Microsoft again delays Japanese launch of Xbox

Microsoft has once again delayed the Japanese launch of its Xbox game console -- this time by at least one week -- as the company looks to invest in online gaming and online services for the console.

"We decided to take more time (launching Xbox in Japan) to be able to make more of an investment around online gaming and online services that go with the Xbox," Richard Belluzzo, president and chief operating officer (COO) of Microsoft, said at a press conference here.

The Xbox had originally been scheduled to go on sale in Japan before the end of the year, in time for the Christmas shopping season. That date was later pushed back to Feb. 22 as Microsoft decided to focus its efforts on first meeting demand in the U.S., where Xbox was launched on Nov. 8.

The company will now ship the Xbox in Japan sometime during March, Belluzzo said. He was not able to give the specific date for the Japanese Xbox launch.

The announcement that Microsoft has again delayed shipping Xbox in Japan comes just one day after rival console maker Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) announced a deal with NTT Broadband Initiative Inc. to offer broadband networking services in Japan for SCEI's PlayStation 2 game console. The service, which is expected to begin operating during the second quarter of 2002, will allow PlayStation 2 users to download content, including music, games and movies.

Faced with the prospect of competing against Japanese console makers like SCEI on their home turf, Microsoft realized that it needs to fine-tune its Xbox strategy if it is to have a chance in the Japanese market.

"We decided that in Japan that we needed to look at a slightly different model for success than we would in other parts of the world," Belluzzo said. "The competition for Microsoft in game consoles is very well positioned in Japan."

Overcoming that competition is not expected to happen overnight. "We don't expect to go in and automatically have instant success. We think that our strategy for online services with Xbox is the right long-term strategy and it's going to take some time before it's fully implemented," he said.

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