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Microsoft scraps online game for Xbox

"True Fantasy Live Online," which was supposed to help revive sales of the Xbox in Japan, has been nixed after three years of development and several delays.

Microsoft said Thursday that it has scrapped plans to roll out an online game that was supposed to help revive the fortunes of its Xbox game console in Japan.

"True Fantasy Live Online," a multiplayer role-playing game, was expected to be the Xbox's answer to Square Enix's immensely popular online version of "Final Fantasy," which, as far as consoles go, is only available for Sony's PlayStation 2.

Microsoft officials prominently displayed the game at last year's Tokyo Game Show, saying it would be a way for the Xbox to win over Japanese gamers, who are known for their love of role-playing games. But, after three years of development that saw the game's launch target pushed back three times, Microsoft said it decided not to publish the game because it failed to live up to expectations.

Level 5, a Japanese video game developer, created the game for Microsoft, which in March pushed back the title's launch date until winter from an earlier spring target.

"This is very disappointing, but we couldn't go through with another delay in the launch date," said a Microsoft representative.

According to game magazine publisher Enterbrain, Microsoft had sold fewer than 500,000 Xbox consoles in Japan as of March 28. The product was launched in February 2002.

By comparison, Sony has sold nearly 15 million PlayStation 2s in Japan since that product's launch in March 2000, and Nintendo has sold 3.2 million GameCube consoles since the GameCube's September 2001 release.

Xbox's troubles in Japan started early on. Its launch trailed PlayStation 2 by nearly two years and GameCube by five months. Then, within a month of its launch, customers complained that the machine was scratching DVDs.

Despite its problems in Japan, the Xbox has gained ground on PlayStation 2 in the United States and holds the No. 2 slot in that market, ahead of Nintendo's GameCube.

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.