Tokyo drift

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The shape of Ja­panese gaming at Tokyo Game Show 2014

TJa­pan’s lead­ing game expo shows how the re­gion con­tin­ues to dis­tin­guish it­self from the west

his year’s Tokyo Game Show boasted its sec­ond-largest attendance in his­tory – 251,832 over four days, bested only by the turnout for the PS4-de­but­ing 2013 event. And yet from a western per­spec­tive it was a cu­ri­ously un­spec­tac­u­lar show.

A record 421 com­pa­nies pre­sented some 1,363 games, the most popular ex­am­ples, in­clud­ing Mon­ster Hunter 4 Ul­ti­mate, God Eater 2: Rage Burst, Yakuza Zero and Blood­borne, made in Ja­pan. Be­hind the head­line num­bers, though, lay some con­cerns.

Ja­pan has for some time been trend­ing away from home con­sole games in favour of hand­held and mo­bile ti­tles, and the state of new-gen support at TGS made for grim re­port­ing. Of the games listed above, only Blood­borne is ex­clu­sive to a new-gen plat­form, and in­deed it is pub­lished by the plat­form holder, SCE. Yakuza Zero is on PS4 but also PS3, while another big ti­tle, Res­i­dent Evil: Rev­e­la­tions 2, is also cross-gen on Sony and Mi­crosoft plat­forms. The new hard­ware sim­ply doesn’t have the in­stalled base in Ja­pan to make the leap worth­while.

“We al­ways want to support new hard­ware and of­fer bet­ter graph­ics, so it’s nat­u­ral for us to support the new sys­tems, but we have to pay at­ten­tion to th­ese things, be­cause we want to reach the widest au­di­ence pos­si­ble,” Rev­e­la­tions 2 pro­ducer Mi­chiteru Ok­abe ex­plained.

The lack of a Wii U ver­sion of Cap­com’s game, de­spite the first Rev­e­la­tions orig­i­nally be­ing made for 3DS, is also telling. Nin­tendo does not have an of­fi­cial pres­ence at TGS, but while 3DS games popped up on nu­mer­ous third­party booths, the only Wii U games we saw were Sega’s Sonic Boom and a Bandai Namco game based on kids’ car­toon Do­rae­mon. In Rev­e­la­tions 2’ s case, Ok­abe blamed the dif­fi­culty of mak­ing a mul­ti­plat­form game that would also run on Nin­tendo’s sys­tem.

On Mi­crosoft’s booth, we saw few games made in Ja­pan for Xbox One. Mighty No 9 drew healthy lines, as did The Evil Within, which was packed on all three booths where it was shown. Xbox’s core au­di­ence in Ja­pan are drawn to the con­sole for its lineup of western ti­tles, and the big­gest hit on its booth was a first hands-on with COD: Ad­vanced War­fare.

“Hav­ing launched two weeks be­fore TGS, I would say this is an im­por­tant event [for Xbox One], be­cause it’s the event where we en­gage di­rectly with the cus­tomers,” said Masashi Inoue, a se­nior man­ager for Xbox in Ja­pan. “Gamers are still wait­ing for the games they want to be on our sys­tem, but we have just started our jour­ney.”

Based on a popular an­ime drama se­ries, Psy­cho-Pass was the only Ja­panese game on the booth that was tar­geted purely at a do­mes­tic au­di­ence. Us­ing Kinect and Smart­Glass in con­cert to draw the player into a visual-novel crime nar­ra­tive, the game is still a year from re­lease, mak­ing for a some­what bare-bones demo.

“Gamers are still wait­ing for the games they want on Xbox One, but we’ve just started our jour­ney”

There were plenty of world-class games at TGS, but they were ti­tles that had al­ready been shown over­seas at Gamescom or E3, and thus packed few sur­prises. A live playthrough of the newly

From top: Masashi Inoue, a se­nior man­ager for Xbox in Ja­pan; Mi­chiteru Ok­abe, pro­ducer of Cap­com’s Res­i­dent Evil:Rev­e­la­tions 2

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