360 Elites are cheap and plentiful … in Japan

Microsoft made a doody when they launched the 360 in Japan; instead of having the killer apps they needed to win over the extremely finnicky Jap market, they delivered Tetris Grandmaster Ace and then sat around wondering “What went wrong?”

Well, not that anyone is going to buy them, but Microsoft has at least put in a good effort to make the 360 Elite readily availably in Japan and at a much lower price ($390, as opposed to $480 in the states and $800 on eBay). Hit the jump for details from Bloomberg and Microsoft’s reasoning for doing something smart in the land of tentacle rape and used panty machines.

July 5 (Bloomberg) — Microsoft Corp., which trails Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co. in game-console sales in Japan, will offer its new Xbox 360 model at a cheaper price in the country than in the U.S. to help gain market share.

The black Xbox 360 Elite will sell for 47,800 yen ($390) in Japan, less than the $479.99 price in the U.S., the Redmond, Washington-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. The machine, whose 120-gigabyte hard disk drive can store six times the data of the current model, goes on sale Oct. 11 in Japan.

“The decision on the pricing was based on the situation in the Japanese market,” said Jun Yoshihara, Microsoft’s Tokyo- based spokesman. “We are not satisfied with our position in Japan and working to improve it.”

Microsoft failed to take advantage of its one-year lead over Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii in Japan, as its software lineup didn’t live up to expectations. The company has since increased the number of game titles, courted famous creators and introduced a cheaper model to boost sales.

Xbox 360 sales lagged behind the Wii by 14-to-1 and the PlayStation 3 by about 4-to-1 in Japan this year, according to estimates by Tokyo-based research firm Enterbrain Inc. last month. Microsoft sold 122,565 consoles this year through June 24, compared with 1.78 million Wiis and 503,554 PlayStation 3 units, according to the report.

Shares of Microsoft fell 2 cents to $30 at 10:07 a.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock is little- changed this year.

Not Enough Games?

Peter Moore, Microsoft’s vice president of interactive entertainment, said in September that insufficient Xbox game titles were the reasons for falling behind Nintendo and Sony in Japan.

In the U.S., Microsoft outsells Sony. It sold 154,900 Xbox 360 machines in May, compared with 81,600 PS3s, according to data compiled by Port Washington, New York-based NPD Group Inc. Nintendo sold 338,000 Wii units, NPD said.

Microsoft sells two Xbox 360 models in Japan for 39,795 yen and 29,800 yen each. The Wii, which has no hard drive, costs $250. Sony’s $499 PlayStation 3 machine has a 20-gigabyte hard drive, while its $599 console has a 60-gigabyte drive.

The yen has weakened 2.8 percent against the dollar this year, the worst performer among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg in the period.

Special thanks to Joe Burling’s mom for driving me to the hospital after I blew my hand off yesterday, and for this delightful tip.