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Microsoft VP: Smaller Xbox 2 will turn on Japanese consumers

Microsoft's Peter Moore says his company's slimmed-down next-gen console will feature a software lineup more in line with the country's tastes.

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TOKYO--In an interview with Nikkei Business Express, Peter Moore, Microsoft's corporate vice president of worldwide marketing and publishing for home and entertainment, outlined some of the company's plans to make the next Xbox console more successful in Japan. First and foremost, Moore reiterated that the company's next-generation game console--casually referred to by media outlets as the Xbox Next--will be a lot smaller than the current Xbox console.

In the interview, Moore said that Microsoft understands why its console had won only a tiny sliver of market share in Japan even as the company's US market share rose to 33 percent as of June. One reason, Moore said, was that the large size of the console was unappealing to Japanese consumers. So Microsoft plans to make the so-called Xbox Next considerably smaller, with a more simplistic design. "We won't repeat the same mistake," Moore said. "The video game business doesn't end in one generation."

Moore also plans to have a software lineup for the system that will be more attractive to Japanese tastes. The Xbox's current Japanese lineup is dominated by Western-developed titles, and while it has been bolstered by many ports of Japanese arcade games in recent months, the console is still sorely lacking in the one genre that sells best in Japan--role-playing games. The Xbox-exclusive MMORPG True Fantasy Live Online was expected to spike system sales in Japan, but the game's development was abruptly cancelled in June. Although Moore didn't provide any details on what kind of titles Microsoft is planning to release in Japan for the Xbox Next, if he is serious, then RPGs will be included in the lineup.

Another reason cited for the Xbox's lack of success in Japan was that the console was launched nearly two years after the PlayStation 2, which gave Sony's console more than enough time to dominate the market. "We won't fall behind our rivals," Moore said about Microsoft's release plans for the Xbox Next, hinting that the machine may come out in late 2005, alongside or in front of other companies' next-generation consoles.

The Xbox Next will include a broadband adapter and other features inherited from the current Xbox console, such as the voice chat feature on Xbox Live. While the Xbox Next is expected to feature a DVD drive, it's also possible that the machine might end up adopting a next-generation media format--the HD-DVD association, lead by NEC and Toshiba, is currently attempting to persuade Microsoft to use its format for the next-generation console.

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