March 3rd, 2005, 16:10
Here in the states, the Xbox has proven its mettle. Gamers are enthusiastic about Xbox Live and sales of the hardware have picked up speed in recent months. But in Japan, the machine is a flop. Since the unit's Japanese launch in 2002, the software-giant-turned-console-maker Microsoft has sold 463,000 units, according to Enterbrain, a local tracking company in Japan. As reported in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, that figure compares with 3.7 million units of Nintendo's current-generation console, the GameCube, and over 17 million units of Sony's market leader, PlayStation 2. [br][br][br]But news today out of Redmond suggests Microsoft is getting ready to fight back in the next-gen war that will see PlayStation 3, GameCube 2, and Xbox Next square off later this year, or at the latest, next year. [br][br]To that end, Microsoft today confirmed that it had entered into two separate agreements with Yoshiki Okamoto, president and CEO of Game Republic Inc., and Tetsuya Mizuguchi (shown above), chief creative officer and producer of Q Entertainment Inc., for an unspecified number of exclusive Xbox Next games. Neither deal prevents the developers from working with other companies or on other platforms. No additional details were revealed in today's announcement. [br][br]The news today follows a similar announcement made last week, which was former Square producer, Hironobu Sakaguchi, now with his own development studio, Mistwalker, would be creating two Xbox Next-exclusive role-playing games. [br][br]Yoshiki Okamoto is a former Capcom producer who found traction with gamers in Japan with his Street Fighter and Resident Evil franchises. Since mid-2003, he has been the head of his own development studio, Game Republic. [br][br]Tetsuya Mizuguchi brings a similarly rich history of game development and game design to the deal. After years of leading the arcade and home units responsible for the Sega GT and Sega Rally brands, he turned his energy toward more creative efforts including Space Channel 5 and Rez. [br][br]After leaving Sega in late 2003, he founded his own company, Q Entertainment, and has two PSP titles, Meteos and Lumines, on the cusp of releasing. [br][br]Mizuguchi and Okamoto are also involved in their own company, Mobcast, which is focused on mobile game development. [br][br]In a conversation yesterday with Microsoft Game Studio head Shane Kim, we learned that the strategy behind the high-profile (and, likely, very expensive) additions to the Xbox Next team is to demonstrate to those uncommitted Japanese designers that Xbox Next is a desirable platform to work on. Whether or not that theory will pan out as Kim and his Microsoft team expect, with Japanese designers jumping on the Xbox Next development bandwagon, should become apparent in the coming months leading up to the new console's launch.