Xbox’s Japan chief resigned recently due to lackluster sales of the Xbox One in Japan. Only 39,000 units were sold to date; 24,000 of which at launch. That’s horrible.
When it comes to console games in Japan, Microsoft needs to realize it is David not Goliath. Microsoft can’t fight Sony head-to-head, sword-to-sword in Japan. It needs to go guerilla warfare and use a slingshot.
Here’s what I would do if I was chief of Xbox Japan:
Scale back operations. Forget the huge office, the army of people, the national distribution networks. Xbox Japan should think like a start-up and go lean. This will allow them to shift resources to initiatives that actually work, instead of pouring money into hopeless battles.
Embrace the outsider identity. Position Xbox as anti-establishment. Make fun of regular Japanese people who only play regular Japanese games. Paint the Playstation 4 as conformist — you probably wear a suit and bow a lot if you have the Playstation 4. The Xbox One, on the other hand, is about being free. About giving the middle finger to the rigidity of society; basically, American values. 🙂
I would personify the Xbox One vs. Playstation 4 comparison, like in the Mac vs. PC ads that Apple pursued once upon a time.
This marketing message will offend some Japanese — but those Japanese aren’t buying the Xbox One anyway. And it just might hit a chord with people who identify enough to consider an Xbox One.
Go cheap, go direct. Yeah, that’s controversial, but I’d do cut the price of the Xbox One and sell it direct online. Selling direct will save money and Xbox should pass those savings directly to consumers.
Not being able to buy the machine in the electronics store around the corner might seem strange to many Japanese, but it’ll reinforce the Xbox’s non-conformist image. Gamers who can’t live without the Internet to play competitive FPS — i.e. Microsoft’s target market — won’t have problems buying over the Internet anyway. Especially the ones contrarian enough to choose Xbox.
Focus on your advocates. By definition, there won’t be many non-conformists, so it’s important to identify and recruit them as advocates. The how is the difficult part, but maybe it’s some kind of a club; monthly gatherings (and gaming competitions); free games; and so on.
The objective is not to sell more products to these super-users — by definition, they are the ones buying already — it’s about gaining their loyalty so they’ll keep telling their friends about Xbox and troll online forums on Xbox’s behalf.
Apple brand advocates are among the most powerful in the tech world. Xbox needs to build something similar, person by person, in Japan. It’ll feel slow at first, but when it works awareness will grow faster and more deeply than what’s possible from plain vanilla advertising.
Those are the broad strokes of the marketing strategy I’d pursue in Japan for Xbox. It’s different, it’s maybe a little risky, but it’s certainly better than the hopeless road they’re on now.