Yesterday, Microsoft Japan president Yasuyuki Higuchi said that the Xbox One would be delayed a little in Japan compared to North America, calling it a ‘Tier 2 country’ as far as the console’s launch strategy goes.
That’s not surprising since both predeeding Xbox consoles have performed poorly in Japan, but Higuchi’s comments do hint at an early to mid-2014 launch for the Xbox One in Japan. If that makes it a Tier 2 country, where does mainland Asia, where the console is set to launch in “late 2014”, stand?
Shortly after Microsoft announced at E3 that the Xbox One would launch in 21 countries this year, Alan Bowman, Microsoft's regional vice president for sales and marketing in Asia, confirmed that India and a bunch of other Asian countries were not included in that list. In fact, he said that the Xbox One would only arrive in India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea in late 2014.
Microsoft India has itself refused to say anything about its plans for the Xbox One.
So if Microsoft is grouping countries into tiers on the basis of importance, it makes you wonder what tier a late 2014 launch would bracket India into.
In some ways, a delayed Indian launch shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The Xbox 360 too launched in India almost a year after it’s American launch, but the Indian market has progressed quite a bit in that time.
The Xbox 360 was one of the first consoles to receive an official launch in India, and it was Microsoft’s first major hardware launch in the country. At the time, the Xbox brand was relatively unknown to the country, and so it required a more considered approach.
The Xbox brand is established now, as is console gaming in general. The PS3 is going strong and Kinect gave the Xbox 360 some much needed mid-life-cycle impetus in the country.
The market is also being well supported by the distribution and retail segments. Every major game publisher is now represented in India, and games retail has grown substantially, with specialists and large format stores supporting new game releases with preorder campaigns, midnight launches and other promotions.
With the Xbox brand now established in India and the console market growing, there could be three possible reasons for Microsoft to still delay the Xbox One launch in India to late 2014:
- Microsoft doesn’t expect the Xbox One to perform well in India, so it doesn’t feel the need to prioritise this market.
- It’s purely a geographical issue, with mainland Asia being a logistical challenge. After all, Brazil is one of the 21 launch countries. The Xbox 360 launched there after India and only got Xbox Live in 2010. It’s inclusion in Tier 1 could be purely down to its geographical proximity to North America.
- The official reason – With Xbox One being positioned as an all-in-one entertainment device, Microsoft wants to tie up content partnerships in India to ensure that there’s digital entertainment content available on Xbox One when it launches here.
Whatever the reasoning may be, the Xbox One will be at a disadvantage when it does eventually launch in 2014, especially with the PS4 set to launch this year itself. Moreover, with Microsoft reversing its DRM and region policies, the grey market in India will most definitely be flooded with import Xbox One units, taking away sales that would have otherwise gone to Microsoft India.
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