In Japan, the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is gaming’s main event. This year, heavyweights Sony and Microsoft are set to square off at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe convention center with brand new consoles in tow. Who will come out on top?
Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One are both prime examples of what’s in store for the next generation of console gaming: more realistic graphics, increased processing power, and greater social networking options — not to mention new game controllers. TGS will be the first chance for gamers in Japan to get a shot at these next-gen Sony and Microsoft machines (it’s important to note that Nintendo traditionally sits TGS out).
“This year’s Tokyo Game Show is a proxy war,” says Mark MacDonald of Tokyo-based video game localizer 8-4. “Neither Sony or Microsoft are particularly focused on Japan, but this is the last big event before their new hardware launches, so they are taking TGS very seriously.”
The four-day event is made up of two “business days” (open to media and industry people) and two “public days” (open to everyone and taking place this year on Sept. 21 and 22). The crowds on both types of days have been getting larger despite the fact that Tokyo Game Show has become less relevant over the years when it comes to breaking game-related announcements. Last year, Microsoft didn’t even attend the event, but attendance was at its highest ever.
This year, Sony will roll out more than 10 playable PS4 games, including marquee titles such as stealth game “Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag,” first-person shooter “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” the adorable action game “Knack,” and a PS4 exclusive role-playing game titled “Deep Down.” Of course, the Sony booth will also be packed with PlayStation 3, PlayStation Mobile, and PS Vita games, with a total of more than 50 titles on display.
Sony will also bring its newest PS Vita iteration, which is 15 percent lighter and 20 percent thinner than the current model. It also swaps out the current PS Vita’s OLED display for a LCD screen.
Microsoft will bring eight playable games for the Xbox One, including epic action game “Ryse: Son of Rome,” fighting game “Killer Instinct” and racing game “Forza Motorsport 5.” They’ll be shown alongside others such as the shooting game “Titanfall.” Like with the Sony booth, Microsoft will also show titles for the Xbox 360 and Windows PCs, that will result in around 30 games represented on the convention floor.
It has been noted that Microsoft seems to have tapered down its big home-console push in Japan, but gamers and industry types alike are still keen on what will be offered this year.
“I’m excited to see the new consoles and what Sony and Microsoft are offering for Japan,” says Tokyo-based game developer Esteban Salazar. “Hopefully, we’ll get an Xbox One release date for Japan.”
The Xbox One is set to be released in November in North America and Europe. However, earlier this summer Microsoft put out a statement that said the console wouldn’t be rolled out in Japan until 2014. At that time, it was widely assumed that the PlayStation 4 would be released in late 2013, giving it a huge boost in a region where Microsoft has traditionally faced a tough slog against both Sony and Nintendo.
At the beginning of the month, though, Sony announced the PS4 would come out in Japan in February 2014, a release date that surprised many local gamers, who were hoping for an autumn date. That means the console will not be available here during the New Year holidays, a time during which many gamers zone out in front of their screens for hours on end.
On Sony Japan’s official PlayStation blog, gamers expressed their frustrations with the February release date, with many saying they were “disappointed” they had to wait several months more.
Sony is taking a decidedly different approach with the PS4’s launch than it did with that of the PS3. That console hit Japan first on Nov. 11, 2006, and then came out in the United States a week later. Europe didn’t get the console until the first part of the following year. Sony’s decision to launch first in North America and Europe shows just how important the overseas market has become to the PS4’s (and Sony’s) success.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Sony wants to put all its energy into successful North American and European launches, therefore taking a bite out of Microsoft’s market share outside Japan. While Japan gamers may not be pleased that they’ll be made to wait longer to shell out the dough for the next PlayStation, Sony’s next-generation dominance in Japan still seems to be a foregone conclusion. With the Xbox 360, Microsoft made a strong play for the loyal market, trying to entice more Japanese developers and consumers to their side (the company even brought on a design firm out of Osaka to try to make the console more appealing to the locals). However, the effort didn’t bear fruit.
With the North American and European markets exploding, Microsoft ultimately didn’t necessarily need Japan and was able to sell 78 million consoles worldwide without being the dominant (or even relevant) player here. For the next generation, Sony wants to grab a piece of that market while keeping its Japanese stronghold. This is why this year’s edition of Tokyo Game Show is so important: In a global war for the screens of gamers, a major battle is about to take place in our own backyards.
Tokyo Game Show takes place at Makuhari Messe in Chiba from Sept. 19-22. The first two days (Sept. 19 and 20) are Business days and the latter two days (Sept. 21 and 22) are open to the public. Tickets cost ¥1,200 (¥1,000 in advance). For more information on tickets and schedules, visit tgs.cesa.or.jp. Brian Ashcraft is a senior contributing editor at us.Kotaku.com. Be sure to catch his review of Tokyo Game Show in The Japan Times on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Things to do when the lines get too long
What can you do at Tokyo Game Show? The most obvious advice is play the games — especially the next-generation games for Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. However, you will need to get there early because the lines will be long (in fact, it might not be a bad idea to get a few new games for your smart phone beforehand). If you don’t want to wait in the lines, though, don’t worry — there’s still lots of other things you can do.
· Dress up or gawk: Cosplay is a major part of the Tokyo Game Show experience. Don your own costume if you like or simply take in the sights at the TGS Cosplay Corner. If you are taking photos, be sure to follow common rules of cosplay etiquette, such as getting permission before you shoot or lining up when there’s a queue. On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., there will be a cosplay stage show called Cosplay Collection Night at TGS. It will feature some well-known cosplayers.
· Shop till you drop: Tokyo Game Show’s merchandise area is packed with goodies that fans will likely have a hard time resisting. In particular, the Capcom and the Square Enix merchandise booths tend to draw many eager spenders. If you like video game music, Square Enix will sell special CDs that offer soundtracks from that company’s titles.
· Watch the best in action: Each year at Tokyo Game Show, there are eSports events that bring in talented gamers. National finals are scheduled for first-person shooter “Sudden Attack” on Saturday from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. On Sunday, there will be a “Tekken Tournament 2” fighting game exhibition between Japan and Singapore from 10:30 a.m. and a national final for “The World of Tanks” from 2 p.m. till 4:30 p.m.
· Become a gaming hipster: Sure, famous developers such as Sega, Konami and Namco Bandai will all have slick, big-budget games at their booths. But there is more to Tokyo Game Show than just marquee titles. Check out the indie games section, which feature games made outside of the standard studio system. There will also be booths representing titles created at universities and even some high schools. Catch the rising stars and you can always say you played their game back before they were famous.
· Get the kids involved: Tokyo Game Show is crowded and overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean kids (and parents) can’t have a good time. A special Family Area will feature games that are geared toward kids, as well as stage shows and other activities. On Saturday, Doraemon is set to show up, and on Sunday the Kamen Rider Wizard will be around to pose for pictures.