Microsoft's Xbox hasn't ever had an easy time in Japan. The historically Xbox-sceptical market is increasingly important for Microsoft, as popularity in Japanese games resurges. Recent Nintendo Switch exclusive Monster Hunter Rise has already shipped 4 million copies, behind only Monster Hunter World, which shipped on both Xbox and PlayStation simultaneously.
Microsoft has seen some breakthroughs with franchises that have historically avoided Xbox in the past, with games like Yakuza and Dragon Quest finally hitting the platform last year. Problems still remain, however, with series like Persona and Shin Megami Tensei still avoiding Xbox, and Square-Enix and Sony partnering up to lock Final Fantasy to PlayStation platforms.
Clearly, Microsoft knows it has to flip its fortunes in Japan, and has been making moves to advertise Xbox Game Pass to gaming audiences in the region.
Yesterday, I noticed a wave of Xbox Game Pass-sponsored streams hitting Japanese Vtuber channels, kicking off with Luna and Botan. Together, both streamers enjoy an audience of over one million subscribers.
Vtubers use apps like FaceRig on Steam to portray themselves as anime-style characters. The format is becoming increasingly popular across YouTube, Twitch, and other streaming platformers, as content creators take increasingly creative measures to stand out in a busy crowd.
The partnerships seem to indicate a renewed interest in Japan from Microsoft, which recently acquired its first Japanese studio with the big Bethesda acquisition, in the form of Tango Gameworks. Tango is responsible for the incredible (and underrated) Evil Within franchise, created by Shinji Mikami of Resident Evil and God Hand fame.
Xbox Game Pass has proven itself to be a great vehicle for enticing Japanese franchises like Yakuza and Dragon Quest to the platform. Sega went as far as to bring every single Yakuza entry to Game Pass as a result. Whether or not Xbox Game Pass can be the vehicle that finally helps Xbox break into Japan remains to be seen, but these partnerships seem to suggest that it won't be from lack of trying.
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