Microsoft will launch its Xbox 360 games console on November 22 in the US, the company announced in Tokyo on Thursday.

That will be followed by launches in Europe on 2 December and Japan on 10 December, said Yoshihiro Maruyama, executive officer and general manager of the Xbox division of Microsoft .

The Xbox 360 will launch in Japan in one version only, which will cost ¥37,900 ($343). That differs from the US and European markets, where two versions will be available: a basic version for $300 and a premium edition for $400.

The Japanese version will include the console and several accessories, including a 20GB hard-disk drive, wireless controller and wireless remote control.

"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 US 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.

"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.