At the Tokyo Game Show, I talked to two Microsoft Japan representatives. This is one of the two conversations I had. The second, longer discussion, has been briefly mentioned here, and that interview will go live within a day or two of this one. In that second interview, I am speaking with one of the key figures charged with the daunting task of making the next Xbox successful in Japan. In today's we spoke with MS Japan's Ryotaro Hoshi, who is placing a lot of faith in Forza Motorsport 5.
Hoshi believes that the systems' biggest strength is the OS, saying, "The first thing is, the Xbox One has strong processing power, with a lot of high-end parts — for example, the octa-core CPU. You know [Microsoft]. Making an OS is what we do; it's our main business. Not only does the Xbox One have a ton of power, but it has an OS that can use the power to deliver great gameplay."
GameRevolution's Heath Hindman: "In what ways, specifically, is that power demonstrated?"
Microsoft Japan's Ryotaro Hoshi: "For one thing, the beautiful cars in Forza. And when you drive, the sunlight particles come in and is reflected on the windshield. With the lighting and everything, the level of detail is very high."
Note: Forza Motorsport 4 for the Xbox 360 sold 25,000 copies during its opening week in 2011. The next week, it wasn't on the charts anymore, as it sold less than 5,000 copies. With that in mind, we continued…
GR: "So how much do you think Forza Motorsport 5 will appeal to the Japanese audience? How much do these high-powered, high tech, realistic racing games do in Japan?"
Hoshi: "Well, most people can't drive Ferraris, so for this game, you can experience the power of those high-spec exotic cars. Not just with your eyes, but this control has something called Impulse Triggers, which have vibrations, so you can feel how the Ferrari will drive."
GR: "How does Forza 5 add appeal for the Japanese audience, specifically? This is an Xbox One exclusive, so I'm curious: how much power do you think this adds to the Xbox One game library in Japan? How much strength do you think that gives?"
Hoshi: "I think that Forza will be a flagship title for XB1 in terms of the graphics and the game sales. Graphic elements are pretty strong. You can see the stitches over there, on the—"
GR: (Nodding) "I can see the stitches on the steering wheel."
Hoshi: "Yes, and you can see the difference between the body and the fenders."
GR: "It's a nice looking car, I gotta say."
Hoshi: "Yes and very expensive. I don't know how much, but really expensive."
GR: "Well it's more than I'll ever make, whatever it is. Hey do you think I can buy one with my friend's credit card?"
I was having trouble picturing Forza 5 as some kind of dynamo in the Japanese market. So we continued.
GR: "In terms of the general audience, would you pick Forza over Titanfall and Ryse and the other XB1 games as the most appealing game on the system, or… ?"
Hoshi: "In terms of general audience, I think it's a pretty tough question, but Forza and Titanfall will be very important titles in terms of the game itself. And in terms of Kinect…"
GR: "Does this game use the Kinect at all?"
Hoshi: "No." *Reconsiders*
"Well maybe, but we're not saying anything about Kinect at this moment."
GR: "But seriously, let's nail this down here. If you had to guess, which XB1 game will be the most popular with the Japanese audience, what would it probably be? I'm talking about the big breakthrough game that makes Japanese players say 'I got this thing called an Xbox because of this game! Come to my house, you have to see it.' What game can do that in Japan, for Microsoft?"
Hoshi: "I think it will depend on the user."
GR: "Of course. And it would with any other system too. But every successful system has its best-seller and its early standout. What I mean is, if someone's gonna buy a Wii-U in the next year, you'd probably say most will buy a game with Mario in it, maybe Smash Bros. or Mario Kart; for a PS4, probably… the Sony guys would probably pick Knack or Deep Down as the best-selling early PS4 exclusive. What about your exclusives?"
Hoshi: "Yes, well [Forza 5] will be a strong game for us. It's a good game, plus a Microsoft title. But I'm not saying much better than Titanfall or anything like that."
Given that a lot of multiplatform games skip out on PC versions in Japan (and even skip 360, like Dark Souls did), I asked…
GR: "Will Titanfall also be on PC in Japan?"
Hoshi: "I don't know, it's EA's title. It's not our title, so…"
GR: "I was just wondering, if it will be an exclusive is all. Because sometimes there's a PC version in NA, but not a PC version in Japan, and actually that happened with the 360 sometimes. Like what happened with Dark Souls —it was on 360 in Europe and NA, but not Japan. Do you fear that happening with Xbox One? Will third party publishers pull away from that?"
Hoshi: "I don' tknow, but I think if you visit EA, they'll know. It's pretty hard to comment on the third party games."
GR: "On a similar topic: during this past generation, the 360 was the best-selling console in North America. In Europe, it wasn't #1, but it it did very well. But in Japan, it sold less than 2 million overall, like the life to date. What have you guys learned from that that can make the new Xbox sell better in Japan?"
There was some long silence, followed by non-committal remarks, and then we were joined by Naoyuki Isogai, Director of Xbox Marketing, Sales & Retail Division, Microsoft Japan.
We'll post the second part of our interview, with Mr. Isogai, very soon. Thank you for reading, and thanks to Microsoft for the interview. Check back for the next one.