Last year, Microsoft had a major presence at the Tokyo Game Show, the world’s second largest video game convention and fan expo. Leading up to the event – which was held just a few days after the Xbox One’s Japanese debut – Microsoft executives teased a slate of “full Japanese games.” The final list included western-developed titles like Sunset Overdrive, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, as well as native Japanese games like D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die and Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires.
That’s a solid line-up, but it didn’t work. In Japan, the Xbox One struggled right out of the gate, selling less than 26,000 units in its first three days on the market (by contrast, Sony moved 322,000 PlayStation 4 consoles at launch, and consumers picked up 308,000 units of the “troubled” Wii U in its first two days). Business hasn’t picked up, either: during the week of June 8, Microsoft only sold 100 Xbox One machines.
That’s not just bad, it’s downright abysmal. As such, it’s no surprise that Microsoft will sit out this year’s TGS. In a statement, Microsoft Japan’s Masayuki Inoue says:
2015 will continue to provide an attractive game line-up, exclusive titles included…. This year, Microsoft will not exhibit the Tokyo Game Show, but we’re making various preparations to deliver the latest Xbox news to fans and media. We will provide an update as soon as we can.
Previously, Xbox executives expressed disappointment with the Xbox One’s performance in Japan. In an interview with legendary Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, Xbox Japan head honcho Takashi Sensui implied that the problem had a lot to do with marketing, saying, “We are also aware that reaching out to let more people know about the Xbox One is vital.” More recently, Sensui vowed that Microsoft will”focus on publicity.” Many observers speculate that Microsoft will avoid the hustle and bustle of TGS and hold its own, Japan-focused event, although that hasn’t been confirmed.
Of course, Microsoft has a bigger problem than just public awareness: exclusives. While big-budget titles like Destiny and Batman: Arkham Knight received cross-platform releases everywhere else, in Japan, they’re only coming to Sony platforms.
It’s a classic chicken-vs-egg conflict: in order to get more Japanese exclusives, Microsoft is going to have to sell more Xbox One consoles. To do that, they’ll likely need more exclusives. When the Xbox One first launched in Japan, its exclusive titles (Titanfall, Dead Rising 3, etc.) were the console’s best-selling games, so there’s clearly some demand, but Microsoft may not be able to muster enough support for the console before it’s a lost cause. Time will tell.