Microsoft delays Xbox launch in Japan

Microsoft will delay the launch of its Xbox games console in Japan to allow it to devote all its resources to a successful U.S. launch, the company announced Monday in Tokyo.

The Xbox will launch in Japan on Feb. 22, 2002, a date chosen not only for the string of "2"s in its numerical form (2002-2-22, as the Japanese write it) but also because it will give Microsoft breathing space after the planned U.S. launch on Nov. 8. The company had originally said it would begin selling the Xbox in Japan in late 2001, in time for the Christmas shopping season. Instead, the company has decided to devote its full production capacity to satisfying U.S. demand for the console.

This means Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s new Gamecube console will be on sale for several months in Japan without competition from Microsoft. Nintendo plans to launch the Gamecube in Japan on Sept. 14 and follow in the U.S. on Nov. 14. Microsoft also said three additional computer games makers have signed up to produce software for the console. They are: Atlus Co. Ltd., From Software Inc. and Namco Ltd.

Atlus said it will produce a new version of its role-playing game (RPG) "Shin Megami Tensei On Line" for the console. The latest incarnation in Koji Okamoto's Shin Megami Tensei series, the Xbox game will employ voice recognition, said Atlus.

From Software said it is developing two new games, the company's first simulation RPG with the tentative name "Gaia Blade," and a fast action shooting game called tentatively "Murakumo." Gaia Blade development is being led by the same team that created Eternal Ring, said the company, while Murakumo will be an Xbox-exclusive game and make use of the console's hard disk drive.

Namco is developing four titles for the console, it said. They include Xbox versions of "Ridge Racer" and "Soul Caliber 2" and two games being produced exclusively for the console: "Dead to Rights," which is described as an adventure about a police officer framed for murder who escapes and exacts revenge, and a second unnamed action-adventure title.

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