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Tokyo Game Show: A Clouded Vision In A Web 2.0 World?

[qi:046] TOKYO: I’m at the Tokyo Game Show, which drew in more than 190,000 people last year, looking for games that really stand out, games that take the state of gaming in new directions. I’m searching for signs, in other words, that the Japanese game industry isn’t moribund — that the wave of disruptive technology Nintendo started with the Wii is continuing to push other innovations. But with an anemic keynote by Sony (SNE) and a floor packed with RPGs and third-person action and insipid puzzlers, TGS has failed to prove, so far, that the Japanese game industry is looking squarely at the future.

By all rights, Sony should have owned this show. Nintendo isn’t around, Microsoft (MSFT) is barely making a dent — the show is Sony’s for the taking. And what do they announce? Dual Shock controller! Hooray, last-generation PS2 technology is finally on PS3. The company also made some vague promises of cross-platform play linking the PSP to the PS3, but offered no specifics and no demo.

Oh and they also let it be known that PlayStation Home, the networked 3D virtual world application that will let users buy virtual items, download games, and contact other users, will be delayed until next year. But where was the news of a price cut in North America and Europe, an admission that the market just wasn’t ready for a $600 console? Where was the vision for really leveraging the increased high-quality broadband penetration in Japan? (About 19 percent of the country’s households are now wired.)

At the same time, you have U.S. companies like Microsoft and EA (ERTS) looking to crack the Japanese market, and that’s in evidence on the floor, too. Microsoft has a pretty decent lineup of new Xbox Live Arcade content, including a downloadable version of the trippy genre-busting music-shooter Rez, polished up and remixed in 5.1 surround sound. EA just released MySims for the Wii in North America, with a Japan release scheduled for next week.

This brand-new iteration of Will Wright’s classic Sims game features Japan-friendly anime-inspired art and an emphasis on socialization as the main gameplay element, rather than how to exert bladder control. EA is also hunting around for Japanese studios to acquire or to partner with in order to get a foothold into expanding its sales eastward.

The show as a whole has so far felt a little behind the times. The emphasis on cutting-edge graphics still dominates the floor, with giant screens displaying CG movies that often seem to have little to do with what a player actually does in the game. And booth babes abound — how retro! But there’s little indication that developers are responding to challenges from the realms of web 2.0 such as user-driven content, social networking, or even the rise of casual and web-based gaming.

There are some bright spots here. Echochrome elegantly channels the mind-bendery of M.C. Escher drawings to create a simple, small game that approaches something like art. There are also non-gaming applications on the PSP, such as Talkman Travel, the interactive voice-activated translation application. But overall, after two hours on the show floor, I’m still underwhelmed, asking myself, what are all these people here to see? The latest Metal Gear Solid 4 Trailer?

I’m heading back in. There’s got to be something in there that acknowledges that the times are-a changing! More tomorrow. And if I run into any acquisition-minded EA suits, I’ll be sure to ask them what they’re looking for… maybe the same thing as I am?

Founder of the legendary, highly influential, and still kicking blog Game Girl Advance , Jane Pinckard is a respected game industry veteran. Most recently a conference manager at CMP (where she organized the Game Developer Conference), she was previously a producer at Ziff Davis’ 1UP and an Online Content Producer at You can occasionally catch her rocking on guitar and keyboards with the Berkeley indy band Dealership .

20 Responses to “Tokyo Game Show: A Clouded Vision In A Web 2.0 World?”

  1. I’m with you. As a side note, I find it amusing that the one guy who railed against you is upset you didn’t cover UT3 and MGS4 and Final Fantasy 354. Why not? Maybe because they’re old news. There will always be another one, they’re established franchises. The question is how is the game industry moving forward, advancing, innovating.
    PLC Programlama
    I think the answer is pretty clear. Its not.
    Instead we’re getting high priced consoles featuring fancier looking regurgitations of established and tired franchise titles.
    dizi izle
    Wake me up when the innovators come back to gameville.

  2. Hmm…some of these responses are interesting. An opinion is an opinion, and a level one seems frighteningly difficult to find amongst gamers. Sony need to pull their socks up, Microsoft need to innovate more and Nintendo need to carry on doing what they are doing. Speaking of Nintendo – the Wii has taken everyone by suprise, and it’s this that has shaken the gaming world. There’s no reason to be defensive over a console or company – would they defend you? A PS3 is a PS3 is a PS3 – nothing more. Sony have treated their fans badly and Microsoft don’t really care about markets outside the US. (just as Nintendo are Nippon-centric). But so what?!! The next couple years are gonna be REAL interesting! STOP COMPLAINING!!

