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Xbox is Finally Breaking into the Japanese Market

Chris Rausch

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Historically, Japan has been a terrible market for Xbox. The Xbox 360 was the most successful Xbox launch ever – and it’s generational competitor the Playstation 3 sold more than 6 times as many consoles. In fact, every Xbox console ever released wouldn’t even beat the Playstation 4 in sales in Japan despite relatively even numbers in regions like the United States. This means fewer game sales, less local development, and minimal market share for Microsoft.

As a Japanese company, Sony started out with an advantage in their home market. They were more connected to Japanese culture, the market, tech companies, and developers that allowed Sony to create games and consoles that better satisfied their target audience. It also helped that early Xbox consoles and controllers were bulky – not the kind of design that fit well in smaller Japanese houses or their gamers’ hands. Basically, everything has been working against Xbox in Japan since the beginning.


Now after 2 decades of disappointing results in Japan, Xbox is trying to push its way into the market – and apparently it’s working.

Jeremy Hinton, head of Xbox in Asia, announced recently that Japan is Xbox’s “fastest growing market” and that they have seen “phenomenal growth” with the most recent generation of consoles and services being released. Based on internal data, Hinton says that new Xbox owners are on the rise and users of previous console generations are upgrading to the Xbox Series X|S. This may be due to the slimmer and more streamlined hardware designs that the most recent generation has sported (especially the Xbox Series S), or due to Xbox pursuing more Japanese studios to develop titles for them that have gamers excited. 

There are supposedly more Xbox game development kits in Japanese developer hands than ever, providing more Japanese content to make Xbox more desirable to the Japanese market. Plus, the introduction of Game Pass has made Xbox titles more readily accessible than ever through both console and PC, with the upcoming Xbox Streaming release providing gamers with a way to play Xbox games without the need to invest in a whole new console.

While it’s not likely that Xbox will overtake Playstation anytime soon, sales in the region are likely to rise for Xbox thanks to the fact that a console isn’t required to interact with the ecosystem any longer. Playstation users can access Xbox games through software and services allowing Xbox to increase sales and market share without fighting a futile battle in console sales.

In my 4+ years as a professional tech copywriter, I've written about everything from laptops & routers to the software that facilitates billions in online sales each day. If it relates to, connects to, or belongs on the Internet, I'm in. Equipped with my Associate's in Computer Science and a computer I assembled myself (no big deal), I write about all things hardware, software, gaming, and digital tech to keep you up-to-date on important news, releases, and tips & tricks.

Consoles

How PlayStation Became One of the “Big Three” Home Consoles

Jesse Hoyt

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PlayStation’s legacy begins with a father, a daughter, and oddly enough, the Nintendo Famicom. Ken Kutaragi, a Sony executive, was first inspired by watching his daughter play on a Nintendo Famicon, a console released exclusively in Japan. You might think that the inception of the first PlayStation was created to compete with Nintendo, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, Kutaragi and Nintendo began working together. He was almost fired for this, but Sony president Norio Ohga saw his potential and let him continue to work with their now competitor. 

Kutaragi showed off a new sound processor that was better than anything Nintendo had and was able to sell them on using it for their SNES system. Later on, Nintendo would try to get Sony to manufacture a CD-ROM add-on. It was titled Play Station. 


Shortly after, the relationship would start to crumble as Sony was aggressively trying to obtain full rights over all titles of Play Station titles and music and film software for a different console. This new console would be SNES compatible and include a new CD format called the Super Disc. Sony was trying to enter and dominate a new market. As a result, 1991 would be the last year they worked together. 

On the day that Nintendo and Sony were to announce the Play Station, Nintendo harshly “betrayed” Sony at CES 1991. Instead of announcing the new system, Nintendo went on to publicly announce their own partnership with another electronics manufacture, Phillips.   There were still some negotiations following CES, but ties were completely cut in 1992 when Kutaragi said that there could never be a deal between the two companies. Kutaragi and company would continue to work on the Play Station at Sony Music. Sony would finally announce its entrance into the gaming world late into 1993. They got rid of the space and called it the PlayStation X to distance themselves further from their initial project with Nintendo.

Now on its own, Sony ran into a wall. They didn’t have anybody in-house with game development experience. They instead utilized third-party development studios to create games for its system. Sony would later gain the support (through negotiations) of almost 300 development teams including big names like Konami and Namco. 

A launch day was rapidly approaching now. Kutaragi was satisfied with his efforts to complete his vision of PlayStation, an affordable system with great performance. The console was launched on December 3rd, 1994 in Japan. The PlayStation would go on to receive high praise and excellent sales for its Japan release and the United States release a year later thus engraving the system into gaming history.

