Microsoft committed to Japan says new Xbox chief

The new head of Microsoft's Japanese Xbox division restated his company's determination to succeed in the Japanese market on Thursday.

The new head of Microsoft's Japanese Xbox division restated his company's determination to succeed in the Japanese market on Thursday, as the company gears up for a renewed push of the console at local gamers.

Sales of the Xbox 360 console, which was launched in Japan in December just after the console's U.S. and European debut, have tailed off in the first three months of 2006, according to data from industry tracker Media Create.

The company said 1,415 of the consoles were sold in the week of March 20 to 26, which ranked the Xbox 360 behind the second-generation Nintendo Game Cube and Sony PlayStation 2. Those two consoles achieved sales of 1,458 units and 34,169 units respectively, according to Media Create.

Takashi Sensui, the general manager of the Xbox division of local subsidiary Microsoft, told a Tokyo news conference on Thursday that Microsoft remains deeply committed to the Japanese market.

It's something the company has been saying since last year when it started promoting the Xbox 360 in Japan and began openly discussing its missteps with the original Xbox in Japan. One of its biggest problems with the original console came from a lack of games software that sufficiently appealed to local gamers.

To rectify this the company enlisted the help of several well-known local developers to produce exclusive titles for the Xbox 360, and has been promoting them since the middle of last year. At Thursday's news conference some of the same titles were shown again -- still under development.

One of the most-awaited games is due to appear on store shelves this month: N3 Ninety Nine Nights, by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Q Entertainment, is one of the flagship titles Microsoft commissioned for Japan. It's due on sale on April 20. On the same day, Final Fantasy XI will also debut for the Xbox 360.

Microsoft is also eyeing this year's new Japanese baseball season and World Cup football championship as chances to sell the console. On Wednesday night Sensui threw the opening pitch at a Japanese baseball game and a day earlier the company unveiled a special-edition Xbox 360 that will sell as part of a World Cup promotion.

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Martyn Williams

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