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  • These people are waiting to buy the Xbox One console.

  • Fans line up around the world for the newest gaming consoles and

  • products. But there's one place that's never seen a reaction like

  • this for Xbox.

  • Japan. In the early 2000s, when Microsoft launched the Xbox, Japan

  • was the gaming juggernaut of the world.

  • Japan was home to three big console makersNintendo, Sega and Sony.

  • And Japanese game developers were considered the best and most

  • revolutionary on the planet.

  • Around the time of the launch of the Xbox, Japanese game developers

  • were the most important in the world.

  • The success of any new game platform depended in large measure on

  • whether or not you can get the best Japanese game developers and

  • their titles, more importantly, on your platform.

  • So when Microsoft launched the Xbox in 2001, the gaming world was

  • suspicious of an American console made by a company known for its

  • software, not its hardware.

  • They were kind of perceived as the bad guy coming into the Japanese

  • market, kind of invading the homeland and competing with Sony and

  • Nintendo. All three launches of the Xbox were a total failure in

  • Japan. But at the same time, since its debut in 2001, the Xbox has

  • become one of the biggest consoles globally.

  • The release of the Xbox One in 2013 was a huge success for Microsoft.

  • For the three years following its release, the Xbox One was the

  • world's second-most popular gaming console of its generation.

  • The Xbox One has sold almost 46.9

  • million units worldwide through the second quarter of 2019, but only

  • a tiny fraction of global salesjust 0.3

  • percenthave been in Japan.

  • So why has the Xbox never caught on in Japan, despite its worldwide

  • acclaim elsewhere? When Microsoft started developing the

  • Xbox in 1999, it wasn't known as a gaming company.

  • Its reputation was all about PCs, its office products and a big

  • antitrust lawsuit. Microsoft had a PC gaming business in the late 90s

  • known for Microsoft Flight Simulator and Age of Empires.

  • Developing the Xbox was all part of Microsoft's plan to bring its

  • technology into consumers' homes.

  • Sony was the leader in the consumer electronics market in the early

  • 2000s. Its PlayStation 2 was considered a threat to Microsoft for its

  • potential to replace PCs as a way to get Internet access at home.

  • Bill Gates's motivation was more about maintaining Microsoft's

  • dominance and position and ecosystem of software.

  • Bill really got it because games are software that is entertainment

  • that can stand right alongside a movie.

  • Denise Chaudhari, a designer who worked on the original Xbox,

  • remembers that Microsoft got into gaming as a challenge to Sony.

  • Bill Gates wanted to get Microsoft technology into Sony consoles, so

  • he went to Japan and suggested a partnership.

  • Microsoft, Bill Gates specifically, saw an opportunity to take

  • something that was established that Sony was already doing the

  • PlayStation and sort of integrate technology and software that

  • Microsoft was the master of, which was home computing and kind of

  • bring that together. Sony was not interested.

  • Sony was basically like, thanks, but no thanks.

  • And Bill Gates said, okay, then I'll do it myself.

  • Video game journalist Dean Takahashi thinks companies were wary of

  • working with Microsoft because of its antitrust lawsuits.

  • There were already antitrust cases

  • happening against Microsoft and everybody knew that if you sort of

  • let them in the door, it was kind of like a Trojan horse.

  • You might lose control of your business the way say the P.C.

  • makers like IBM had lost control of the business.

  • This wasn't the first time Microsoft would hear a no from a Japanese

  • company on the Xbox.

  • Chaudhari says Mitsumi, the company that made circuit boards for

  • Sony's PlayStation controllers at the time, refused to make a circuit

  • board for Microsoft.

  • Mitsumi could have jeopardized its relationship with Sony by giving

  • Microsoft the same technology.

  • Mitsumi didn't respond to CNBC's requests for comment.

  • So Chaudhari had to use a larger circuit board for the Xbox

  • controller. Microsoft moved quickly to launch the Xbox.

