It could be game-over for Microsoft Corp after it launches the Xbox console in Japan tomorrow, as stronger Japanese rivals crush the US computer giant's quest to conquer the video-game industry, analysts said.
"The foray into the gaming business is the biggest challenge for Microsoft in the 21st century and Microsoft has the financial power to meet such a challenge," said Hirohisa Oura, local managing director of the firm's Japanese arm. "We will make this year the year of the Xbox."
Xbox will compete directly against Sony Corp's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Co Ltd's GameCube on their home turf -- a near-impossible challenge, according to analysts.
"It seems there is almost no chance of Xbox becoming a major player in Japan," said Marusan Securities analyst Junji Nakauchi. "The domestic market will be where Nintendo and Sony engage in head-to-head battle."
Microsoft surprised skeptics when it sold 1.5 million Xboxes after launching the console in the US last November, while Nintendo has only shipped around 1.4 million GameCube machines there.
But in December alone, Sony sold around 2.5 million PlayStation 2 (PS2) consoles in North America and five million worldwide.
"Judging by the available information, Xbox is unlikely to become an immediate threat to the PS2 or GameCube in Japan," said Tokyo Mitsubishi Securities senior analyst Nobumasa Morimoto.
"We should not be too euphoric about the start-up of Xbox in Japan, and we should not make hasty decisions on the likelihood of success in making inroads into the Japanese games market just because of the initial sales," he said.
Analysts estimate Microsoft will ship around 300,000 Xbox consoles to Japan for the launch, compared with the 980,000 machines released at the debut of PlayStation 2 in 2000, and 450,000 for GameCube.
"In Japan it will be difficult for Microsoft at the start," said BNP Paribas game and media analyst Takeshi Tajima.
"The price-tag for Xbox is too expensive, it's pricing itself out of the market, also it does not have enough title games," he said.
The Xbox will cost ?34,800 (US$262) compared with ?29,800 for PlayStation 2 and ?24,800 for GameCube. But you pay for an array of special functions, including a built in hard-drive to download games faster, and Internet access, said Microsoft's Oura.
"Although the price sounds higher than others, Xbox has pre-installed online functions ... and the most advanced graphic technology," he said. "We would like to create an online game world like Jurassic Park."
But Microsoft's machine will have a mere 12 games titles at first -- against over 400 on PlayStation 2 -- with only three exclusive to Xbox, analysts said.
"Most are just remodeled versions of games for other consoles," said Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Satoshi Kurihara. "Overall, I see almost no `killer' title to attract consumers."
Microsoft may also loose out because -- at about 30cm wide, 30cm deep and 10cm high -- Xbox dwarfs rival consoles and would be harder to fit in the small apartments of typical young games players in Japan, analysts said.
News of Xbox's imminent arrival failed to ruffle the feathers of the competition.
"We are not worried at all," said Koichihiro Katsurayama, a spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment. "We shall keep developing our product by introducing new software."
Nintendo was equally calm. "It won't be a problem," said a spokeswoman.
Microsoft must slash its prices fast for Xbox to stand a chance at wrestling market share from PlayStation 2 and GameCube, said BNP Paribas' Tajima.
But despite the negative speculation, the US firm remained adamant its debut in Japan -- the world's second-largest video-game market -- would be a success.
"[It] is the key milestone for the overall Xbox business worldwide," the firm said. Xbox will hit European shores on March 14.
TAIWAN PROTECTION MEASURE: US Army General Charles Flynn would not say where in the Asia-Pacific the missiles would be sent, but only that they would arrive in 2024 The US is to send medium-range missiles including the Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) and Tomahawk to the Asia-Pacific next year to deter a Chinese attack on Taiwan, US military news Web site Defense One reported. The report cited comments US Army General Charles Flynn made during the annual Halifax International Security Forum on Nov. 19. “We have tested them and we have a battery or two of them today,” Flynn was quoted as saying. “In 24. We intend to deploy that system in your region. I’m not going to say where and when. But I will just say that we will
UNUSUAL UPTICK: There are more flu-like illnesses in northern China than in the past 3 years, but data from Beijing showed that known pathogens are responsible Responding to an uptick in respiratory illnesses in China, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said it has instructed international airport and port quarantine centers to raise their alert levels, and plans to issue an alert to healthcare practitioners. The number of flu-like illnesses reported in northern China has been increasing for five consecutive weeks, and is higher than the same period in the past three years, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said. “According to the WHO’s latest statement, issued yesterday, information provided by Chinese government showed that the illnesses were mainly reported among children, and the illnesses were attributed
LOYALTY: The 10 active and retired soldiers betrayed the nation and its people by leaking and passing on military secrets to China, the High Prosecutors’ Office said Ten former and current military officers were yesterday indicted on charges of spying for China, including two who allegedly filmed themselves pledging loyalty to Beijing. The High Prosecutors’ Office requested life imprisonment for the suspects in light of the severity of the crime. The 10 active-duty and retired officers included members of the 601st Brigade of the Aviation Special Forces comprising attack helicopter squadrons and elite combat units in charge of defending northern Taiwan, including Taipei. The other suspects came from Huadong Defense Command, in charge of defending the eastern coast; Kinmen Defense Command, in charge of defending Kinmen and Matsu; and one
THREE-WAY RACE: Hou You-yi said until the last minute he hoped to run with Ko Wen-je, but the latter did not pick up the phone when he called to make a final pitch The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) registered their own candidates yesterday after a breakdown in coalition talks, while independent candidate Terry Gou (郭台銘) dropped out, setting up a three-way race for the presidential election in January. TPP Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) was the first to officially register his candidacy with the Central Election Commission in Taipei yesterday, shortly after naming TPP Legislator Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈) as his running mate. Wu, the daughter of former Shin Kong Financial Holding Co (新光金控) chairman Eugene Wu (吳東進), is a TPP legislator-at-large who was appointed in November last year and had served