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Microsoft to Triple Xbox 360 Titles in Japan

Xbox tries to make headway by growing to 80 game titles, as Sony Playstation 3 is delayed.

(Tokyo) -- The new head of Microsoft's Japanese video-game business expressed determination Thursday to make the Xbox 360 a success in Japan, where the console has struggled, by more than tripling the number of games it offers by the end of the year.

"Our message is this: We're prepared to do everything that's needed to make Xbox 360 a success around the world, including Japan," said Takashi Sensui, who became the head of Japan's Xbox operations this month.

Up to now, Microsoft's Xbox 360 console and its predecessor, the Xbox, have struggled against the domination of products from Japanese game-makers Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co.

A major part of Xbox's troubles have stemmed from the lack of role-playing games, which are favored here over the shoot-'em-up and action games that tend to be hits in the U.S.

Microsoft has made a point of signing on game designers popular in Japan to deliver works like "Final Fantasy XI," set to go on sale later this month.

Xbox 360 has a pocket of opportunity to win over Japanese gamers because Sony, which makes the market leader PlayStation 2 console, recently announced it's delaying the sale of the next-generation PlayStation 3 until November.

Nintendo makes Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS handheld machines and is planning its home console Revolution for later this year.

Xbox 360 has been on sale since November in the United States and went on sale in Japan in December, beating rivals to the market.

Twenty-five software games are out so far for Xbox 360 in Japan, and Sensui said 15 more are being developed for release by the summer in Japan. Microsoft plans to have 80 titles available by the end of the year.

Microsoft will also beef up its entertainment downloads catering to Japanese tastes, such as animation trailers, and online gaming available on its online service Xbox Live, Sensui said. The service, first offered in 2002 in the United States, started in Japan in 2003.

Microsoft has not said how many Xbox 360 machines have been sold in Japan, but is planning to ship between 4.5 million and 5.5 million of the consoles worldwide by June 30, when its fiscal year ends.

Sensui said Xbox 360 was already proving a "whirlwind of success" in the U.S. and Europe.

"My job is to create that same kind of success in Japan," he said.

Noteworthy: Microsoft Buys Lionhead Studios

Microsoft video-game development arm said Thursday it is buying British game developer Lionhead Studios, creator of the "Fable" series for Microsoft's Xbox console. The series has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, according to the company.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but under the agreement, Lionhead will develop games exclusively for the Xbox 360 console and platforms operating on Windows.

Shane Kim, general manager of Microsoft Game Studios, welcomed the company and its founder, Peter Molyneux, aboard.

"Peter Molyneux is one of the few true visionaries in our industry, and his joining us is incredibly important to the future of both interactive entertainment and MGS," he said in a statement.

Molyneux responded in a statement: "This acquisition gives Lionhead the stability and opportunity to focus on creating world-class next-generation titles."

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