  • The consoles hit shelves in the U.S.

  • in November 2001 and in Japan in February 2002, later than expected.

  • Microsoft has released three consoles in the Xbox series, the Xbox,

  • the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One.

  • While all three console releases failed in Japan, the Xbox was a huge

  • hit elsewhere in the world.

  • Microsoft eventually secured the coveted No.

  • 1 spot in the global market from 2011 to 2012 with the Xbox 360.

  • Nobody expected we were going to be a hit product in Japan and we

  • understood what the playing field was like and we were just trying to

  • not embarrass ourselves.

  • Sega, Nintendo and Sony dominated the video game market in Japan when

  • Microsoft came onto the scene.

  • Before the Xbox launched, Sony and Nintendo devices accounted for

  • basically 100 percent of the global video game market and not much

  • has changed since then.

  • As of 2019, sales of the Xbox don't even begin to rival that of the

  • PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch.

  • There are three main reasons the Xbox console didn't sell well in

  • Japan. Today,

  • game developers are from all over the world.

  • But in the early 2000s, most of the best developers were Japanese and

  • at the time the Xbox launched, Japanese game creators were hesitant

  • to put their content on a console that wasn't popular in Japan.

  • Japanese gamers and developers favorite role playing games over the

  • shooter style games that were more common in the U.S.

  • In order to convince gamers to switch to Xbox, Microsoft needed big

  • name Japanese developers to defect from Sony and Nintendo.

  • And developers saw pros and cons in defecting to Microsoft.

  • The graphics power of the Xbox and its ability to create realistic

  • games exceeded other consoles at the time.

  • We're pretty successful

  • convincing them that Xbox represented a platform would enable them to

  • do new and interesting things and most importantly, would enable them

  • to sell those games to a Western audience.

  • But for many developers, the disadvantages outweighed any potential

  • upside. Some game creators like the XBox's hard drive, which was

  • faster than the PlayStation CD-ROM.

  • But they worry the high cost of Microsoft's technology would drive

  • consumers away. And then there was loyalty.

  • It was really difficult to convince a developer who'd already had a

  • relationship with Sony and Nintendo to take a gamble on Microsoft's

  • unproven Xbox.

  • The second problem is that the Xbox was just too big.

  • It was huge and Japanese homes were small.

  • That was sort of one of the first things that made the Japanese

  • people wonder, does this company know what it's doing?

  • The controller was another problem.

  • PlayStation used a folded circuit board made by Mitsumi in its

  • controller. It was a single circuit board cut in half and stacked so

  • that it was smaller than a typical circuit board.

  • Microsoft's team asked Mitsumi for the same circuit.

  • And Mitsumi simply said, no, they would not budge.

  • They would not give us the same circuit board.

  • Since Microsoft couldn't get the folded circuits from Mitsumi, it had

  • to make do with large circuit boards, meaning the controller was

  • bulky. That controller never actually launched in Japan, so we can't

  • know how Japanese consumers would have reacted to it.

  • The Xbox team instead expedited production on a smaller controller

  • called the controller S for the Japanese launch, Chaudhari says.

  • Even Microsoft's own team in Japan refused to endorse the Xbox

  • because of its bulky design.

  • Finally, timing was also a problem for Microsoft.

  • The company delayed its Japan launch to February 2002. That meant

  • that the console and game developers missed the crucial holiday

  • period in Japan when kids got money from family members to celebrate

  • the New Year. The Xbox 360 was Microsoft's most successful console

  • with Japanese consumers.

  • So what made it less of a flop in Japan?

  • With the Xbox 360 Microsoft tried to address a few problems it had

  • with the Xbox. First, Microsoft planned to launch the console ahead

  • of the holiday season and before Sony launched its competitor, the

  • PlayStation 3. Microsoft also worked with a Japanese design firm on

  • the new console and collaborated with Japanese creators to make games

  • for the Xbox. But that didn't make a dent in PlayStation's hold on

  • Japan. Sales in Japan of the PlayStation 3, which launched in 2006,

  • vastly outnumbered sales of the Xbox 360, which launched one year

  • earlier. Microsoft's next console, the Xbox One, also had a strong

  • start when it was released in 2013.

