Japanese developers weigh in on why Xbox doesn't get niche Japanese games
Why not just release digitally and get around the minimum?
The Xbox brand has always had a tough time finding success in the Far East. The console brand was never as established as the PlayStation or Nintendo brands and while there might be a number of reasons as to why, there's a severe lack of 'Japanese friendly games' on the Xbox - event Xbox's Phil Spencer noted it.
"A lot of Japanese gamers really seem to like games such as Persona 5 or Nioh," said Spencer in an interview with Play-Asia in 2016 after Scalebound's cancellation. "If we plan on doing better in the Japanese game market, we want to release games that the average Japanese gamer will really enjoy."
Looking at the brand a year after the statement shows that not much has changed despite the Xbox head teasing visiting Japan on multiple occasions. Japanese developers have taken note of this and spoken out on why consumers don't see very many Japanese games on Xbox.
"Honestly speaking, Microsoft's approach to Japanese games hasn't been very supportive," said NIS America president and CEO Takuro Yamashita to MCV. "Microsoft, you know, for Japanese games, there's still a very niche element to them, no matter what it might be.
"Microsoft also has a minimum order quantity for their games, and their whole structure isn't really geared toward niche games or smaller games like Japanese titles, so they're not really supportive of Japanese games or developers."
Yamashita's explanation is also the reason why Xbox owners don't see a physical release for some smaller games, like Shovel Knight. It's not necessarily an 'anti-Japanese games' thing at Microsoft, but more like a general lack of support for small studios that would like to see their game physically release instead of digitally release.
While NIS America says its Xbox's standards that keep Japanese developers at bay, Nihon Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo says it's more along the lines of the mark not being there for Japanese gamers.
Altogether, it seems like smaller Japanese developers are not looking at the Xbox because it's not very popular in Japan. Bigger studios, like Koei Tecmo, Bandai Namco, and Capcom release games for Xbox.