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Japanese Retailers Back Away from the Xbox 360

August 18, 2011  |  1:41pm
Japanese Retailers Back Away from the Xbox 360

In the face of steadily decreasing sales and the loss of one of the few high-selling exclusives on the system, multiple Japanese retailers have scaled back their Xbox 360 business, with some ceasing to stock any more of the consoles outside specialty shops, as reported by Edge.

This past June, Microsoft announced that Japanese sales of the Xbox 360 had finally hit the 1.5 million units mark. Unfortunately, this must be taken with a grain of salt as sales have fallen a whopping 46.7 percent from this same period last year, compared to a significantly smaller drop of 17.1 percent for the console’s fierce rival, the Sony Playstation 3. As a result, smaller stores have begun relegating Xbox 360 hardware and software to the budget bins, selling games for as low as ¥100 (about $1.30) and consoles such as the Halo: Reach bundle for as low as ¥9,980 (about $130).

The console has had difficulty selling in the Japanese market since its initial launch, which found the console sold out in every region except Japan. This was a repeat of the poor performance of the original Xbox in the region, which failed to attract any sizable Japanese consumer base, selling only 2 million units throughout all of Asia, compared to the Playstation 2’s 21 million units sold in Japan alone. So far into this seventh generation, the 360 still leads Sony’s PS3 by 5 million units worldwide (55 to 50 million, respectively), though in Japan the PS3 has sold about four times its American competitor, with 6.3 million units moved compared to 1.4 million as of April 1 of this year.

One of the few software titles to contribute directly to sales of new Xbox 360 systems in Japan was the originally 360-exclusive iDOLM@STER, a quirky raising simulation game that put players in the shoes of a producer at the fictional 765 Production studio in charge of raising a host of new female pop idols. The game’s sequel, iDOLM@STER 2, originally launched this past February but a recent announcement that the game and all of its DLC (which saw particularly high download numbers on the 360) would be seeing a PS3 release this upcoming October seems to be the final nail in the coffin for the American console in the land of the rising sun.

What does this mean for the future of the Xbox 360? Likely not much, as even subtracting all Japanese sales of the console still leaves the 360 ahead of the PS3 (and both still well behind Nintendo’s Wii) in worldwide sales. What it does likely mean though is further fracturing of entertainment software development between Eastern and Western tastes, as triple-A western blockbusters like the Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto franchises continue to wildly outsell Japanese console games everywhere except Japan, a reversal of the Japanese software domination of every console generation since the 8-bit era.

The times, they are a-changin’.

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