Sony went on to release the PlayStation 2, which is still the best-selling console ever. They have released three home consoles since then and have emerged as one of the three names in home consoles. PlayStation has managed to outsell Xbox every single generation and it all started with a man watching his daughter play games on a Nintendo Famicon.


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Consoles

3 Budget Gaming Setups Possible with Xbox Cloud Gaming

Chris Rausch

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Xbox Cloud Gaming is an online gaming service from Microsoft which streams game data from a Microsoft datacenter to your device through the cloud. The data centers use the Xbox Series X configuration which allows for the optimal console experience without the same resource requirement to run the games locally at high resolution on your device. 

As a result, there are a ton of different ways you can play high-quality Xbox titles without investing in an expensive Series X – including just about any device with a display and web browser or app store access.


3 Affordable Ways to Play Xbox Without a Console

Old Computers with a Controller

When a game is played directly on a console or computer, the device is responsible for all aspects of processing, transferring, and displaying the data from the disc or hard drive. This puts a strain on the device which limits its ability to process the files correctly, resulting in poor performance or quality.

However, when streaming games the receiving computer or console simply needs to render the visual aspect because the data center handles the rest. This means that outside of some light resource requirements to process the image, the device acts mostly as a monitor (with some controller input handling) which means you don’t need a strong computer to play 1080P modern titles.

To make things better, you can connect an old laptop to a new monitor via HDMI for better resolution and quality that the original screen may not be capable of handling.

Your Smartphone with Accessories

You already spend a lot of money on your phone, so why not turn it into a mobile Xbox? Whether through the Android app for Xbox Cloud Gaming or a mobile device’s internet browser, your smartphone can act as a mobile game console (with some help from accessories).

With the simple addition of a Bluetooth xbox controller, you can enjoy a familiar controller-based experience with the phone as the display. You can even get a phone mount to attach directly to the controller for easy viewing. There are also gaming-specific accessories to add on such as the Backbone One that integrates your phone directly into the “controller” (similar to the Nintendo Switch), which contains the joysticks, buttons, D-pad, and console buttons on two controller handles.


Surface Duo

If you’re looking for a self-contained, multi-use gaming setup that doesn’t require additional hardware (in many cases), the Surface Duo presents a unique opportunity.

The Xbox Cloud Gaming app for Android includes the ability to emulate a controller directly on the screen. For a 2-screened tablet like the Surface Duo, this means that the bottom screen (when in landscape mode) can be used as a controller similar to the Nintendo DS’s layout.

The result is a tablet that doubles as a mobile Xbox without the need for additional hardware, making it perhaps the most portable option (although it may end up costing close to the Series X).


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AR/VR

Why Virtual Reality Games Don’t Work On a Flat Screen

Jesse Hoyt

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We’ve seen countless games that start on monitors and TVs get ported to virtual reality. Incredible games like Skyrim and Fallout made for some fun, albeit wonky gameplay moments. Getting to actually be in Skyrim was certainly one of the highlights of my time in virtual reality. So why haven’t we seen VR games get transferred to the flat screen? We’ve seen modders do their best to translate VR games to 2-D, but it usually just makes an incredible VR experience into a mediocre video game.

Virtual Action

The answer can be kind of hard to pinpoint if you’ve never had the pleasure of diving into virtual reality. Even watching other players mess around in VR doesn’t give you a complete picture. Sure, you can see your favorite streamer have tons of fun, but actually diving in is so much different. These virtual reality games are not designed to just be played, but to be experienced. For example, picking up an object in VR actually serves as a core gameplay mechanic. You don’t just click a button; you drop down to one knee and physically reach out to grasp it. Shooting, reloading, crouching, and catching objects aren’t just parts of the game; they are the game. There’s no need for different and innovative mechanics since physically performing the action is so dang engrossing.


Flat Screen Virtual Reality Games Fall Flat

This is potentially the only reason that VR games just don’t work in 2-D. Half-Life: Alyx, possibly the best virtual reality game the world has ever seen, was modded into a flat-screen game and it turned out to be kind of boring aside from a stellar story. You just can’t be in the world the same way as you can in VR. The wonder came from being transported into City 17 and having headcrabs leaping at your face. You miss out on accidentally shattering a glass bottle which leads you to being attacked by the truly horrifying Jeff monster. It just isn’t the same, the thrill is absent when you can’t be there. We’ve never seen tech like VR before. Only virtual reality could make sifting through trash and opening cabinets fun.

2-D games aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but let flat-screen games be flat screen and let virtual reality games be virtual reality. 

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