EA: Japanese consumers are an unpredictable market
Electronic Arts president points to console growth opportunities in strong Asian markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong
While Sales of the Xbox 360 have experienced a surprising surge in Japan, EA's Asia Pacific president John Niermann has described the local consumers as "unpredictable".
Despite Microsoft's hard work in the region, the Xbox 360 has failed to secure a significant marketshare, meaning less sales for third-party publishers as well as the format holder. Even Electronic Arts, the biggest Western publisher in the region, has struggled to understand why the console hasn't seen any significant success.
"It makes a difference for us. If there were more 360s in the market than obviously we'd have bigger total unit sales," commented Niermann.
"For us it definitely would be a good thing, and I don't know what their thoughts are on that - watching it from the outside they've got a great machine, they've put a great effort into it. So it's just always unpredictable how the consumer responds," he said.
As consoles take more advantage of online connectivity, there should be more opportunities in the wider Asian markets said Niermann, for services such as PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.
"Markets like Singapore and Hong Kong are small markets, but they're strong console markets," said Niermann.
"I think console online is going to have a good future. We think that packaged goods games will only be about half in terms of revenue, so it's always going to be a very important core part of our business. They're going to continue to grow," he said.
Niermann conceded that Sony and Nintendo benefit from better understanding, branding and experience in Asian markets, but even these companies have released products that were originally dismissed before achieving significant sales – perhaps providing hope for Microsoft in the region.
"I think no matter where you're from there's a home field advantage - they're Japanese companies, they understand the market really well, they've got a history within the market, they're well-respected companies. When people see their brand on the product, that really helps.
"Look at what happened with Nintendo, it caught everybody by surprise, and it's still catching them by surprise. Now, Sony has rebounded with the PlayStation Portable, taking back market share when everybody kind of counted them out in Japan. They've come back, so all the developers are scrambling to find more PSP space," offered Niermann.
Perseverance, suggested Niermann, could be the key to Asian success, not just for format holders, but publishers as well.
"What's good about it is that they seem to evolve, even though they have such long lead times for their product development, and they seem to be able to respond. I think there is some home field advantage, but we all have fair playground there."
The full interview with John Niermann can be read here.