Microsoft’s Xbox One console launched in Japan on September 4th as part of its expansion into an additional twenty-eight markets across the globe this month. Microsoft has traditionally had a very tough time engaging the Japanese audience, and if the first week’s sales are any indication, that doesn’t appear to have changed.
As the Xbox One was set to go on sale in Japan, the world’s second largest video game market, retailers arranged cones to help customers form orderly queues, and the press gathered to cover the event. When sun rose in the West, pictures and reports began to surface–the empty lines and shops painting a clear picture of a disappointing Japanese launch. Many were not surprised. One industry insider had claimed on Twitter, a few days beforehand, that Xbox One pre-orders were “pretty much non-existent” in Japan. In June, however, one independent Japanese retailer claimed to have sold out their Xbox One pre-orders “in no time”, while other major Japanese retailers offered discounts ranging from five to ten percent on the pre-orders of Xbox One consoles, games, and accessories.
According to Famitsu, Microsoft managed to move 23,562 units of hardware during the Xbox One’s first week (September 4th – September 7th). For comparison, the PlayStation 4 managed to sell just over 322,000 units when it launched in Japan in February of this year. Interestingly, nearly every customer who bought an Xbox One in Japan also picked up a copy of Titan Fall, as the game moved 22,416 pieces of software.
Given the Xbox brand’s history in Japan, a reasonable assumption is that the last console to have performed more poorly during its first week debut would likewise bear the Xbox name – but no. The last console to endure first-week sales even more sluggish was the Neo Geo Pocket Color, released in March, 1999, selling just under 19,000 units.
It is important to note that while the PlayStation 4 saw respectable first-week sales, second-week sales dipped sharply, as the console managed to sell just over 65,000 units. In 2012, Nintendo’s Wii U saw the least sharp decline in sales during its second week, selling around 130,000 units of hardware. For now, it seems that Nintendo will continue to maintain its lead the East, although in recent years it would appear that the Japanese market is trending toward mobile and handheld gaming.
The Xbox One is scheduled to launch in an additional nine territories this month, including China on the 23rd, where the government has approved the sale of five million consoles. One Chinese retailer states nearly 16,000 pre-orders have already been sold, while Cinemablend reports that Microsoft hopes to sell 100,000 units in the country during the first quarter of availability.