Xbox Japan chief: Microsoft "will succeed"

Takashi Sensui reconfirms his company's commitment to crack his country's game market; unveils new plans for Xbox Live.

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TOYKO--Microsoft's Xbox 360 press conference in Tokyo today started out with a greeting speech from Takashi Sensui, the new general manager of Microsoft Japan's Xbox division. While it wasn't until the beginning of this month that Sensui replaced former manager Yoshihiro Maruyama, he is actually one of the oldest staff members working in the office. The 42-year-old, who holds an MBA from Columbia, joined Microsoft Japan in 2002 when the original Xbox launched in the country, and he has been working as the head of Xbox marketing since then. In 2005, he also began working as the head of Xbox content promotion.

Sensui started out the press conference with some strong words of confidence about the Xbox 360. "Since the launch of the original Xbox in 2002, there was one thing that we have consistently said: Microsoft will inevitably succeed in Japan['s gaming market]," said Sensui. "I believe that this year will be the stepping-stone to that success. The Xbox 360, which was released last December, is not just the only next-generation console available in the market, but it will also continue to be the best console for years to come. The Xbox 360 is a well-balanced console with high hardware capabilities. Furthermore, it is easy to exploit its capabilities to produce high-quality next-generation games."

"Xbox Live, which we have been operating since three years ago, has developed into a service that expands the user community for the Xbox 360," Sensui continued. "We plan to continuously make new additions to its capabilities. The Xbox 360 and Xbox Live will keep on evolving, and together, they will continue to be the best gaming platform."

As one example of how the Xbox 360 outperforms the other consoles, Sensui talked about Konami's baseball title, Pro Yakyuu Spririts 3. The game was simultaneously released today on the PlayStation 2 as well as the Xbox 360, but Sensui pointed out that it could only be enjoyed in high-definition on the Microsoft console. "When you play this game on the Xbox 360, it feels as though you're actually standing on the mound of a real baseball field, or sitting in the benches," said Sensui.

Sensui then showed off a photo of yesterday night's Xbox 360 promotion, where he threw the opening pitch at Tokyo Dome stadium where the Nippon Ham Fighters faced off the Daiei Hawks. He commented that the atmosphere of the dome was exactly like how it looked in Konami's game on the Xbox 360.

Sensui expressed his understanding that a high-end console is no good unless there are games. Using a slideshow, he explained that there has been 25 games released to date in Japan, and the lineup will grow to 40 games by the summer. By year's end, he expects the total number of available titles for the Xbox 360 to double, meaning there will be about 80 games available for Japanese consumers around Christmastime.

Aside from retail games, Microsoft Japan also has some specific plans for expansion of Xbox Live services. According to Sensui, 95 percent of Xbox Live users have taken advantage of the Xbox Live Marketplace since the console's launch on December 10, and there have been 520,000 downloads up to date. To further promote Xbox Live, Microsoft will begin distribution of a high-quality trailer for Tatsunoko Production's 40th anniversary commemoration anime film, Karas. The eight-minute trailer will be available for free download starting today. While the download will only be an opening animation, Microsoft plans on offering various other forms of entertainment content in the future.

Microsoft Japan is also beefing up its Xbox Live Arcade content. The company announced that Namco Bandai Games will be providing two of its classic 1981 hit arcade titles, Pac-Man and Galaga, as downloadable games for the service. Furthermore, Microsoft Japan also unveiled a list of new partners that have signed on as publishers for Xbox Live Arcade aside from Namco Bandai Games. SNK Playmore, Konami, Hudson, Yuke's, and D3 Publisher will also be providing games for the online service.

Near the end of the conference, Sensui reminded the press that Tetsuya Mizuguchi's long-awaited title, Ninety-Nine Nights, will finally be released on April 20. He showed off the game's packaging to assure everyone there will be no more delays in its release. The game was originally scheduled for January 12, but it was pushed back due to quality-improvement issues.

Sensui closed the conference by once again stressing that Microsoft is very serious about the Japanese market. "As Microsoft's worldwide Xbox division manager Peter Moore has said, Microsoft believes that it isn't a true success unless we succeed in the Japanese gaming market. We will be fully committed to the Japanese market," sand Sensui. "As everyone may know, the Xbox 360 has taken the European and American markets by storm. As the chief of Japan's Xbox division, it will be my duty to realize the same kind of success, here in Japan."

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