It’s no secret that Microsoft has always struggled in Japan when it comes selling Xbox hardware and games. Since the launch of the Xbox One, they’ve also struggled to secure the release of Japanese games on their latest gaming console.
Why is that the case though? Well, in a recent interview between MCV and NIS America’s president Takuro Yamashita, part of the reason behind this may have been revealed.
NIS America, also known as Nippon Ichi Software, is an American video game editor and anime company that brings licensed content to North America and Europe. They’re known for localizing Japanese games and anime to the United States. While we always knew that Xbox lacked mindshare in Japan and that impacted game and hardware sales, there is another reason which leads to problems when Japanese developers want to bring their games to Microsoft’s consoles.
Yamashita said that Microsoft has strict requirements when publishing to Xbox. He said that Microsoft requires a minimum order when publishing on their devices. For niche games which may not have a massive following in the United States, especially with Xbox One owners, that minimum amount is way above what they expect to sell. Even if they’re committed to bringing their games to the console, the requirements are just too much. Even if publishers were to look past the low popularity of the Xbox One in Japan—the main factor—this requirement prevents them from bringing games over.
The lack of Xbox sales in Japan has also led Microsoft not to put as much importance on the country. At the end of the day it’s still a business. However, this has also led to Japanese developers thinking that Microsoft isn’t interested in the region or its games. The fact that the company stopped making deals like Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, and canceled Scalebound, didn’t go over well. All of these factors have caused a lot of Japanese developers to be skeptical of the publisher.
Microsoft head for gaming Phil Spencer recently went to Japan and mentioned talking to partners. Hopefully, they brought up the requirement concern and so that at least one barrier is lifted. Unfortunately, there’s not much Microsoft can do about the lack of mindshare in Japan because of numerous cultural and image factors, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. PlayStation titles like Nioh, Nier Automata, and Persona have taken people by surprise and prove to be surprisingly popular even to Western audiences.
It’ll take many years for Japanese developers to come back to Microsoft’s platform but it has to start somewhere. Here’s hoping Microsoft knows this and how important it is for the image of the console around the world, and even in the United States among gamers who crave this variety.
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