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Microsoft aims Xbox 360 at developing nations

Trying to break Chinese ban

Microsoft became one of the first game console makers to launch in India when it released the Xbox 360 in seven cities in September.

The company believes India will become a major market for all kinds of digital games, including those for PCs, mobile phones and consoles. But despite a history of strong software development, its gaming industry still needs time to develop.

"It's an opportunity for the future," said Alan Bowman, general manager of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division for the Asia Pacific region.

The reason Microsoft chose India to launch the Xbox 360 this year is because a number of games readily translate to the country. A cricket game aimed at India is in the works, and Bowman reckons it will be a hit.

"Cricket is like a second religion in India," he said.

Chinese puzzle

Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 in 1,200 retail stores in cities including Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi in late September. Bowman declined to give sales figures, but said he's happy with the performance so far.

The company hopes to sell the Xbox 360 in other emerging markets and develop the gaming cultures there. So far, the Microsoft has launched the console in Brazil and South Africa, but it is aiming for more countries in Eastern Europe, and eventually China.

Microsoft has never officially sold Xbox machines in China, which bans game machines for vague reasons, purportedly because they're bad for young people. Bowman says he's not exactly sure why the consoles are banned, but that Microsoft has been working with the Chinese government to open up the market.

Meantime, Microsoft has tried to engage the country by building a game development centre in China's hinterland city of Chengdu, in Sichuan Province. The goal of the centre is to promote local development of games for PCs and other devices.

So far, around 700,000 Xbox 360s have been sold in Asia. Microsoft expects 10 million of the consoles to be sold worldwide by the end of this year. Bowman expects the Asia Pacific region to account for around 10 percent of those machines.


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