Western media and electronics consumers say the darnedest things about Japan. Partially owing to Japan's unique innovations in the field and partially due to this gadget-loving demographic's attempted appreciation of Japanese culture, many view the nation as the ultimate litmus test for geek paraphernalia. Whether or not a device succeeds or fails in Japan often colors Western audiences' perceptions of the product. For Eastern-facing consumers, the slow uptake of a Western product in Japan may suggest a lack of sophistication or foresight on the part of its manufacturers. Meanwhile, those indifferent to Japanese tastes often respond defensively to the same data, claiming it demonstrates outlandish stereotypes about Japanese culture.
Take, for example, Western gamers' reactions to the Xbox 360's performance in Japan. During its early life in the country, sales of the Xbox 360 were ... slow, to say the least. Take a look at any article or blog post about Japanese hardware sales, and usually you'll find Xbox 360 at or near the back of the pack. This phenomenon has resulted in heated debate: Many Japanophiles in the West say the country's slow adoption of the Xbox 360 is evidence of the console's (and, by extension, the West's) technological inferiority. Conversely, some Xbox 360 fans contend that the system's mediocre sales in Japan is due to outright xenophobia
Both sides of the debate can be disabused of their assumptions by looking no further than Microsoft's long-time rival, Apple. If Japan was so biased against American products, how could Apple's line of iPods jump ahead of Sony in sales in July of 2005 immediately following the company's launch of the Japanese iTunes store? (The iPod would later move on to claim a 60-percent share of the Japanese music player market.) Whether or not Apple's music players are superior to Sony's is a matter of opinion, but the implication that the Japanese have an aversion to American products clearly doesn't apply to Apple.
2005, in fact, was no flash in the pan for Apple's presence in Japan. Although the company is by no means dominating the Japanese market, they continue to be a force to be reckoned with. The latest generation of the iPhone, the 3GS, topped the sales charts in Japan for July 2009, and was the only American phone to have breached the top 10 that month (in two spots, no less, with two different models). In fact, the iPhone and iPod Touch are doing so well that Nintendo is beginning to fear for its previously unchecked dominance of the handheld gaming market; the Kyoto-based company recently blamed the iPhone and iPod Touch for its slumping sales and profits.
In light of this, it should be no surprise that major Japanese game developers like Capcom and Square Enix have embraced the iPhone and iPod Touch as platforms for game development. Square Enix, for example, has extended its Final Fantasy series of games onto the iPhone and iPod Touch with its Crystal Defenders: Vanguard Storm spin-off. As for Capcom, they recently created a version of Resident Evil 4 for the iPhone. And that's not all: Taito has created an iPhone-specific version of Space Invaders called Space Invaders: Infinity Gene, and Sega has been soliciting ideas from the gaming community about what games they'd like to see on the platform.
Still need more evidence of Japanese developers' interest in the iPhone? Earlier this year Japanese middleware developer CRI revealed that over 80 percent of the game developers they interviewed wanted to develop for the device. Positives that Japanese developers cited for iPhone development include the size of the market, the ability to release simultaneously in over 80 countries and the iPhone's multi-touch capabilities.