Microsoft ‘not very supportive’ of Japanese games, says NIS America

Katharine Byrne
Microsoft ‘not very supportive’ of Japanese games, says NIS America

Ever since the launch of the original Xbox, Microsoft has tried, and largely failed, to break into the Japanese market. Even now, it often sells no more than 50 Xbox One S consoles each week, according to Famitsu data, while its Switch and PS4 rivals regularly shift upwards of 20,000.

Even Phil Spencer had to admit last year that the Xbox simply didn't have any games that Japanese gamers typically enjoy. "A lot of Japanese gamers really seem to like games such as Persona 5 or Nioh," he said in an interview with Play-Asia. "If we plan on doing better in the Japanese game market, we want to release games that the average Japanese gamer will really enjoy."

Indeed, with Bandai Namco occupying a large part of Microsoft's E3 press conference this year with titles such as Dragonball Fighter Z and Code Vein taking centre stage, things may well be on the up for the platform holder.

However, according to publisher NIS America, Microsoft needs to do much more than simply getting the right type of games onto the Xbox One isn't going to be enough to turn it around for Microsoft.

"Honestly speaking, Microsoft's approach to Japanese games hasn't been very supportive," NIS America president and CEO Takuro Yamashita told MCV. "Microsoft, you know, for Japanese games, there's still a very niche element to them, no matter what it might be.

"Microsoft also has a minimum order quantity for their games, and their whole structure isn't really geared toward niche games or smaller games like Japanese titles, so they're not really supportive of Japanese games or developers."

That's not to say NIS America won't ever release a game on Xbox, however: "We always try and pay attention to demand and see where our fan base is," senior associate producer Alan Costa added.

"We're obviously not opposed to trying new things. Disgaea 5 on Switch was one of those and it paid off, which is why we're definitely moving forward with that. I think that if the right game presented itself – a game that already had a certain level of awareness for people – we'd definitely be interested in giving it a chance, but it's a chicken and egg problem."

"[Microsoft's] whole structure isn't really geared toward niche games or smaller games like Japanese titles."

Takuro Yamashita, NIS America president and CEO

Nihon Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo agrees, telling MCV he "isn't diametrically opposed to working on Xbox," but that the small audience for the console in Japan means it's unlikely to ever become a viable platform for the RPG studio.

"Falcom is obviously a Japan-focused developer and looking at the situation in Japan, the Xbox has had a difficult time," Kondo said. "Because the market isn't there, we have to take a 'if things improve' attitude and just pay close attention to what's happening. However, I want to point that out we're always paying attention to the market particularly in terms of the foreign market, so if the Xbox was to have a sudden rise in the west, we'd obviously be open to considering it in that situation. I'd really like that to be the case."

Kondo added he currently views the Nintendo Switch in the same way: "When the time came for us to move from PC to console development, we thought very carefully about Sony's platforms and Nintendo's platforms, and we thought it was more than likely that many of the people who would play our games actually owned a 3DS.

"However, one of the trends of PC users is that they prefer gadgets and machines with a higher spec, which obviously is something that Sony was offering there. So after a really careful consideration of both sides, we decided it was more than likely that the people who wanted to play the types of games we made would want to play them on a PlayStation platform, so we decided to go with PlayStation.

"However, balance is very important, too, and thinking carefully about when something should come out is important, too, so there's definitely a big opportunity there for new platforms as well."