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The Hidden Meaning of Microsoft's "360"

Bryce Edison | 8 Nov 2005 11:06
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When you look at how the Xbox did in North America, you can tell it's one of the more successful consoles in recent years, from critically acclaimed games such as Halo, to hardware-power capacity, compatibility and one of the better online services for a gaming console out there. When you look at how the Xbox did in Japan, however ... you laugh. Or cry. And this time, Peter Moore and the rest of the executive staff at Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) know why: Support outside the U.S. was embarrassing.

So we all now can't help but wonder: What's up with the "360" at the end? Well, I hope there is not any meaning behind it; as in a 360-degree turn-around, which would only put them right back where they started.

It's true, the PS2 sold the most units worldwide, and this preference was evident in America, as well. Sony had indeed built up a strong reputation with their extremely successful first attempt, PlayStation; but, how exactly did this phenomenon happen? Both companies' products are quite popular, and they both had some idealistic launch titles - heck, one could even argue the Xbox won there, with million sellers like Halo. But, with the exclusion of Tecmo and a few others, Microsoft seriously lacked international support, putting a serious dent in the horde of non-American gamers.

Specifically missing were the games Japan generally does best: RPGs, fighting games, quirky puzzle games and the like. Xbox was a clear winner for fans of shooters, sports, action and bouncy boobs in the sun; however, when it came to turn-based RPGs and the other types of games for which we turn to Japan, Xbox - with a few exceptions - just didn't have them.

But you can't blame Microsoft too much; they showed promise in the beginning. Dead or Alive 3 was a smash-hit in the states, and is still the best-selling title in Japan for Xbox. However, it stopped there. For example, Fable, which has sold nearly 1,000,000 copies (and will most assuredly pass this with its recent expansion, The Lost Chapters), barely even hit a percent of that in Japan. With disappointments like this, the desire to emphasize Xbox in Japan obviously decreased. Titles planned to impact Japanese culture (as well as American culture, of course), like True Fantasy Live Online, were canned, losing even more trust and interest in the Xbox console in Japan, and for otaku fans here in the States.

But, things are about to take a complete turn, and hopefully not a 360. Maybe they should have called this next system Xbox180. It makes more sense, doesn't it?

It's evident that Microsoft is putting an emphasis on the industry's other gaming origin(s). Microsoft isn't here just to be the console that people will buy for Halo 3. They want to replicate what Sony did so fantastically: They want to publish and license games that will attract all types of gamers.

One of the best exclusive deals Microsoft gained is with Mistwalker. Hironobu Sakaguchi - or better known as Mr. Final Fantasy - created his own company after his departure from Square-Enix. Many big names, such as world-famous videogame composer Nobuo Uematsu (yep, the guy who made the classic Final Fantasy tunes), have jumped aboard to help Sakaguchi create new RPGs. With exclusive Xbox360 publishing rights for two Mistwalker RPGs - Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey - Microsoft is working hard to convert the jRPG fans from other systems. While at this point neither game has been revealed, people in message boards all over are listing their expectations and hopes for these two games. Many are even calling these games their "most anticipated games for the system" and "main reason for buying the system."

Companies that aren't even published by MGS (such as Mistwalker) have hopped on the exclusive wagon. Namco has announced an untitled RPG from the same people who have done some Tales installments will be released exclusively on Xbox360. Banpresto, developers of the upcoming PS2 game Magna Carta, already have declared Xbox360 will be getting the sequel. [eM] eNCHANT arM, from From Software, will be hitting the Xbox360 as one of the much-needed launch titles in Japan. It's these kinds of games that the original Xbox simply did not offer. It's heavily suspected that this title will reach the U.S. shores sometime in the near future.

It's true that Sony is currently the incontrovertible leader. But, with this much support from Japan - from companies, Japanese-oriented games and gamers - Xbox360 could make a total turnaround in the competition.

Bryce Edison is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Access Gamer.

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