I arrived at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe convention center, badge in hand, for Tokyo Game Show (TGS) 15 minutes before the doors opened at 10 a.m. And yet, by the time I’d made a beeline to my first demo of the day, more than 100 other attendees had gotten there first, already slashing away at monsters on screens.

Aside from all the anticipation surrounding the games — Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, Tekken 8, Persona 3 Reload and more — one question loomed large over the pre-show buildup: Could TGS 2023 manage to recapture even a fraction of its old, pre-COVID glory? After all, the long but expected death of E3 — Los Angeles’ one-time king of gaming conventions — proves that in-person shows are anything but immune to the direct-to-consumer livestreams Nintendo and others have hitched their wagons to as the future of mass-market gaming communications.

However, the first few moments of Day 1 of TGS indicated to me that gamers will still make the trek to Chiba for this annual mecca of mobile, console and PC titles. As soon as I got through the main doors of Makuhari Messe, I saw a cluster of television cameras shooting panoramas of the convention floor. By 12 p.m., the line for the Persona 3 Reload demo at the Atlus booth was 90 minutes, while Persona 5 Tactica was a 60-minute wait. Resident Evil 4 VR ran out of timed-reservation tickets by 11 a.m., and when I returned to the Atlus booth at 1 p.m., the line for Persona 3 Reload demos had been closed. Too many gamers to handle.