Microsoft, having learned its lesson with Xbox, put a great deal more effort into the early 2006 Korean launch of its successor, the Xbox 360. Since then, the company has still continued to push the system in various ways, but promotion has become decidedly lax overall.
Go to any of Seoul’s ultra-hip malls or entertainment meccas, and there’s a good chance you’ll come upon a stylish 360 mini-lounge complete with huge HD displays, futuristic low lighting, super-comfy sofas, and attractive young employees paid to keep everything in check. Some of them, such as the one in Yongsan’s Space 9, even have rows of computers for free internet surfing.
You can also spot a bus or two from time to time in swanky Gangnam (‘South River’) that’s quite literally ‘wrapped’ in Xbox 360 in order to attract attention and raise awareness. Further, and perhaps most importantly, nearly every big box retailer in Korea has had an official 360 demo setup since day one, in addition to very visible retail displays provided by Microsoft. The demo units are generally very popular and well maintained by field employees who make the rounds on a regular basis.
What’s mentioned above, however, is just about all there is. TV commercials for 360 are virtually nonexistent, and have been for the majority of the eighteen months since its release. Also telling is the fact that in the wake of Ninety-Nine Nights’ lukewarm reception, there have been no more major domestically developed releases for the system.
From day one, 360 sales in Korea were never spectacular, and that hasn’t changed. It’s not unpopular, but it hasn’t found much of an audience outside the hardcore crowd, who generally hold it in much higher esteem than PS3 and find it to be quite a steal at its current price – the Premium Package can easily be obtained for around 330,000 Won, or about $350 USD.
At this point, it rather feels as if Microsoft came out of the gates running full speed, only to slow down to a walk when it realized that the spectators weren’t going to respond with quite the enthusiasm it had anticipated. 360 is certainly going to stay around in Korea, but it’s unlikely at this point that it’ll be making any major waves in the industry.
Then there’s Sony and its PlayStation 3. While the console’s launch party in Yongsan this past June was put on with quite a bit of fanfare, there was virtually no excitement in the air, and not many people showed up until rather late in the proceedings.
With a price tag well over 500,000 Won and many months’ worth of bad pre-launch press, only the hardcore were interested. Sony’s problem here turned out to be the fact that for the most part, the hardcore were already more than satisfied with their Xbox 360s, and weren’t going to drop the cash until the system’s real heavy-hitters would show up.
That’s not to say that PS3 isn’t selling; it is, just not at any remarkable pace. As pointed out earlier, Sony attracted a sizeable following in the PS2 era through great effort and heavy investment, and much of that following still feels a loyalty toward the PlayStation brand.