Business / Tech

At Tokyo Game Show, virtual technology is the highest scorer

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The Tokyo Game Show kicked off Thursday, with virtual reality products grabbing the lion’s share of attention at one of the central fixtures in the global gaming calendar.

At Chiba’s massive Makuhari Messe venue on Thursday, industry insiders and journalists lined up to try VR games, and not only those from large global makers. Plenty of attention was paid to newcomers and startups during the media preview day ahead of the exhibition’s public opening on Saturday.

“The future of VR is bright,” said Takayuki Fujii, business development executive at DMM.com Labo Co., which runs online services including games and videos and at the expo is showcasing VR content with characters from its popular Token Ranbu” online game series

Fujii said although DMM is still new to the video games market, it plans to create top-shelf products and is betting on VR as the way to do it.

He added, it is still unclear how consumers will react to VR, and the firm looks forward to assessing the reactions of visitors to the show.

“It is essential to create opportunities for people to try it out. I think most people haven’t yet had a chance,” said Fujii.

He said high-level immersive experiences are visceral and have to be experienced to be appreciated.

Anticipation has grown sharply this year, which has been dubbed the dawn of VR after several headsets made their commercial debuts.

Facebook-owned Oculus and Taiwan smartphone maker HTC have launched headsets so far, and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation VR is slated for release within a month.

Naturally, many people were eager to try the PlayStation VR at Sony’s booth on Thursday.

Alongside the major manufacturers, smaller firms, too, are banking on VR.

“We have great expectations for the VR market,” said Tsuyoshi Nagano, a director of Ariadne’s Thread Japan.

He said the market is still developing, so there is room for startups to compete.

China-based Ariadne’s Thread is displaying its Immerex headgear, at whose booth journalists lined up to get their hands on a set.

The silver headset looks like a pair of futuristic spectacles. Nagano described it as sleeker and easier to wear than other headsets. The price has not been decided yet, he said.

He said the firm hopes to launch the product this year or next.

Although the show centers around games, some exhibitors said they are exploring the potential for VR in other areas, too.

Square Enix Co., the maker of the popular Final Fantasy game series, is giving visitors a chance to experience manga VR.

Users enter a manga scene, with pages appearing in front of their eyes like a moving picture-card show.

“Since we also run a publishing business, we wanted to see what would happen if we produce manga with a technology used for games,” said Yohei Mikado, an Square Enix spokesman.

He said the firm wanted to test people’s reactions to this kind of content first, though there is no plan yet to release manga VR as a commercial product.

“We think VR will spread in a variety of genres, so we’d like to explore how VR can be used and see people’s reactions,” he said.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5