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TGS: Microsoft's Keynote - Japan Fills Kinect's Core Gamer Gap

TGS: Microsoft's Keynote - Japan Fills Kinect's Core Gamer Gap

September 15, 2010 | By Christian Nutt

September 15, 2010 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC

At Tokyo Game Show, the Business Day's Gamasutra-attended keynote was Microsoft's, and the message was a revitalization of Japanese game development for a global audience -- with Kinect at the center of much of it.

Microsoft Japan's Xbox general manager Takashi Sensui and MGS corporate VP Phil Spencer joined together to show off new games for the Xbox 360 -- including several third-party exclusives and new first-party games, all from Japanese studios.

Creators such as Capcom's global head of R&D Keiji Inafune, Q? Entertainment CEO Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and Grasshopper Manufacture CEO Goichi Suda took to the stage to show off new titles -- many of which are to be published by MGS.

"Japanese developers have always played an essential role in the birth and growth of games," said Spencer. This prompted the team at MGS to embark on a continuing initiative to work with Japanese developers to create titles with global appeal.

"Japanese artists have the creativity and spirit to define a new era of entertainment," he said.

It's not just about creativity, either. "At retail, worldwide consumer purchases of Japanese games on our platform have doubled since the last generation, selling more than $2.1 billion to date."

And when it comes to download titles, "according to our own data, five of the top six bestselling games... come from Japan." This includes Marvel vs Capcom 2, Street Fighter II, Bomberman Live, Street Fighter II HD Remix, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Of course, the keynote's first presentation was a live demo of Metal Gear Solid: Rising -- neither a Kinect nor an exclusive title, but one of the most prominent Japanese-developed titles (and shown for the first time as a live demo on stage at TGS 2010, demoed by director Mineshi Kimura and producer Shigenobu Matsuyama.) The game has the expected polish of a Kojima Productions game, but -- aside from seeing the first realtime demo -- new details were not to be found in the presentation.

And although Halo: Reach has hit sales of $200 million-plus in its first day and "breaking the franchise record" held by Halo 3 for Xbox Live play, Spencer said that "it's equally important for us to tell new stories, create new heroes, and take risks on new franchises."

After this demo, Spencer transitioned to Microsoft Games Studios' slate -- and a surprising five new games were announced, all set for release in 2011:

Fire Pro-Wrestling (Spike)
Radiant Silvergun (Treasure)
Haunt (Nana-On Sha)
Project Draco (Grounding)
Codename D (Grasshopper Manufacture)

Sensui remarked that it wasn't just about signing games to MGS: "and of course, collaboration is indispensable with Japanese third parties." On that note, several games published by third parties for Xbox 360 and Kinect were showcased:

Metal Gear Solid: Rising (Kojima Productions/Konami)
Dr. Kawashima's Brain and Body Training (Namco Bandai)
Child of Eden (Q? Entertainment/Ubisoft)
Rise of Nightmares (Sega)
Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor (From Software/Capcom)

When it comes to the games, both Microsoft and creators had a lot to say about this new, strong creative partnership -- and also about the Kinect peripheral.

"We look forward to working with them on this game and well into the future," said Spencer, of hardcore fan-favorite developer Treasure, whose 1998 arcade/Sega Saturn cult-hit Radiant Silvergun is heading to XBLA.

Spencer made similar comments about Parappa creators Nana-On Sha, who debuted Kinect horror game Haunt: "We wanted to collaborate with [Masaya] Matsuura-san for some time now. We see this as just the start of a long and rewarding relationship."

Meanwhile, GHM's Suda said that his company had hoped to collaborate with Microsoft for some time, and had finally found the chance with Kinect game Codename: D. "Many fans requested us to release a title for Xbox 360 and now we're able to respond to such requests," he said, saying that they're a fit since hardcore fans love the company's games.

Kinect generated positive comments from the creators, meanwhile, and a surprising array of hardcore Kinect-based games joined Rez spiritual sequel Child of Eden.

"This [experience] is what I have been pursuing. This is the convergence of games, images, and music, and is the theme of a new expression of creation," said Q? creative director Mizuguchi. "This is a shooting game, but it is to purify the world, and make it happier, and turn it into a world filled with hope. Together with music, experience the chemical reactions."

When he saw the Kinect, he said, "What came to mind was a conductor -- if you move your body you can conduct the world. You can conduct images using your entire body, playing freely."

Another Sega album, Yukio Futatsugi, who's best known for the Panzer Dragoon series, delivered another spiritual Sega-like sequel in the form of Kinect-based dragon game Project Draco.

"After I heard about Kinect, what excited me most is that... [before, games were controlled with sticks but] those rules can be innovated, and we can use our body," said Futatsugi. "What I most wanted to do was to fly." Of course, a teaser trailer of Panzer Dragoon-esque dragon flight followed this pronouncement.

"The first time that I experienced [Kinect]... I was very shocked and impressed. We wanted to create some titles for Kinect," said Nana-On Sha's Masaya Matsuura, via a prerecorded video.

Meanwhile, GHM's Suda said that the Kinect opened up new ways of interaction, even for core games -- "In [Codename: D] we will not being guns or swords. But this is a very core action game." The weapon in D? Baseballs -- which exploded the heads of mascot characters in a twisted amusement park, in the live-action video shown.

Steel Battalion executive producer and global Capcom head of R&D, Keiji Inafune, said of the new Kinect-based mech game, "Of course we at Capcom create games like this for core gamers. We're focusing on that, because that's the only thing we can do at Capcom. If we're going to do that, we should do it thoroughly."

The game, developed by From Software (Demon's Souls) focuses on a U.S. invasion of ... the U.S., which has been conquered by its enemies. In the game's 2082, computer systems collapse and the world regresses -- and clearly, strange changes have come as a result.

"There is such potential for not just Capcom, but other creators to create games for core gamers, and that will uplift the game industry and surpass the quality of games from the entire world. Japanese games will never lose -- but now we are losing. So let's try hard."

Sensui wrapped up by saying that "Xbox 360 will support those creators more than ever" -- bringing their true visions out to the market and selling these games to a global audience. In doing so, it clearly hopes to cement the system's reputation with core gamers, bring them to the Kinect, and starve Sony of even home-base talent.

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