Feature: Xbox the Ease Way

January 15, 2003 11:36 PM PST

The Marunouchi Building is a large business and commercial location across the street from Tokyo Station. On it lower floors you can find a variety of cafes and stores, while majority of the building is used as office space for everyone from Konami to Tokyo University. On the 35th and 36th floors are restaurants with views looking toward Shibuya and into the Imperial Palace.

What surprised me the most was the Ease Café on the first floor. I only visited the place once, but it seems to be a themed café with a monthly “features.” While I was in Tokyo, Ease was setup as an Xbox café containing a half dozen Xboxes with Pioneer 5.1 Dolby Digital Headphones and flat screen TVs. Moreover, the café stocked nearly every Xbox game in existence and would provide any disc at your request. A kind of all you can play special.

So, how was it? The food was great and the atmosphere of the café was pretty classy with wood and metal decor. Most of the items on the menu go for about 700 yen (~$7) and are a decent size by Japanese standards. As for the Xbox part of the café, it was a little more interesting. The pioneer headphones retail for about $400, but the sound kept breaking up as I was using them. I was able to play Blinx, the Time Sweeper and a snowboarding game while I was there. Other than the sound, having the opportunity to play any game out for the system at my own pace sitting on a comfortable sofa beats cramming into many of the other game stores in Japan any day. Most stores in Japan have several popular titles setup at kiosks which you stand and play at. I’ve had little kids run into me and generally get pushed around by shoppers the entire time. In comparison, playing at the Xbox café felt pretty cool. Moreover, after finishing my meal, I was given a TGS Premium Xbox promotion package.

One final note, the crowd of the café was also really interesting. Most of the people at the café were young women, enjoying their afternoons. Moreover, even though people were always sitting at the Xbox seats at the café, almost no one was ever playing the system. I enjoyed my time at ease, but I wonder if the café really succeeded in helping the system have some success in the Japanese market?

Scott Mollett still does not own an Xbox