Microsoft used its platform at the Tokyo Game Show on Thursday night to announce the launch of its cloud gaming service in Japan and also continue its efforts to win over Japanese gamers.
Microsoft’s Xbox brand chief, Phil Spencer, hosted the company’s Tokyo Game Show livestream event and made sure to highlight Xbox’s commitment to Japan, a market where it has mostly lagged behind Nintendo and Sony. Spencer said Microsoft is looking to add more Japanese games to its lineup, and the company said there were already more than 100 titles that have been localized for the Japanese market on its gaming subscription service.
While Microsoft’s Xbox consoles and games have struggled to attain the same buzz — and sales figures — in Japan as Nintendo and Sony’s offerings in past years, gamers in Japan no longer even need an Xbox to play Xbox games.
Spencer’s biggest announcement of the night was that the company was bringing its Xbox Cloud Gaming service to Japan — and Australia, Brazil and Mexico — starting Friday. The service allows subscribers to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — part of the company’s Netflix-esque gaming subscription platform — to play games on Windows PCs and some mobile devices, whether or not they own an Xbox console.
The company is likely hoping the service will help it introduce its games to users who may be wary about buying an expensive console.
“We’re thrilled to be bringing cloud gaming to Japan, where gamers play across more devices than almost anywhere on the planet,” said Kareem Choudhry, who heads the Xbox Cloud Gaming Division.
The service, which launched in 2020, is now available in 26 countries. Microsoft also touted graphical improvements and reduced load times when playing games in the cloud.
Spencer said cloud gaming and a Game Pass subscription allows users to “play more than 100 games without buying new hardware.” Thursday’s event showed members of the Forza Horizon 5 development team playing the racing game, scheduled to be released Nov. 9, on one of Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets.
Microsoft is the only one of the three major console-makers to prepare a showcase for Tokyo Game Show. Nintendo is historically a no-show, while Sony opted out this year.
Spencer was joined by famed game director Shinji Mikami, who noted that “Xbox has a long history in Japan that has been very up and down,” before asking Spencer how the company planned to improve in the market.
“The Tokyo Game Show is an important part of our commitment to the Japanese market and the Asia region overall,” Spencer responded.
“We’re working with Japanese publishers every single day to increase our lineup of Japanese games on Xbox. We know it’s really important to fans and customers on Xbox.
“We also have more than 100 titles on Game Pass from partners in Japan.”
Spencer also touted the company’s involvement in the independent game scene.
“We now have more than 200 independent Japanese developers in our ID@Xbox program, which really highlights the most creative and independent games for broad audiences everywhere on the planet.”
While Microsoft has had a complicated history in the Japanese gaming scene, Spencer said the Japanese Xbox market was in fact growing.
“We have always enjoyed wonderful support in Japan,” he said. “In recent years, Japan has emerged as the fastest growing market for Xbox anywhere in the world.”
Despite the pitfalls of the past, Microsoft officials say there is growing demand for the company’s latest consoles, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, in Japan.
“We’re excited about the growth of the Japanese gaming market and we want not only to participate, but to help bring Japanese games to players around the world,” Spencer said.
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