Microsoft delays Xbox Japan debut

It's official: launch put back to 22 February 2002

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Microsoft has confirmed that the Japanese debut of its Xbox games console has indeed been delayed, to 22 February 2002.

The news won't come as a surprise to quite a few Xbox watchers, from within the games industry and out of it. As early as last March, Electronic Arts CFO Stan McKee said he would be surprised if the console would ship in Japan in the same timeframe as the US launch.

The revised Japanese launch date was announced yesterday by the head of Microsoft Japan, Hirohisa Ohura. He didn't give much else away - launch software titles, shipment targets, that sort of thing - but he did say that 12-20 titles will ship alongside the console when it finally goes on sale in Japan.

And that may well point to the reason for the delay. Ohura wouldn't give specific reasons why Microsoft had chosen to put back the launch, preferring to suggest that it's all about giving the company room to focus its attention on the US launch (still set for 8 November) and the Christmas sales period.

Ohura clearly regrets not being able to bring Xbox to market in Japan in time for Chrimble. After all, it's arguably one of the best times to ship a console. However, Microsoft has long been accused of focusing too closely on the US market, which it knows well, and being vague about the Japanese market, which it doesn't. That it has some major Japanese developers on board suggests that it has already realised it needs to think about these two markets very differently, but the delay implies it didn't begin doing so soon enough.

Having plenty of good Japanese titles ready to ship alongside the new console would seem to have been Microsoft's main criterion for deciding when to bring Xbox to market.

Sega, Capcom, Konami and Tecmo have already committed themselves to develop one or more titles for Xbox. Yesterday, Microsoft said Altus, From Software and Namco had agreed to do so too.

"We will make public further details of Xbox at Tokyo Game Show in October 2001 and on other occasions," said Ohura. ®

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