Tokyo Gameshow 2008

Here is a top tip for readers from abroad who want the real news on the Tokyo Gameshow: if the site you are reading news items from also features articles and posts on other "wacky" Japanese sights and activities the "reporters" have seen, like crazy bondage doll gift egg machines or weird trans-gender cosplay in Akihabara or, most tellingly, reports on "cool swag" the "reporter" picked up in Tokyo or at the show, well, then your "reporter" is way too enamoured by Japan to be able to give you an objective view and opinion on the products on display. They are not reporting on the show but walking around in a wide-eyed daze of excitement and geekiness, "omfg I'm in Japan!", which clearly clouds the mind that that weird, colourful stamp licking DS game is actually probably just a shit game, and not an amazing example of Japan's creativity or that the show itself is exciting or significant, which it really isn't.

I'm not being overly miserable here, I do "get" it. I was very much like that too when I first moved to Japan. The lights, the sights, the people, the madness, it was all a little overwhelming. But over time the sheen wears off and the truth outs, and those fantastic little toys I got then are now revealed to be cheap tat and the Tokyo Gameshow, for me once an amazing experience of Japan's video game industry's extravaganza, is well past its prime and diminishing more every year. This is not just my perception; it can be seen at the show itself, if you are unclouded by the otaku hype, once filling the entire Makuhari Messe twice a year and now barely filling up half of it once a year. It's glory days are over and its function, to inform and entertain, long since taken over by the internet, a much more convenient and comfortable way of getting your game-related news. For developers it remains an excuse to escape the desk for a day or two and to meet up with peers, do business and get drunk. For the consumer, though, it's in obvious decline.

Despite my traditional, yearly resolution to never go again, I went to the show this Friday, the second of the two business days. I avoid, at all cost, going on a public day, as the crowds are far less manageable on those days. I'm there to meet people and check out the competition, not to hustle and bustle and queue up for lengths of time to play a demo of a game I'm not really interested in. This year, again, only 2 of the big halls were in use, with half of a third dedicated to university booths and cheap curry stalls. That said, half of one of the main halls featured more business oriented booths, with representatives from several far corners of the world pimping their middleware or promoting their country as a game developers' haven. Several new technology stands could also be found, from a "mind reading" controller, which seemed interesting but was marred by a terrible demo game experience, and head-tracking helmets.

This left the rest for the usual suspects; Microsoft, Sony, Square, et all. The main focus of attention was, shock horror, stop the press, Monster Hunter, digital crack to the Japanese for some reason. Sizable lines were also seen at Biohazard 5 (Resident Evil 5) and whatever Square had in its walled off area. Level 5 went so far as to hide their entire stage area with a massive curtain for each show. This attitude, alongside the "no photos!" rules confuse me; is this not a PR/marketing event? Why force a useless and irritating sense of exclusivity upon it? Madness. Little Big Planet too had some attention and seemed to enthrall the visitors. What with the reveal of Sepiroth and old Snake sackboys it would seem the game is on its way to make a bit of a splash in Japan too. That said, you never really know, do you? Monster Hunter will outsell anything anyway.

And that, basically, was it. Another long, tiring and headache-inducing day with no surprises or flabbergastering. A new title was revealed here and there, with the obligatory 5 second, pre-rendered and uninformative teaser trailers, but there was nothing there that wasn't expected or known already. This Saturday and Sunday is time for the punters to check out there wares, which they'll do in droves, and to dress up and be photographed, but I am glad it's over for another year.

Never again. And this time I mean it.

See you there next year.

7 comments:

  1. From what I saw on gametrailers (and my experience going at the tgs in 2005), it seems to be a quite accurate description of this show.
    I mean, it's worst than the last E3, which was quite abysmall...

    And where is the next game from Fumito Ueda?

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  2. I'd like to see TGS before it finally goes belly-up, much as E3 did (and I have no incentive to go now), but at least E3 didn't require a passport to visit. It's annoying that the biggest trade shows happen either on the West Coast or in another country.

    Besides. I'd really just be going for the booth babes.

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