rest of Asia in January 2008 and in North America and Europe in February 2008. The role-playing game is being published by Microsoft and will cost US$60.

With currently available titles and new software combined there will be about 250 games available for the Xbox 360 by December, Microsoft said.

There was also some new hardware for the Xbox 360. The chatpad is a small keyboard that plugs into the controller and allows users to chat with others on Live Messenger through the console. Microsoft also announced new controllers in pink and light blue.

The Tokyo Game Show begins on Thursday Sept. 20 and runs until Sept. 23.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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