CHIBA – The Tokyo Game Show opened on Thursday with the spotlight on how game-makers will take advantage of ultrahigh speed 5G mobile data networks ahead of the technology’s commercial rollout in Japan in 2020.
Game-makers, related network developers, and esports promoters cite their sector as one that will benefit from next-generation wireless networks, which are expected to allow players of increasingly popular online games to use faster downloads and smoother connections.
“5G technology featuring large capacity, high speed, low latency — and allowance for simultaneous connections by multiple users — will innovate the world of gaming,” said Hiroyuki Yoshida, director of major mobile-phone carrier NTT Docomo Inc.’s consumer business department, before a crowd gathered at the firm’s booth at the annual extravaganza in Chiba Prefecture.
Docomo is allowing visitors at the show to experience augmented reality game Street Fighter V Arcade Edition, where users can watch battles between three-dimensional characters superimposed on their current physical location via their smartphone screens.
The carrier, which will start commercial 5G services in 2020 along with rivals KDDI Corp., SoftBank Corp. and Rakuten Inc., will also organize soccer video game tournaments at the Makuhari Messe convention center allowing up to 100 players to be simultaneously connected.
Connecting this many players in a small area to the same online game would lag under conventional telecommunication networks, a critical shortcoming for titles that require speedy, responsive gameplay. NTT Docomo hopes to use the tournament to show off its 5G network, which is capable of quickly transmitting large volumes of data so can resolve the lag issue.
The next-generation services can send and receive data around 100 times faster than current 4G technology. Smartphone users, for example, will be able to download a two-hour movie in just three seconds.
The technology is also expected to contribute to the expansion of cloud-based gaming on computers and smartphones connected to the internet, removing the requirement for users to purchase dedicated game consoles, such as Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Co.’s Switch devices.
Google LLC said in March it would launch its own cloud gaming service within 2019, while Apple Inc. is also set to roll out new game subscription services — posing a major challenge to traditional game console makers.
At the game show, Konami Digital Entertainment Co. is showing off a version of its Winning Eleven soccer game series that uses AR technology. The technology, employed in games such as the popular smartphone app Pokemon Go, is used to superimpose video game characters and other computer-generated content onto real-life videos and images.
Continuing the trend seen in recent years, the Tokyo Game Show will also feature esports competitions on two big special stages each with 500-seat stadiums for spectators. Organizers are hoping to entice more domestic players into the fast-growing competitive gaming market.
Esports are already popular in South Korea, the United States and Europe, but not so much in Japan, where online competitive gaming is still at a relatively early stage.
The competitions are expected to prove popular. Sega Games Co. is also hosting a competition for its Puyo Puyo puzzle game.
The four-day game show is expected to draw around 250,000 visitors to see 655 exhibitors, including 305 from some 40 countries, showcasing their latest products, according to organizers Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association and Nikkei Business Publications Inc.
The event is open to the media and industry officials for the first two days, and to the general public through the weekend.