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Microsoft signs more key Japanese devs for Xbox 2

Noted Japanese developers Yoshiki Okamoto of Game Republic and Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Q Entertainment have both signed up with Microsoft Game Studios to develop Xbox 2-exclusive titles.

Noted Japanese developers Yoshiki Okamoto of Game Republic and Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Q Entertainment have both signed up to develop Xbox 2-exclusive titles for Microsoft Game Studios.

The announcement follows last week's revelation that Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguichi has committed his Mist Walker studio to developing a pair of RPGs for the next-generation platform, and is expected to greatly increase Microsoft's standing in the Far East.

As with the Sakaguchi announcement, however, it does not appear that the two designers and their respective studios will be limiting their entire output to the Xbox 2 platform, as some may fear glancing at headlines.

As a former Capcom executive, Okamoto has of course been involved with Xbox before - Capcom being one of the few Japanese firms to lend support to the console in its current incarnation - but Game Republic is still a feather in Microsoft's next-gen cap regardless.

Equally, there's no question of how important Mizuguchi's involvement will be to hardcore gamers around the world who have come to love his distinctive work, which includes the likes of SEGA Rally, Space Channel 5 and Rez.

Microsoft today argued that the announcement underscores "a growing preference... for the next generation Xbox platform" among developers. VP Peter Moore reckons "Gamers will be riveted by the experience enabled by such creators when given the proper canvas and tools."

Okamoto, whose previous life at Capcom included spells on Street Fighter and Resident Evil, amongst other things, said his goal "is to make completely fresh and riveting experiences that gamers have never had before," and like Sakaguchi last week he said that he felt with Xbox 2 he could "turn this vision into a reality".

Mizuguchi, meanwhile, said that he hoped to graduate from games that brought "ultimate fun" to games that would "give gamers the most emotional and thrilling gaming experience possible - joy, thrills, sympathy and speed".

Mizuguchi and Sakaguchi's shared emphasis of "emotion" in describing their goals for next-gen Xbox titles in the last week is an interesting and Microsoft will hope symbolic reflection of the rhetoric surrounding the launch of the industry-leading PlayStation 2 four years ago, when the "Emotion Engine" was the hype du jour.

Xbox 2, which Microsoft plans to launch in late 2005, will be the first next-gen platform to market, and the company hopes to capitalise on the significant gap in the market before PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution appear in 2006 - just as they believe Sony did with the PlayStation 2, which emerged long before Xbox and GameCube.

"The power and advanced technologies of the next-generation Xbox platform will enable winning games with powerful emotions, high-quality graphics and sound," Mizuguchi concluded. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but with names of this calibre on the credit list we can at least say that Japan will be waiting to see this time around, too, rather than just staring on indifferently.

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