The Tokyo Game Show, a major industry event, has recently been overshadowed by global rivals. When Pandemic pushes it online, some see the opportunity to recreate it.
The exhibition, which opens online from Wednesday, showcases Japanese video games and is still regularly visited by enthusiastic gamers, attracting 250,000 people a year since 2013.
Its star faded in the industry as most of Japan’s leading developers decided to launch new offers elsewhere.
Zercon Toto, an analyst at the Canton Games in Tokyo, said: “TGS has been going downhill for the last 10 to 15 years.
He told AFP that part of this was the result of a decline in the dominance of Japanese gaming companies.
Launched in 1996, TGS was an unacceptable industry event in the early 2000s. Its leader position is further diminished by competition from E3 in Los Angeles in June and Gamescom in Cologne in August.
With the growing importance of the American and European gaming markets, Gamescom now attracts more visitors than its competitors and is a favorite place to unveil new products.
“The weird thing about TGS is that it seems to be growing in number of people attending every year, but the breaking news and stuff is in a reverse direction,” said Brian Ashcroft, who wrote for specialist site Kotaku 15 years ago.
– Multilingual presentations –
TGS is more focused on the domestic market, offering most of its content in Japanese only.
“Over the past few years, it has become clear that TGS is looking inward rather than an international show,” Toto said.
Yasuki Yamaji, secretary general of the Sesa Association, which runs TGS, said “TGS allows visitors to try out the games” which take place every September before the holiday shopping season.
“People come for the atmosphere, to watch the sports competition (to play the characters) or to have a good time with their family,” he told AFP.
Pandemic makes it impossible, but TGS organizers hope that taking the show online will increase their audience in Japan and abroad.
Typically, 70 to 80 percent of visitors come from Tokyo and the surrounding area, Yamaji said.
But online, “the limitations of space, distance and time are disappearing”.
This year’s show’s schedule runs late into the night in Japan, giving people in remote areas the opportunity to watch eSports battles and game performances.
It will offer several presentations in English and Chinese along with Japanese, although local availability restrictions may be challenging but some games will be available for online play.
– Format changes –
Still, some of this year’s biggest releases are not featured on TGS.
Microsoft TGS, which accounted for only 0.25% of Xbox One sales in Japan, will not be introducing the new console.
Sony, which launched the new PlayStation 5 online last week, is eliminating TGS altogether this year.
In 2019, Nintendo will have a very rare presence in TGS, the games and switch console that will dominate the Japanese market.
Organizers say this year’s event will inspire permanent format changes.
“We want to do a hybrid physical event that retains the benefits of an online TGS like remote presentations,” Yamaji said.
It remains to be seen whether TGS will convince industry players that attracting a wider international audience is a place to launch new products.
But at the very least, Pandemic creates an opening for innovation in a format that has made little change in recent years.
Yamaji commented that half of this year’s exhibitors are non-Japanese.
“I think it’s going to be fun next year, because it’s really ‘important’?” Ashcraft said.
“What can they show digitally? What can they do personally? I think this year will give them a good barometer.”
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