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Tokyo Game Show 2007: The View From The Floor
Tokyo Game Show 2007: The View From The Floor
September 21, 2007 | By Christian Nutt, Tokyo

September 21, 2007 | By Christian Nutt, Tokyo
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Each September, the Tokyo Game Show proves to be an unmissable trade show for the enthusiast press and the legions of international game companies wanting to do business in Japan. In its first post-E3 incarnation, however, the show has failed to wow the enthusiast press, and though it has expanded to four days (with two reserved for press and business use) the show floor seems more consumer-focused than ever, with some games scheduled to appear only on the two public days.

Hirai Kicks Off A Low-Key Show?

The show began with Kaz Hirai's keynote, which focused directly on the fortunes of the PlayStation 2, PS3, and PSP. Hirai's keynote was not received warmly by the enthusiast press, who wanted more game announcements -- and were dissatisfied with the announcement of the long-awaited DualShock 3 rumble controller and disappointed by an announcement in the delay of Home, PlayStation 3's virtual world service.

However, Hirai admitted Sony's failures in its relationships with its userbase and developers and promised improvements in these areas -- a significant change for a company that has been seen as arrogant and unresponsive for some time.

The consensus among the western press is that the show seems smaller and lower-key than in prior years, despite its potentially increased importance in the wake of E3's dissolution. The trend of companies saving big announcements for private events seems to be likely to continue, if this year's TGS is any indication. While some new games debuted for the first time, few major publishers announced large-scale next generation projects at the show; notable titles announced around TGS include Secret Agent Clank (SCE, PSP) and Ninja Gaiden II (Microsoft/Tecmo, Xbox 360.)

Trends And Rumors

The Wii is inundated with casual sports games: Hudson debuted DecaSporta, which features 10 sports; Namco Bandai debuted Family Trainer: Athletic World, with a resurrected Power Pad peripheral, while Capcom offered We Love Golf.

However, during the press days, these games were all but deserted -- the crowds preferring the hardcore pleasures of games like Devil May Cry 4 and Square Enix's closed mega theater, which played host to videos of three new Kingdom Hearts games (for PSP, DS and mobile) as well as recut and extended Final Fantasy XIII and FF Versus XIII trailers.

Training games continue to be a major trend for the Japanese Nintendo DS, though industry insiders suggest the bubble is about to burst. Most major publishers had at least one training or lifestyle title.

Also heavily discussed in hushed tones is Microsoft's potential exit from the Japanese market. With Lost Odyssey, the latest title from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's Mistwalker studio, absent from the show despite its December release date in Japan, things look as dire as they ever have for the 360's fortunes in Japan.

The company has also backed out of funding exclusive RPG title Infinite Undiscovery from developers tri-Ace, popular in Japan for the Star Ocean RPG franchise, and have turned the title over to Star Ocean's publisher Square Enix. Xbox 360 games are thin on the ground outside of the Microsoft booth.

Sony seems to be relying on Metal Gear Solid 4 to turn its fortunes around, with a booth packed with many Western titles that will be a tougher sell for Japan (for example, Turok and Oblivion). MGS4 is also the showcase title for the DualShock 3 controller at Sony's booth.

Meanwhile, Konami has provided extensive, private hands-on opportunities to the western enthusiast press and almost 50 kiosks of the game in its own booth, alongside frequent presentations on the show floor featuring game creator Hideo Kojima, as well as constant loops of the game's trailer on a massive screen. This TGS seems to hinge on Metal Gear Solid 4, making its public playable debut in advance of its winter 2008 release.

Though non-Japanese Asian companies continue to show games at TGS, a lower volume of lesser-known PC MMOs crowd the floors of this year's show. So, too, have many smaller (but still significant) publishers fled the show: names like Atlus and From Software are absent. On the other hand, the presence of mobile providers has increased, with KDDI's au service sporting a massive orange booth to compete with NTT's DoCoMo and SoftBank. Some significant games -- such as Square Enix titles -- are provider-exclusive. Nokia is also making a push into Japan this year for its revived N-Gage platform.

What We See

TGS is very healthy and well-attended, and will doubtlessly post big numbers once the show opens to the public. The international presence also seems to be increased from prior years, as far as attendees go. Big companies like Capcom, Sony, Konami, Namco Bandai and Square Enix are showing some very significant games.

Still, it seems like the industry is, in some sense, holding its breath at this TGS, with the PS3 still struggling to find an array of compelling software -- particularly that which will appeal to its Japanese domestic userbase, as ports of western-developed 360 games are sure to sink without a trace on the Japanese charts.

Few major titles were announced, and many are still far off. The 360 is in a holding pattern in Japan. The Wii is gaining little in the way of breadth of titles, if this show is any indication. Still, the array of games here points to publishers willing to try different things to capture a fragmenting and maturing game audience.



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