Microsoft is looking to get an early start on preparations for E3 2019.
There have been a lot of developers who have decided to ditch this year's E3 ceremony for various reasons. Some companies like EA is planning its own private show in the form of EA Play. Meanwhile, Sony says it's skipping the event due to a lack of big games, although it may also be because they're not quite ready to unveil the PlayStation 5.
Despite these big exclusions, video game giants like Nintendo and Microsoft are still planning to have their presentations as usual. Nintendo will likely do their usual Nintendo Direct live-stream, while Microsoft is still booked for the E3 main stage. For that show, Executive Vice President Phil Spencer appears to be doing some traveling to Japan and Korea in order to score up some talking points for Microsoft.
Looking forward to the week in Korea and Japan visiting studios and publishers. Always inspired by the great games these studios are delivering. Talking about E3 and getting input on future plans is always fun.— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) March 31, 2019
Spencer tweeted the above on March 31st, indicating that he was heading out to speak with Japanese and Korean developers. Microsoft has never fared particularly well in Japan or Asia in general. Despite some strong sales in the US, the Xbox One has sold very poorly in the Asian market. In 2018, the console sold under 16,000 units in Japan, and to date, has only sold a little over 100,000 units in total. In comparison, Japanese sales numbers estimate that PS4 models have sold well over 7 million units, and the Nintendo Switch sales numbers are closing in on that total as well.
Which makes this tweet very interesting and open to speculation. Microsoft could be trying to correct its poor showing in Japan by trying to court favor with some more prominent Japanese game designers and developers. It wouldn't be the first time Microsoft has tried this, either.
Microsoft has already made major moves towards some Japanese game companies. Its recent business relationship with Nintendo has been well documented. They've recently allowed Cuphead to be available on the Switch, and soon, Xbox Live will be enabled on Nintendo's console as well. In fact, the two companies have even joined forces in throwing shade at Sony over its lack of cross-platform play for games like Minecraft and Fortnite.
Furthermore, Spencer has previously traveled to Japan to speak with developers about the successor to the Xbox One, codenamed "Xbox Project Scarlett." Microsoft is desperate to improve its reputation in Asia. Getting feedback on how to tool the next console for the Asian market from the developers themselves is a wise move, although how much of this feedback Microsoft will actually use is questionable.
One tweet is more than enough to raise several questions about what Microsoft is planning for this year's E3 and beyond. Improving console sales in the East isn't going to happen overnight, and it certainly isn't going to be easy. Locking down some exclusive games that may appeal to the Asian market might help things a little, although considering that most of Microsoft's games can also be played on PC, it doesn't necessarily mean it would help with hardware sales.
We don't know what Microsoft has up its sleeves for this year. Xbox Project Scarlett is a mystery, and there's no real word on whether or not it will be announced at this year's E3. There's also been rumors about Xbox Games Pass coming to other services, and while some insiders have denied this, it hasn't been officially debunked. Phil Spencer himself has said that they'll have "a lot to share" at this year's show, so we'll just have to wait until this June to see what Microsoft has planned for both Japan and the world at large.