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Japanese analysts down on X360

It's got 'lukewarm functions'.

With Microsoft set to roll out the Xbox 360 in Japan on Saturday - its third territory launch in as many weeks - opinions on the console's prospects in the region remain mixed, but analysts are largely unimpressed by the system.

A number of recent studies have shown that the Xbox 360 is gaining ground with Japanese consumers - local trade association CESA's survey at TGS showed that 23 per cent of consumers want an Xbox 360, compared to just under 21 per cent who are interested in Nintendo's Revolution.

Market analysts, however, are less convinced - with a Forbes survey of leading analysts in the sector in Tokyo showing that most are unimpressed by the software line-up and specifications of the next-gen system.

"We had previously thought that Xbox 360 could gain a major share of the Japanese market by taking some market share from front-runner Sony Computer Entertainment," commented Mitsubishi UFJ Securities analyst Hirotoshi Murakami.

"But now we think that such a prospect may not be realised, given the limited attractiveness of its titles and lukewarm functions."

The functionality of the device was slammed also by Nobuyuki Kawamata from Tokai Tokyo Research Center, who said that the "basic functions of Xbox 360 are inferior to Sony's next-generation machine" - a contentious point which few in the industry have been able to agree upon, but which seems to be taken as fact in the Far East.

Shinko Securities analyst Yuichi Kobayashi is even down on the global prospects for Xbox 360, telling Forbes that "Unless Sony fails to bring the next-generation PlayStation 3 console to market on time, Microsoft appears to have almost no chance to be the industry leader."

Xbox 360 has always faced an uphill struggle in Japan. Hindered by a lack of locally developed software and key franchises, as well as by a perception that the system design was ugly and a general suspicion of a console product developed overseas, the original Xbox failed to sell even half a million units in the region.

Microsoft has gone out of its way to court Japanese developers for Xbox 360, winning support from former Sega development star Tetsuya Mizugichi, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and Street Fighter producer Yoshiki Okamoto, among others.

The firm remains bullish about the prospects for the console in Japan; regional Xbox boss Yoshihiro Maruyama, himself a former executive at key publisher Square Enix, predicted recently that a million Xbox 360s will be sold in Japan by next summer, with two million sold by the end of next year.