  3. You can’t have everything.

    We have new powerful consoles, capable of amazing graphics, is this not what gameplayers have been after for many years now? But then to go on the new hardware we require the software, software that takes many man hours to create and costs an awful lot of money to create. Companies are obviously going to be wnating some kind of profit out of their software, and the onyl way to gaurantee that at the moment is to provide regurgitated gameplay, with better graphics. The big names are on their way, Halo 3 will make money, MGS4 will make money. Unfortunately it is a very big risk for a company to produce a game no one has ever heard of before as the product could flop on the name alone, let alone produce a game with a totally new concept of game play.

    We, as the gamers can not complain about this, as it is us who have driven the market this way.

  4. I was there yesterday and it was pretty good. One thing you have to remember is most of the games on the PLaystation store haven’t been released in Japan yet but have else where.

    I had a great time and I thought the 360 stand was ok. It had a range but nothing new, except halo 3 but again thats nothing new. I didnt look in to the wii as I dinht have time. Considering that in the last year sony have released two consoles, one maybe a revamp, what did you expect? All the good games have been reported and now we are waiting for the second wave of games for the PS3.

    The BBC should remove this link as it is a waste of time and all “in my opinion” no facts at all.

  5. I find your article mildy amusing, I must say that this is the TOKYO game show, not E3. This show is aimed at the eastern audiences, which are more into RPG’s and Puzzle games. But I also find it appauling to find that BBC posted your article on their site. This article is filled with useless critisicsm of Sony. True the rumble is a last-gen feature, but its also a feature that the PS3 currently DOES NOT HAVE. Gamers wanted, Sony delivered.
    Its also funny that you failed to mention all of the new game trailers that were shown at TGS for the PS3. Not just recycled E3 trailers but new ones that showed new parts of games and how far in developement some of them were. Such as Unreal Tournement 2007, this game looks so beautiful, its looks so good in fact that they could ship it tomorrow and no graphics whore in the universe could complain about how it looks.

  6. Think about it … it’s early days for next-gen. Only a handful of consoles out there – the best is yet to come – a year or even 2 from now. When’s the best time to publish your groundbreaking IP… when there’s enough consoles to cash-in on the release. For the Sony PS3 – this will be sometime in a year or 2 from now. Until then … its sequel sequel sequel I’m afraid. I’m personally looking forward to Little Big Planet – among others.

  7. “a floor packed with RPGs and third-person action and insipid puzzlers”

    You forget that TGS is not aimed at the Western audience, and that its primary audience is the Japanese gaming market whose tastes and game styles differ to ours.

    Many Japanese gamers still pile into the arcades which are numerous in the country – something which has become a “something to do whilst we wait to go in to the film” affair. That is still where a lot of money can be made there.

    A “Web 2.0 world” is still a world run by the West. I’m not saying the Japanese are behind, but is it really right to force them to adopt a western creation?

    And why are you criticising Sony for something that GAMERS have demanded return to the controller? Surely that’s a good thing, even if it’s not as big as you think it is?

  8. Hi,

    I own a ps1&2&3 and i think sony does deserve the hammering it is getting in the press but it took ps2 a couple of years to really take off, it struggled in the first year and i think the ps3 will do the same, sony are really trying with the playstation network this time. time will tell and i think sony will reclaim its crown but they will have to fight for it against the wii and not xbox

  9. It’s interesting, but hardly surprising, to hear the complaints. Sony became far too complacent in the home video market. The result was that they treated their loyal customers with arrogance, and the loyal customers are shrugging and moving on.

    I had PS1 in the first days, and owned a PS2 as well. But at present there’s little to sell the PS3 when PS Europe offers a console that is over priced, overdue, and under supplied.

  10. oh a Web 2.0 world.

    its pretty much a false concept that media brandish about far too much. if your gonna be reporting on games then stop slapping it on any game related article. Dual shock is big thing current ps3 owners wanted it and sony provided it, so what if its “old tech” at least it help
    various games on the ps2 and it would improve heavenly sword a fair bit.

    you also seem to be wanting to see unique games (no i dont mean causal ) there was a time when Japanese devs were experimenting creating games that were very artistic and pleasant to play, sega made cosmic smash, rez, PAnic!, segaga,firemen, shenmue okami. there are many i have missed out many never sold well upon release

  11. I can tell reading your article you were a little disheartened by the event, but then again I have to ask what your idea of ‘innovation’ is. Also, you have to remember with more power and more space on the next gen consoles comes new development challenges, longer development times (2 – 4 years) and much higher costs. Plus the developers need time to get the hang of. When did the console come out? When was the current hardware finalized? Also, isn’t new graphics detail improving characterization, animation and greater immersive environments . Isn’t this innovative? Hasn’t the original idea been developed just as the critics and a portion of the gaming community asked? Aren’t all those generic/franchised games what they keep wanting play? (And nicely done mentioning pretty much every genre of game as if it old hat, thought of any new genres recently then?) What you were really wanting to say was ‘I couldn’t see Sony/Sony Developers copying Miyamoto/Nintendo ideas’ (which have much simpler hardware so cheaper and less risky to develop on). I only hope if they had you wouldn’t then have criticized them for it. As for MSBox, I wouldn’t want to go near them, anyone seen what they did to the PC market?

