The XBox 360 appears to be on borrowed time in Japan, With sales numbers dropping, retailers practically giving away their products, and their last big console exclusive title headed to PlayStation 3. In June, Microsoft made the announcement that they had finally passed 1.5 million units sold in Japan since the release of the console in 2005. While at first this sounds like good news, the reality of the situation was much more grim. Media Create data for the year shows that Microsoft only sold 72,721 units, which is a 46.7 percent decrease in sales from the same period last year. PlayStation 3 also experienced a drop in sales, but only 17.1 percent, selling 735,637 units.
Due to this drop in sales, many retailers in Japan are considering dropping the XBox 360 altogether. Geo, the nation’s largest specialist retailer, is drastically scaling back its Xbox 360 business, and staff at electronics retailer Yamada Denki in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, confirmed that the company is removing hardware and software from almost all of its stores nationwide, and is selling off the remaining consoles and games at incredible discounts. It will still sell the console and games, but only in selected stores where the system continues to be selling regularly. In smaller specialist retail stores, XBox games and consoles are appearing in bargain bins, with games being marked down to as little as one hundred yen (about $1.30) and one store selling the Halo: Reach hardware bundle for 9,980 yen ($130).
What is probably the biggest indicator of the XBox 360 struggling in Japan is the move of their last high profile exclusive title, The Idolmaster to the PlayStation 3. Namco Bandai’s pop-star management game, first released in arcades in 2005 was exclusive to the XBox 360 when it released for the system in 2007, with its release bringing in a record number of XBox Live sign ups and a sharp increase in the sale of Microsoft Points. While the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS received releases, it was the last high profile exclusive title for the XBox 360, with a sequel released in February. In its first week of sales it reached 34,621 copies sold, entering the Japanese all-formats chart at number ten, but the following week, it did not even make the top forty. As such it was no surprise when, late last month, Namco Bandai announced that it would be porting Idolmaster 2 to PlayStation 3, with the Xbox 360 version’s downloadable content (DLC) included.
While the gradual disappearance of the console from store shelves does not prevent gamers from buying new games online, it does complicate things for Microsoft. Microsoft clearly still holds the Japanese market in high regard however. Last month it appointed Takashi Sensui as head of the newly formed Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), bringing him in to focus almost completely on the Xbox 360. With the potential release of the next system from Microsoft expected to be only a couple of years out, it may be difficult for Microsoft to convince Japanese retailers to stock and display the new console when they have so many years of proof that monetary gains are likely to be found elsewhere.