Xbox has a long history of failing to make any kind of impression on Japan. To Bill Gates' credit, Microsoft continues to cling to the Japanese market with a bulldog grip, but word has started coming in about Japanese retailers phasing out the Xbox 360. It looks like the Xbox 360's time is up in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Though Microsoft did in fact move 1.5 million units by last June, that's still a pretty pitiful number when you take into account that the Xbox 360 has been available in Japan since 2005. Even the PlayStation Vita, which everyone has been making doomsday forecasts about, has sold approx 500-600k in just three months.
Moreover, the Xbox 360's last high-profile system exclusive, a pop star management game called The Idolmaster 2, didn't make a sizable dent on the sales charts, which has led to Namco-Bandai to announce it will be porting the game to the PlayStation 3, DLC and all.
If you live in Japan and you want games for the Xbox 360, look no further than the bargain bins, where games can be found for as low as 100 yen (about $1.30 USD). Given the Xbox 360 is reaching the end of its lifespan, and considering Kinect did little to tempt new adopters in Japan, it's safe to say this is the end of the line for the Xbox 360 in Japan.
It's a shame, because Microsoft went for it this generation. They were adamant that they would take the fight to Sony, and paid lots of money to make prominent Japanese franchises exclusive to their system. Coups of this nature included Tales of Vesperia and Star Ocean 4, while Mistwalker's original titles would also be Xbox 360 exclusive. They even tied-up deals with Square Enix for new titles like Infinite Undiscovery and The Last Remnant.
It's easy to say the platform performed miserably in Eastern markets, because, frankly, that's the truth. Despite a brief sales boost that accompanied the launch of the Xbox 360 Slim, Microsoft's entry in the console race was simply not destined to thrive in the long term.
So what comes next for the Xbox brand in Japan? Most likely, whatever comes next for North America. There's little doubt Microsoft will roll up its sleeves and take another swing at the Japanese games market. The Xbox 360 did poorly overall, but it did gain a bit of recognition. Hold up those 1.5 million 360"²s sold against the mere 500,000 original Xbox systems that found homes in Japan, and hey, you have a slight improvement.
The real question is, which will run out first: Microsoft's resolve, or Japanese retailers' trust in Microsoft's products? Microsoft keeps stepping up to the plate, and that's admirable, but will that be enough to convince Eastern shops to stock the next Xbox and its games?
Ask again in a few years and you'll have your answer. In the meantime, RIP Japanese Xbox 360s.