  • Microsoft sold more than 2 million of the Xbox One consoles globally

  • in 18 days, breaking a record for the company.

  • But in Japan, the Xbox One saw yet another lackluster response.

  • Of the 46.9 million Xbox Ones sold worldwide through the second

  • quarter of 2019, less than half of a percent of them have been in

  • Japan. For comparison, PlayStation 4 has sold 99.8

  • million units globally through Q2 2019, with 8.6%

  • of them in Japan. In a statement to CNBC, Microsoft said Japan

  • remains an important part of our global gaming community and a major

  • contributor to Microsoft's future plans.

  • We're committed to bringing innovative and homegrown content from

  • Japan's leading game creators to a global audience.

  • But Microsoft's inability to appeal to Japanese consumers may be the

  • least of its problems right now.

  • Global sales of the Xbox One have been lackluster as users shift more

  • to mobile and streaming games.

  • Analysts say it's a problem impacting all console makers.

  • In Microsoft's earnings release for the quarter ended June 30th,

  • 2019, the company said Xbox hardware revenue declined 48 percent,

  • primarily due to a decrease in volume of consoles sold.

  • Experts say Microsoft is adapting to a video game future that's not

  • dependent on hardware sales by selling subscriptions to game

  • libraries. Why is the Xbox 360 doing so well or why's or other

  • people's things doing well?

  • It's that software capability and that's a bet that we made at the

  • beginning of the company. In fiscal year 2018, gaming revenue

  • increased 14 percent compared to fiscal year 2017, driven by Xbox

  • software and services growth.

  • Microsoft noted that Xbox hardware revenue was lower.

  • Microsoft's 2018 annual report shows its shift away from hardware

  • dependency. The surge in popularity of streaming gaming has

  • fundamentally changed Microsoft's relationships with one of its

  • longtime rivals.

  • Microsoft and Sony made a surprising announcement in May 2019.

  • They're working together to develop game streaming technology using

  • Microsoft's cloud.

  • Cloud gaming allows players to use any device with an Internet

  • connection to play games.

  • And Microsoft has made several big moves in the space, including

  • plans for a new cloud streaming service called Project xCloud that

  • would allow users to stream their entire Xbox One libraries to mobile

  • devices. The partnership comes as giants like Google are getting into

  • gaming by developing its own cloud gaming service.

  • That represents a seismic shift in video games.

  • With faster Internet speeds, games can be played without a console on

  • a cell phone or a computer.

  • Cloud gaming is projected to be less than 2 percent of the forecast

  • total games market by 2023.

  • But Japan is poised to be a leader there.

  • In 2018, Japanese consumers accounted for about 46 percent of the

  • $387 million consumers spent on cloud gaming worldwide.

  • Microsoft knew Japan was going to be its most challenging market, but

  • Blackley says sales figures aren't the only way to measure the market

  • in the long run. Microsoft didn't need Japanese consumers to make

  • billions of dollars.

  • When the console launched, it was crucial for Microsoft to get

  • Japanese game developers on board.

  • But Japanese consumers were less of a priority.

  • The issue with Japan was never the amount of revenue that it

  • represented. The issue was the amount of revenue that the games from

  • Japanese developers represented.

  • Blackley says the Xbox changed the philosophy on game development.

  • One of the things about game consoles prior to Xbox was that the

  • hardware is arcane. Xbox had a different philosophy.

  • I really had the idea that the biggest market can be addressed and

  • can be captured by Microsoft through democratizing game development,

  • through making the tools of game development widely available and

  • easier.

These people are waiting to buy the Xbox One console.

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Xboxが日本で失敗した理由 (Why Xbox Failed In Japan)

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    楊皓荃 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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