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Xbox 360 gets lukewarm reception in Japan

No fights break out

Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 console in Japan on Saturday to a lukewarm reaction from local gamers.

The company held a launch event at 7am at a store in the centre of Tokyo's Shibuya district that attracted about 200 fans, some of whom had been queuing for several hours for a chance to be one of the first to buy the console.

While those in line snapped up the consoles, the store and other electronics retailers nearby still had units available for walk-in customers at 10am. At Bic Camera, opposite the Tsutaya shop where the launch took place, a salesman was hawking the consoles on the street to apparently little interest from passing shoppers.

"It went great, we had a super crowd despite the early hour," said Peter Moore, marketing and publishing corporate vice president of Microsoft's home and entertainment division, in an interview.

Compared to the US launch on 22 November where there were reports of fights breaking out amongst early shoppers the scene in Tokyo was more subdued although Microsoft is much more of an outsider in Japan. The original console failed to make a dent on PlayStation's dominance in Japan and the company has a tougher fight on its hands in Japan so perhaps the long lines that have greeted other recent console launches were not to be expected.

The company has enlisted the support of several well known, local games developers to help produce games that appeal to Japanese consumers. One of the games, "Every Party" by Yoshiki Okamoto of Game Republic, went on sale on Saturday but the other games, including "N3 Ninety Nine Nights," by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Q Entertainment and two titles by developer Hironobu Sakaguchi, are yet to appear.

"I was looking at which games were selling," said Moore. "I was seeing two in particular: 'Perfect Dark Zero' and 'Ridge Racer' seemed to be going out in every package. PDZ has done very well in the west, particularly the online side. Ridge Racer debuts here today and it looks like a great game. 'Every Party' was probably third, but that's anecdotal."

Compared to the launch of the previous Xbox in 2002 the console is available in fewer stores this time around, said Moore.

"We've been more selective," he said, "There is a lot more optimism about the sell-through this time than there was last time."

Competing next-generation consoles from Sony and Nintendo are expected to be available sometime in 2006.

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