The Japan launch of the Microsoft Xbox One fell flat Thursday, with journalists covering the debut of the gaming console far outnumbering buyers.
The console arrived here more than nine months after it hit shelves in North America, Europe and Australasia and half a year after Sony unleashed its PlayStation 4 to grand acclaim.
The usual enthusiastic crowds that greet big launches in Japan were absent Thursday morning, with just one buyer at a major electronic retailer in Tokyo.
“I was surprised that I was the first one to get this even though I didn’t wait in a line,” said Kazuyuki Wakai, surrounded by half a dozen journalists from Japanese and international media.
Wakai, 30, said he opted for the Xbox because of its graphics and because certain titles are only available on that console, including the “Halo” series.
But Wakai, who also has a number of PlayStations and a Nintendo Wii, acknowledged that the Xbox lags far behind its Japanese rivals in terms of popularity.
“It may be because the bad impression of earlier models still lingers,” he said, referring to hardware designs and initial technical glitches.
Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are aimed at hard-core gamers, strategies the companies hope will insulate them from the challenge posed by free or cheap smartphone downloads popular with casual players.
Microsoft says application software development and linguistic challenges are among the reasons behind the long lag in launching the Xbox One in Japan. In April it said it had shipped more than 5 million of the consoles globally since it launched in November.
Sony said last month that global sales of the PS 4 surged past the 10 million mark in less than a year, a record for the struggling giant.
Xbox has been trailing badly in Japan. Sales of the PlayStation 3 were 824,000 units in 2013, dwarfing the fewer than 20,000 logged for the Xbox 360, the predecessor of the Xbox One, according to estimates by leading game magazine Famitsu.
A Microsoft marketing official said the company expects sales to pick up as more titles are released toward the end of the year.
“We have high expectations as this (machine) is loaded with graphics that will surely satisfy game players,” he said.