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Japan: Lukewarm Response to HD-Friendly Xbox

Microsoft (opens in new tab) launched sales of its Xbox 360 video game console in Japan on Dec. 10 and while testing out its potential popularity in the third-biggest game market in the world, also took game leader Sony head-on in its own country. Early results of weekend sales of the HD-worthy units indicate "lukewarm" response from gamers, according to several Asian Web sites. A few big Tokyo outlets boasted queues of a couple of hundred buyers each, prior to normal store hours, and lots of unit sales--but no shortage of product as in the United States and Europe.

Meanwhile, Japan's own game console maker, Sony will issue the next-gen of the PlayStation in early 2006. Nintendo's next game console also is due in a few months.

Market watchers had been eyeing Japan closely after the 360 console sold well in its respective launches in North America and Europe in recent weeks. The island nation is only being offered the premium Xbox 360 package, which costs 37,900 yen (about $317) and includes a removable hard drive. The same package costs closer to $400 in the United States.

Among other things, the detachable drive permits user to play games originally produced for the first generation of Xbox. While HD monitors are still pretty much non-existent in most countries, this is hardly the case in Japan. (And after all, it was Japan who invented analog HD in the first place, when digital TV was still only a twinkle in America's eye.)

One gaming magazine publisher in Japan was quoted as opining that most video games are geared more toward American and European tastes, than to Asian's. (Then again, considering his location, he could be biased.) Hoping to learn from its mistakes, Microsoft's new Xbox 360 is sleek and stylish. Its noticeably bulkier original design was said to be a major turn-off for tech-savvy Japanese gamers.