Tokyo Game Show 2006

Hopefully with this post I can offer a little editorial on this year’s game show from a perspective you’re guaranteed not to find on any of the gaming websites: that of a slightly tired and grumpy video games artist who is less than impressed.

For those of you that don’t know the TGS is held over three days, September 22nd, 23rd and 24th, in Chiba’s Makuhari Messe, a 40 minute train ride away from civilisaion. The first day is reserved for game industry professionals and journalists, with the weekend being open to all the public wishing to queue and pay for the honour of experiencing the noise and crush of people and PR and oversized laminated bags with single A4 marketing sheets in them..

When I first went to a TGS it occupied all four of the Messe’s giant halls but in recent years it has dwindled somewhat and now too only two of the halls were occupied with a third reserved for keynote speeches. I am also witness to a slight ECTS-ification of the show, with fewer developers and publishers in Japan making the effort and more peripheral makers, network solution companies and Korean publishers taking up more space. The latter, of course, are worthy contributors and though their games are often a little rough, their presentations were usually top-notch. The show was packed, more busy than usual, probably because of the vague hint of a full-blown console war. In stead Microsoft had a respectable sized booth, focusing a lot on Blue Dragon, and Sony had a larger booth divided into PSP, PS2 and PS3 sections, as well as a cinema area showing more prerendered PR movies. The best thing about the PSP section was that the demo machines were all themed to the games running them, making the Parappa PSP look especially cute, even though the game is a mere straight port. A lot of attention was given to Eye of Judgment with live battles being hosted by a loud duo of MCs. Several rows of PS3s also allowed for some playable demos but to be honest none of the games were actually that exciting. Sure, some looked very very pretty indeed, like Heavenly Sword and Motorstorm, but if you were looking for innovation in gameplay and ideas, Eye of Judgment was it. Other demos on display were, amongst others, the embarrassingly bland and last-gen looking F1 Championship, Monster Kingdom: Unknown Realms (or “Harry Potter, the Cappuccino Years”), some Mahjongg game and Coded Arms, which showed us frame rate isn’t high priority for PS3 developers. Still no in-game footage for Metal Gear Solid 4, but a repeat of some of the movies we’ve all seen before, as well as a hilariously ostentatious PR sheet, complete with photo of Mr. Kojima in studded designer jean looking sullen and pensive. KDDI has a surprisingly huge booth dedicated to mobile games, none of which looked particularly exciting. And apart from a few video presentations, mostly at the SEGA booth, Wii was remarkably absent from the show. There were no playable demos to be seen anywhere. They either wheel them out this weekend for the public, which is doubtful, or Nintendo have their own special event planned soon; something akin to Spaceworld to bolster enthusiasm, as if that were necessary, before the launch. Another sign the industry is tightening its belt was the absence of freebies. There were times when playing a demo was rewarded with plastic blow-up Aiai dolls, or Castlevania handkerchiefs; a lot of tat with high eBayability. This year it seems only the Korean companies made the effort. A Chun-Li handkerchief if you played through some mobile games, a headdress in the shape of two lit-up hearts, an inflatable float if you played a silly little punching game on a stage. And that was about it.

One more odious aspect of the game show, which has become more prevalent over the years, is the idiotic idea you are not allowed to take photographs. What, I ask you, is the point of a public game show, with huge screens showing off your latest products, if you are then going to employ a shower of bastards to go round and cover people’s lenses? Even from outside booths I was often asked to please not take any photos. It got to the point I could smell people approaching me for this as soon as I whipped out my little camera, at which point I just gave them a look and turned away. It is pathetic and idiotic and only annoys the fuck out of people. If someone can explain the thinking behind this, please do so because I am flummoxed.

So all in all another noisy let-down. The games I really wanted to see weren’t there. The games that were there were singularly unimpressive, often pretty, but unexciting. One or two titles may have sprung out from this flood of mediocrity but they never quite reached dry land.
I fear for the show. Next year there won’t be any new hardware announcements so the show should be quite dull. The show in Germany might be the one to take over the torch from E3, because I don’t think TGS can muster the energy and enthusiasm it once might have had.

Like every year I tell myself “that was the last one. No show for me next year!” but I’ll probably go anyway. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I find it important for developers to see what is going on, but the experience is always draining, tiring and slightly depressing.


  1. I imagine photos are unwanted from several companies so there is a total ban to make control easier. After all, no one wants their game to be shown in a less than favourable light (I hear there were crashes on the Ridge Racer 7 demo throughout the second day). Instead they can release PR packs with HD screenshots and flattering in-game moments. Unfortunately this stops people from taking unrelated pictures of the show floor.

    Whats games were you looking forward to that weren't on display? Also, what's the general consensus towards the Wii within your company?

  2. You can't have your cake and eat it. Public show with photography or private showing. Another solution would be to show things you aren't embarassed of. It really ticked me off.

    Games I was hoping to see were anything Wii, basically. Though I've had a whirl on the Nintendo games and I knew those wouldn't be here, some of the Ubi or Sega titles at least. Rare's Viva Pinata was also high on my list but nowhere to be seen (other blogs say it was a private showing only).

    Everyone talk to on a daily basis is pretty much in love with the Wii. :)

    Reading some of the other blogs on the show I wonder if I was at the same one at all. I guess the impartial reader should take an avarage between my "it all sucked" and the others' "OMFG I'm in JAPAN!!!111one!!!" levels of enthusiasm to maybe approach what the show was really like.

  3. TMX Elmo is hotter than any of the three consoles. They are currently way too expensive and less amuzing than this robotic toy.