  12. Experts are and will always be wrong, your biased on your own opions on how you fell the industry should be heading or the manufactures you subconsciouly support.

    it is moving away from the goal of high end graphics and raw processing power to more of an imersive environment that makes the player feel much more involved.

    The market has to attract young and old through innovation, it seems like the only company that has got the forumlae right is Nintendo with it’s wii consolse. Which if I remember correctly the so called experts got that wrong as well.

    The consumers will always speak with their wallets regardless of industry hype or expert rubbish.

    fact again that wii is the highest selling console in the shortest amount of time proves it.


  13. Personally I see this as part of the evolution of gaming. We, the gamers, were the ones desperate for sexy graphics. Now that we finally have it we realise the focus for gameplay has drifted. The PC proves this as far back as the release of Doom 3, fantastic graphics but dull gameplay. Interestingly in the console market Nintendo hasn’t followed suit and to me has got the balance right with the graphics, gameplay and interaction. The Xbox360 and PS3 seem to be focusing on graphics and being wannabe home entertainment hubs. I’m sure this will change and I anticipate some copy cat Wiimotes along the way. For a short period the Wii is going to enjoy some innovative success on its own.

  14. I’m with you. As a side note, I find it amusing that the one guy who railed against you is upset you didn’t cover UT3 and MGS4 and Final Fantasy 354. Why not? Maybe because they’re old news. There will always be another one, they’re established franchises. The question is how is the game industry moving forward, advancing, innovating.

    I think the answer is pretty clear. Its not.

    Instead we’re getting high priced consoles featuring fancier looking regurgitations of established and tired franchise titles.

    Wake me up when the innovators come back to gameville.

  15. Wow talk about biased analysis. Perhaps a better question would be “what did you expect to see there?” Before making ridiculous, childish and fan-boyish (which is amazingly stupid) comments like that, you could have at least talked to some developers but who cares, right? “As long as I can write crap about Sony everything is Fine” which again seems to be a habit of half-ass bloggers such as yourself.

    So, after reading you “Fuck Sony” article, I have to congratulate you. Were you blind in the show? Really. Or were you sitting in the corner crying like little kids because you Xbox wasn’t around? Did you see the Final Fantasy XIII? What about UT3? Shirokishi anyone? The new HOME? Also the dual shock controller, for your pathetically inadequate information DOES SUPPORT Sixaxis motions as well but again I better not write that in my bog or else it’ll ruin my rants about Sony.

    I won’t even bother responding to your so called analysis but Do you Remember E3? If your memory is shut, I can help you a little. Sony pulled one hell of a show. They showed their exclusives, their new network and third party games. With that in mind do you
    REALLY think they could have created 400 games in less than 2 month just to please you? What kind of twisted logic are you using to justify your article? What the hell do you mean by Japanese Companies won’t deliver?!

    But more amazing than anything else is the fact that BBC put your utterly nonsensical entry in their website. This report is a joke so is you Jane.

  16. Jane, I agree with you. It seems that since last year, not too much has been going on in the gaming world. After the next generation systems came out, I was hoping that this year would bring us much more new and innovating things that people have played around with the new hardware to get. But as you pointed out, it seems as though they are just reiterating everything they did on their old systems and updating it for the new ones.

    In an era where films and books tend to keep adding on to an original and making a second and third iteration of a hit film, are games being sucked into that as well? I hope not, but at the moment it seems a little disappointing. Now it’s true there are some exciting things happening, but after last year they don’t seem quite as innovative. I was hoping the Wii and its control style would provoke developers to innovate new game genres and interesting ways to play around with the Wiimote. I have not given up hope completely though hearing about the rise of Rez. I just hope the TGS doesn’t follow in the tracks of E3.

  17. ヤホ!DCです。お疲れ!
    i’m so glad i didnt bother going now. i thought it would be the SOS rendering demos with game attached. ツマラン. at least siggraph has interactive art.

    all the social game action is happening on mobile, off-deck!
    mobile game town with its mixup of SNS, baka-ge and offu-kai is going to cut off the influx of young new players to the tired old traditional games biz as surely as the internet is killing prime-time TV.


  18. My dearest Jane, the Sony presser was pretty significant. It was the first time Kaz led the show instead of Ken. His message was very telling. Instead of Ken’s supercomputer that’s going to take over the world by itself, Kaz’s PlayStation 3 is a game machine that needs better/bigger support from its third-party partners. This shift in strategy (or humbling self realization) is huge!!!

    Naturally, none of the the enthusiast press picked up on this (at least, from what I’ve read). They’re all too busy being product focused to see the bigger picture (and will use the excuse that their readers are only interested in products). Our buddy Christian at Gamasutra was the only one that got it “right”.

    Anyway, enjoy the rest of the show!