Microsoft's difficulties in penetrating the notoriously tricky Japanese gaming market have been well documented , with the original Xbox being roundly branded a flop, so the launch this week of a major new title for the Xbox 360 has been the subject of close scrutiny.
Blue Dragon , produced by the Mistwalker games studio, has long been seen as a critical game for the Xbox 360 in its battle with Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii. The thinking is that every console needs several major draws - games that are sufficiently compelling in their own right to induce people to buy the console just to play them.
To that end, Microsoft Japan launched Blue Dragon this week as part of a bundle with the Xbox 360 core system for 29,800 Yen (£132). The game on its own costs 7,140 Yen (£32), making it clear that the package amounts to a copy of Blue Dragon with a £100 console thrown in.
The game itself is a typical role-playing, good vs evil scenario, although the fact that it was developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi of Final Fantasy fame is sure to go down well with the die-hard Japanese fans. Microsoft, for one, will certainly hope so. Overseas launch dates are still unclear. J Mark Lytle