Two decades ago, the first Xbox went on sale in Japan. In the U.S., Microsoft’s gaming machines have always been big hits, but that’s not been the case in Japan. To date, only 2.3 million Xbox consoles across all generations have been sold in the country.
Microsoft has long had trouble selling the Xbox in Japan, for a number of reasons. The biggest of which has been Sony’s dominance and home field advantage. But it hasn’t been for a lack of trying: During the Xbox 360 era, for example, Microsoft regularly aired Xbox ads on TV and roped in famous Japanese celebrities to help sell the unit. Nothing, however, seemed to work. It was like the country was allergic to the Xbox.
Weekly Famitsu did a big anniversary article that looks back at the past twenty years of Xbox in Japan. It contains a number of interesting data points, such as the local lifetime sales for each Xbox console. (As VGC notes, the biggest seller has been the Xbox 360.)
Xbox: 472,992 units
Xbox 360: 1,616,1289 units
Xbox One: 114,831 units
Xbox Series X/S: 142,024 units
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That’s a grand total of 2.3 million units for four different platforms over twenty years. In comparison, the original Xbox sold over 24 million globally, and the Xbox 360 sold over 84 million. To put the Xbox Japanese sales numbers in further context, domestically, Sony sold 19 million PlayStation 1s and 24 million PlayStation 2s.
This should hopefully give you an idea as to how the early Microsoft consoles faired, but even they did much better than the generations that followed. The same is true for game sales.
The top five selling games in Japan for the Xbox’s first three generations show how players’ tastes have changed over the years. For the Xbox in Japan, the biggest sellers were Dead or Alive 3 (217,149 copies), Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (127,576 copies), Halo (76,963 copies), Dead or Alive Ultimate (62,890 copies), and Ninja Gaiden (56,544 copies).
For the Xbox 360 in Japan, the top five selling games were Star Ocean 4 (208,521 copies), Tales of Vesperia (204,305 copies), Blue Dragon (203,740 copies), The Last Remnant (154,493 copies), and Kinect Adventures (154,217 copies). The biggest sellers for the Xbox One were Titanfall at 43,717 copies, Kinect Sports Rivals (25,090 copies), Halo: The Master Chief Collection (18,876 copies), Dead Rising 3 (13,987 copies), and Forza Motorsport 5 (13,140 copies).
Declining sales meant that Microsoft started skipping Japanese gaming events, but in recent years, the company has sounded much more bullish on the country than it had previously.
“Japan is our fastest-growing region worldwide,” said Xbox exec Phil Spencer in a pre-recorded message for the 2020 Tokyo Game Show. “We learn from the past.” The past is littered with disappointment, so there’s definitely a lot to learn.