Microsoft hints at Japanese Xbox delay

But that's not what Bill promised...

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Microsoft has admitted that Xbox's Japanese debut will follow the US launch and not take place on the same day as the company had originally suggested.

The official line is that the Japanese launch will be "not too far behind" Xbox's appearance in US stores, which is currently scheduled for 8 November. However, the Microsoft Japan spokesman quizzed by Reuters on the matter was rather vague about it - to the extent that the company can't even say whether the console will ship in Japan this year.

Last March, it emerged that the console's Japanese debut might well be delayed some months into 2002. The reason? To give Microsoft time to develop titles more relevant to the Japanese market than the ones the console will ship alongside in the US, and to better acquaint Japanese software developers with Microsoft's strategy and plans.

That claim was rejected by Bill Gates himself when he spoke at the Tokyo Games Show later in the month.

"People didn't know how committed we were for the Japanese market," he said. "We've got the Japanese market full-speed ahead on the Xbox." He also said that the console would ship in Japan in the autumn - right on schedule.

Of course, it's entirely plausible that the console's Japanese debut is on schedule, but having yet to firm up a specific date, Microsoft's Japanese spokesman was simply squirming to avoid saying anything that might pin down any date the company has in mind.

"As we have said in May, we still aim to launch Xbox in Japan around the same time of, or not too far behind, the US launch," said the spokesman. When asked about an end-of-year ship date, he said: "We can't say that clearly. All we can say is not too far behind the US debut." See what we mean?

If it has significantly delayed the console's debut - and there's little in the spokesman's comments to suggest it actually has - then the Microsoft won't want to put it back too far or risk missing the Christmas sales season. Then again, Microsoft may be resigned to not being a major player in Japan and, to focus its efforts on the US and Europe, is past caring when Xbox ships in the Land of the Rising Sun. No, we don't think so either. ®

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