The history of the Xbox One in Japan has been one of extreme struggle, and this extended to all of its major franchises. The Forza series is certainly a good example of that, considering that Japanese gamers historically have a good affinity with racing games.
As a matter of fact, Japanese gamers had their honeymoon with the Forza franchise during the Xbox 360 era, with Forza Motorsport 3 representing the peak, debuting with 31,202 copies sold in its first week.
The Xbox 360 certainly wasn’t a best selling console in Japan, but it wasn’t a complete disaster. With over 1.6 million units sold in Japan in its lifetime (which is over 3 times the original Xbox’s sales), we could define it a quite decent underdog.
The Xbox One is a different story: despite the fact that Microsoft’s latest console continues to have a sizable shelf presence in major gaming stores, it simply failed to click with the Japanese audiences, for reasons that would require a full article of their own (but the biggest ones are probably the initial missteps and high price, the complete lack of a consistent flow of Japanese-centric games, and the fact that the local console market is simply smaller nowadays). Now that we’re just past the second anniversary of the console’s mild launch, lifetime sales are at a dreadful 68,345.
With that small of an installed base, we can’t certainly expect miracle from Xbox games, and the newly-launched Forza Horizon 3 didn’t manage to perform one despite its petrolhead nature, which had a chance to charm more than a few Japanese gamers, especially considering the absolute absence of non-prehistoric Gran Turismo games on the shelves.
Forza Horizon 3 managed to join the handful of Xbox One titles that made the list, but only barely, grabbing a 44th place in its debut week.
Despite the fact that the installed base of the console is (very slowly) expanding in the country, this is actually a worse performance than its predecessors. Forza Horizon 2 ranked 25th when it launched. Forxza Motorsport 6 barely missed the top 20 by getting a 21st place and selling about 4,000 copoies in its debut week.
Forza Motorsport 5 was the best performer of the Xbox One generation by selling 6,093 copies in its first week on the shelves, and actually landing into Media Create’s top 20. The series has been spiraling downwards in Japan since.
This is a pity, especially considering that Japanese gamers really don’t have a strong racing franchise on their hands, and that Forza Horizon 3 is really, really good. I actually groaned quite a lot because I wasn’t able to review it myself, since I was in Japan, and didn’t have my Xbox One with me.
How can the Forza franchise recover some of the lost ground in the archipelago of the rising sun?
Personally, I would absolutely love to see Forza Horizon 4 set in Japan. The country has an extremely rich car culture, and a fantastic mix of asphalt among highways, urban streets, coastal roads and mountain passes. The off-road mix is equally as diverse and charming.
Racing across the famous Shibuya scramble crossing like in Fast and Furious – Tokyo Drift or on the Touge roads made famous by Initial D? Yes, thank you. And please give me some Eurodance in the radio.
Since Forza Motorsport seems to have left the fantastic Fujimi Kaido track behind (I’m looking at you, Turn 10, with stern disapproval in my eyes), I’d be overjoyed if Forza Horizon brought us back to the motherland of drifting. I’m also quite positive that it’d give the franchise a good bump among the local audience.
Of course, Forza Horizon 4 will probably come in a couple of years, so we’ll be in Project Scorpio territory, and who knows how the console gaming landscape will be at that point.
And if you ask me if this news piece was just a not-so-covert pitch for a Forza Horizon set in Japan… Well… I’ll just turn around and walk away whistling. I don’t know what you’re talking about.