Microsoft will launch its Xbox 360 games console on Nov. 22 in the U.S., the company announced at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.
That will be followed by launches in Europe on Dec. 2 and Japan on Dec. 10, said Yoshihiro Maruyama, executive officer and general manager of the Xbox division of Microsoft. The news conference was held to announce launch details and preview the company's activities at the Tokyo Game Show, which begins on Friday.
The Xbox 360 will launch in Japan in one version only, which will cost YEN 37,900 (US$343). That differs from the U.S. and European markets, where two versions will be available: a basic version for US$300 and a premium edition for US$400.
The Japanese version will be almost equivalent to the premium edition. It will include the console and several accessories, including a 20G-byte hard-disk drive, wireless controller and wireless remote control. A limited-edition launch package will also include a headset, said Maruyama.
"We have a very strong broadband infrastructure in Japan compared to other countries," said Maruyama, in response to a question about why the hard-drive is a standard item in Japanese versions. "There are various online contents on offer and these require a hard-disk."
Compared to the offerings for the U.S. and Europe, the Xbox 360 package launching in Japan appears to be something of a bargain. It's unlikely that happened by chance. Of all the markets where it will launch the Xbox 360, Microsoft probably faces its toughest battle in Japan.
The current version of the Xbox dived in Japan and the console has struggled to find credibility among gamers. Microsoft has been working hard to turn that image around by recruiting big-name game developers to write exclusive content, and is already talking to retailers about launch plans.
A few of the exclusive titles under development for Xbox include "N3 Ninety Nine Nights," by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Q Entertainment and "Every Party" by Yoshiki Okamoto of Game Republic. Developer Hironobu Sakaguchi is also working on a game for the console.
"For Xbox, Japan really is a key, important market in the global strategy that we have," said Maruyama. "We have a very strong commitment to succeed."
For all the preparation, the console won't do well unless Japanese gamers take an interest and a campaign designed to assure that kicks off Friday. The public will get their first chance this weekend to see and try out Xbox 360 games at the Tokyo Game Show. Microsoft plans to have 27 games on display at the event.
Nearer to the launch, an "Xbox lounge" will open in the fashionable Aoyama district of Tokyo where people will be able to try out the new console, Maruyama said.