Microsoft sees big things for Japan

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TOKYO -- Microsoft Corp. is anticipating its best-ever holiday season for game sales, with several titles expected to surpass the one million mark, Aaron Greenberg, global production manager for the Xbox 360, said in an interview Friday.

In Japan to attend the 11th annual Tokyo Game Show, Greenberg pointed out that the Redmond, Washington-based company is showcasing 87 titles on the floor of the Makuhari Messe convention center, more than twice the number from rival Sony, maker of the rival PlayStation 3 console.

"We're here to focus on Japan and build some new links to our business here, which is critical, because every year we're getting a bigger presence in the Japanese market," Greenberg said.

The Xbox 360 is still shy of the one million level in terms of sales, but the console's benefits lie in its Arcade and Live functions, he said, adding that both "Blue Dragon" and "Lost Odyssey" have both performed well in Japan and the company has high expectations for both titles in other markets. "Blue Dragon," he pointed out,has sold more than the initial outing of the "Final Fantasy" franchise.

"We are in a great position from a games standpoint and I think we can easily expect to have seven titles break the one million sales mark this holiday season," said Greenberg, who singled out "BioShock," "Halo 3," "Guitar Hero," "Call of Duty 4" and "Assassin's Creed."

Chris Early, general manager for Xbox Live services, said gamers were taking advantage of the service to try new titles as well as updated versions of such old favorites as "Frogger" and "Pac Man."

And while sales continue to outstrip both the PS3 and Nintendo's Wii on a game basis, Greenberg said there has been a shift in the way in which Japanese publishers do business.

"Japan is a very mature gaming business, where people between the ages of eight and 80 play, but there are a lot who are used to playing a certain type of game," he said. "There is also a high degree of brand loyalty, which makes it a very difficult market to penetrate."

With Japanese gamers apparently content with what they already have, or at least updated versions of what they already have, Early said he thinks that "more Japanese publishers will focus on a global market."

Microsoft, meanwhile, is bringing "Halo 3" into a market that generally shuns first-person shooting games, but making concessions to local tastes by shrinking its consoles, making them white and investing heavily in ever-popular RPG titles, he said.

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