A Sony veteran is helping Xbox improve relations in Japan

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Microsoft has appointed Mena Sato Kato as its Director for Partnerships in Japan, showing a strong goal to strengthen its ties with Japanese game developers and publishers, in a key move revealed by Phil Spencer, director of Xbox.

Final Fantasy“>Final Fantasy 7 Remake and its sequel, Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth“>Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, are still not coming to the Xbox but that doesn’t mean that other more popular titles in Japan are off the table now.

Kato, whose tenure at Sony lasted from 1999 to 2021, will spearhead Microsoft’s initiatives to forge closer ties with the Japanese gaming industry. It’s a clear indication that Microsoft isn’t going to continue to ignore efforts to recruit Japanese video game developers.

Kato, who most recently served as Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Vice President of Business Development and Mobile Business, will now head up collaboration initiatives supporting Japanese publishers and developers on a global level. The seasoned professional announced the announcement on LinkedIn and expressed excitement for “unlocking new experiences in the game industry.” She even made mention of attending the Tokyo Game Show this year, which the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association (CESA) predicts will be the greatest one yet. This only adds to the excitement for the event, which is set to take place from September 21 to 24.

Much of PlayStation’s success in Japan is largely attributed to the original PlayStation and the release of relatively obscure titles exclusive to the platform in the country.

This isn’t just a splashy hire; it’s a component of a bigger plan that has been gaining traction. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S debuted day and date in Japan, which is a sharp departure from how the firm has traditionally operated there. Phil Spencer has become more outspoken regarding the company’s dedication to Japanese gamers and artists. He even had a meeting with Hideo Kojima of Kojima Productions last year and had detailed discussions about bringing original games to Xbox. What are these initiatives really about? creating a trust factor that encourages an expansion of the Xbox platform’s Japanese gaming selection. What better way to demonstrate this trust than for Square Enix to finally end a decade-long PlayStation exclusivity in 2024 by releasing Final Fantasy 14 on Xbox consoles?

Although Microsoft’s position in Japan has sometimes been characterized as precarious — let’s face it, PlayStation and Switch sections dominate the presence of the Xbox in Japanese retailers — these are not inconsequential gestures. The fact that mobile games are frequently more well-liked in Japan than console games suggests that this could possibly be the first step in Microsoft’s larger mobile gaming plan there. Could this suggest Xbox is preparing its xCloud smartphone service to make a serious run in Japan given Kato’s background in the mobile business? Given the expanding popularity of cloud gaming services and the market’s preference for mobile experiences, it is very definitely conceivable.

The latest attempt by Xbox to get a foothold in Japan is a sign that Phil Spencer is being proactive in improving relations in the country.

Xbox users have long cried out for more JRPGs and games developed by Japanese developers. Xbox players are envious of the PlayStation brand’s long-standing partnerships with Square Enix and other Japanese businesses like Capcom and Konami, among others, especially as games like the Final Fantasy 7 remaster remain tantalizingly out of reach. It was seen as a positive omen when Phil Spencer recently appeared on Square Enix’s stage to herald the release of new Xbox games. With Kato’s appointment, Microsoft isn’t just reacting; it is adamantly stating that they are dedicated to providing what their audience wants.

The journey ahead will undoubtedly be difficult. With Kato’s appointment, Microsoft appears to have realized how important it is for the brand’s future to develop partnerships in Japan.

In a market that has historically proven difficult for Xbox, every action counts. Microsoft’s efforts in Japan seem to be complex and geared at long-term profits, ranging from acquiring more JRPGs to maybe promoting xCloud smartphone games. It will be interesting to see how these initiatives develop, particularly with the Tokyo Game Show just around the corner, which seems to be a crucial stage for Microsoft’s aspirations in Japan. One thing is certain: the story around Xbox’s tepid connection with Japan is starting to change. This change has the potential to completely alter how we think about console battles today.

With Final Fantasy 14 finally headed to the Xbox, it remains to be seen which other high-profile titles typically associated with Japan will come next.

If PlayStation isn’t cautious, it will have to hand the Xbox both the top spot in the JRPG industry and the Japanese market, much to how it stands to lose Call of Duty once the present agreement expires.

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