Innovation & Design

Xbox 360 Global Launch Dates Confirmed


Microsoft has finally pinned down exact launch dates for

the 360's arrival in America, Europe and Japan. U.S.

gamers can expect to pick up an Xbox 360 on November 22,

while Europe and Japan will receive the console on Dec. 2

and Dec. 10, respectively. While at TGS, Microsoft also

emphasized its intent to succeed in Japan this time

around. Over 40 Japanese publishers are committed to Xbox

360. More inside...

It's finally official. On the eve of the Tokyo Game Show

Microsoft announced that it will launch its Xbox 360

system in North America just before Thanksgiving on

Tuesday, November 22. Following the U.S. debut, 360 will

arrive in Europe on Friday, December 2, and will then hit

Japanese store shelves on Saturday, December 10.

"Massive demand"

This three-pronged launch marks the first time that a

video game console has been released in three different

territories in such a short timeframe. In order to

achieve this multi-region launch, the logistics need to

be just right. Microsoft says it expects "massive

worldwide demand" and therefore, in preparation the

company has gotten manufacturing well underway, producing

millions of hardware units.

"This holiday season, gamers in Japan, Europe and North

America pining to experience jaw-dropping high-definition

graphics, unmatched online play and compelling digital

entertainment features of Xbox 360 will finally have the

chance," said Robbie Bach, chief Xbox officer for

Microsoft.

He continued, "Renowned development studios around the

world are busy putting the finishing touches on their

Xbox 360 games. We expect a strong portfolio of titles on

launch day and through the holidays that will appeal to

fans of every genre and gamers in every region, and with

more than 200 games currently in development, continuous

new additions to the library are on the way."

Importance of Japan

While demand for the next-gen console is likely to be

strong in North America and Europe, it's not clear how

great the interest will be in Japan. Obviously, the

original Xbox has struggled in the land of the rising sun

and MS would like to change things with the 360; however,

a recent Japanese market survey by Infoplant showed that

only 6 percent of console buyers said they planned to

purchase the Xbox 360, while more than 70 percent said

they wanted to get a PlayStation 3.

Microsoft has been courting/signing Japanese developers

and publishers left and right to make sure that they have

games to appeal to Japanese players' tastes. The biggest

problem with the first Xbox in Japan was that it

practically screamed "American." Now MS has over 40

Japanese publishers on board for 360, including Bandai,

Capcom, Koei, Konami, Namco, Sega, Square Enix and Tecmo.

Bach and other Microsoft executives plan to further

detail the company's Xbox 360 strategy for Japan during

the TGS.

"The Japanese market is the most important key for the

Xbox's global strategy. Microsoft is committing fully to

its success in Japan," Yoshihiro Maruyama, general

manager of the Xbox Division in Japan, told the press,

according to Reuters. "We will continue to make as much

effort as we can to make the Xbox 360 successful in

Japan."

Maruyama said that seven games would be available in

Japan at launch and that 20 titles would be ready by the

end of January 2006; in North America, however, MS said

that 15 or more titles would be ready at launch and

upwards of 40 by the end of this year.

One SKU

While MS is shipping two differently priced SKUs in North

America, it's been revealed that part of the strategy for

the Japanese market is to offer only one SKU. The premium

version, which includes the 360 itself, a 20GB detachable

HDD, a wireless controller, a media remote control, an

Xbox 360 Headset, a Component HD-AV cable, an Ethernet

cable, and batteries, will be sold for 37,900 yen (just

under $350).

The news that Japan is getting the premium 360 at a

cheaper price has already fueled the flames over the

two-SKU approach on many gaming message boards. The fact

is, though, that Microsoft needs to do all it can to woo

Japanese fans. It knows it will get the support it needs

from the Western markets. According to Maruyama, the

reason for one SKU with the HDD in Japan is that more

Japanese gamers have broadband connections and also more

digital content that would necessitate a hard drive would

likely be available in Japan than other territories.

However, MS reportedly also made the decision to sell the

one SKU with HDD to support the beta launch of Final

Fantasy XI on Xbox 360 this winter, and if Xbox 360 is to

succeed in Japan it needs the backing of an RPG

powerhouse like Square Enix.

Microsoft has not yet revealed shipment targets, but

Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter

believes MS will have at least 2 million units ready for

sale in the U.S. and Europe and will probably sell 1.5

million in less than a week.


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