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Xbox 360 will 'win' in Japan, MS pledges

Better than last time round

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Microsoft will ship its next-generation Xbox 360 console in Japan before the year is out, the company has re-iterated, and it expects to trounce the competition.

Speaking to reporters in Asia, Microsoft Japan's Xbox boss, Yoshihiro Maruyama, said the 360 will "enter the Japanese market around December".

Microsoft said as much when it formally unveiled the 360 last month. The Japanese launch will come just over a month after the console debuts in the US and Europe in the late October/early November timeframe.

Japan has proved a tough nut for Microsoft's console division to crack. Japanese gamers prefer different kinds of games to those favoured in the West, a fact not helped perhaps by the first Xbox's PC heritage. In a bid to get the product right for Japanese consumers, Microsoft was forced to delay the console's introduction, from December 2001 to February 2002. Hints that it was pondering such a move surfaced way back in March 2001.

It did little good, in any case, and Microsoft went on to take the axe to its Japanese Xbox workforce in March 2003, before going on to announce a strategic rethink of the Japanese market the following July. Xbox has yet to dent Sony or Nintendo's sales in the country, however.

This time round, Microsoft has recruited Maruyama, who's a former executive with Square Enix, the Japanese games developer behind the hugely popular Final Fantasy series. And he promised things will be different with the 360: "This time, as well as launching first, we have focused on designing the machine and the games for the Japanese market. We expect to win," he added, bullishly. ®

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