Forget PS5 and Xbox – Nintendo Switch still dominating in Japan (though Microsoft has a Trojan horse)

PS5? Xbox Series X? The rumors of a Nintendo Switch Pro? All the western hype for next-generation console hardware matters little in Japan, where the Nintendo Switch continues to absolutely dominate the gaming landscape.

According to Famitsu, of the top 30 best-selling games sold in Japan last week all 30 were Nintendo Switch games

While Microsoft has always struggled in Japan with its Xbox consoles, Sony usually fares much better. But even the relatively recent release of the PS5 has done little to dent Nintendo’s strength in the region, with three of the top five best selling games in Japan currently published by Nintendo.

Of course, it’s not helped by the relative difficulty there is in getting hold of stock of the new machines, whereas the Switch is in tens of millions of homes already. But it also speaks to the lack of compelling new content coming to Microsoft and Sony’s platforms – at least in terms of that which suits the tastes of Japanese audiences.


Analysis: Mining for new audiences

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Microsoft, however.

The number 1 selling game of last week in Japan? That’s Microsoft’s Minecraft.

The reach and popularity of Minecraft is unbelievable still, following its full launch in November 2011. It’s sold more than 200 million copies worldwide, making it the best selling game of all time, to the point where to even discuss it in gaming terms feels somewhat shallow. 

It’s a platform, an educational tool and, for Microsoft, a Trojan horse into markets it’s previously struggled with. Commentators were shocked when the Windows company purchased the property back in 2014 for $2.5 billion, but Microsoft’s foresight was incredible here. Minecraft taps into universal desires to create and socialize, and did so in an aesthetic that could scale no matter what hardware you were using. In this case, Microsoft doesn’t need to sell a 4K / 120Hz capable Xbox to Japanese customers to earn their cash – the multiplatform Minecraft will work just fine on a Nintendo Switch. Or a mobile phone, or low-end computer, even.

It all ties nicely into Microsoft’s ongoing plans for gaming in general – it’s not about the hardware (even if Japan is Microsoft’s strongest growth territory), it’s about the content. And while Nintendo is still dominant in its home of Japan, Minecraft remains evidence that Microsoft’s long-term plans will bear fruit internationally given time.

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