Despite the lack of presence from either Nintendo or Microsoft at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, Sony and many other video game developers and publishers came out in full force to display a number of exciting future company initiatives and upcoming video game titles in the Japanese market. It was incredibly exhilarating to see what plans each of these companies had for not only Japan, but for other markets in Asia, such as China, Korea and Hong Kong; but amidst it all, I believe Sony unanimously came out on top once again.
All year round, Sony have demonstrated their intimate knowledge and adherence of what people from all around the world want in video gaming today. The PlayStation 4 has sold over 10,000,000 units worldwide since last November, and has had already sold faster than both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 in it’s first fiscal year. But they also had a few aces up their sleeve for their home market at the Tokyo Games Show to establish themselves as the most popular entity at all three major gaming conferences of the calendar year.
Brief focus was first put on the PlayStation Vita at their conference, with Sony unveiling such upcoming titles for the system as Toukiden Kiwami, Phantasy Star Nova, Gundam Breaker 2 and Genkai Tokki: Moero Chronicle, as well as announcing a limited edition white and pink variation of the handheld console. I think that although there were a few decent-looking titles for the system announced, there still needs to be more focus on the PlayStation Vita if Sony ever have any hope of being able to compete in the handheld market against the 3DS or even smartphones. The Vita may not have terrible titles attached to it, but commercially, they’re a drop in the pond compared to the likes of Candy Crush Saga and Pokémon X & Y, and as I said during Gamescom, I think the fact that they’re planning to release Tearaway on the PlayStation 4, and that they’ve already re-released a number of previously exclusive titles on other platforms, has ultimately shown the console’s weakness. And I believe if they don’t put support the console better in the coming months, it’s shelf life may be more short-lived than Sony would like.
However, it was when the company unveiled their future plans for the PlayStation 4 in the Japanese market that things started to get particularly exciting. Aside from showing new trailers for some of the most highly anticipated games including Bloodborne, The Order: 1886, The Evil Within and the re-mastered version of Grand Theft Auto V, an array of new titles for release in the region was unveiled; among them being Dragon Quest Heroes, Dynasty Warriors 9, Resident Evil Revelations 2, Kingdom Under Fire II, Yakuza 0 Knights of Valour and Guilty Gear Xrd.
Emphasis was also put on their commitment towards the indie game scene, with even more games announced, including a game called One Upon Light, which caught my attention. At the end of the conference, a montage of other games panned for future release on the system was also previewed, with Little Big Planet 3 and Far Cry 4 being amongst them.
By unveiling a number of Japanese-oriented titles to be released in the winter and in 2015, I think Sony have now unanimously cemented that PlayStation will indeed be the best place to play in the foreseeable future in Japan, as well as America and Europe. The likes of Dragon Quest and Dynasty Warriors have been immensely successful in Japan for many years, and the fact that both franchises are now being brought to PlayStation 4, among others, will inevitably attract more of a stable fan base in the region. Dragon Quest, in particular, has been one of the most popular video game franchises in Japan since the 80s, and has since become a cultural phenomenon, which I think will also drastically improve the console’s marketability; especially if Sony decide to release a limited edition version of the console to coincide with its release.
Overall, with the aid of many Asia-based developers such as Koei Tecmo, Arc System Works, Namco Bandai, Phantagram, Blueside and Capcom, Sony undoubtedly had an extremely successful Tokyo Games Show conference, and have not only capitalized on the lack of presence from either Microsoft or Nintendo, but capitalized on the Japanese market by listening to what they want and giving it to them.
Speaking of prominent Asia-based developers, a lot of them were also at the show to unveil their plans for the industry in the foreseeable future; among them were Capcom, who not only had a massive merchandise booth for fans of some of their most prominent series to enjoy, but they also revealed further footage of new games coming out from their more recently conceived franchises, such as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, The Great Ace Attorney and although it was also showcased at Sony’s conference, Resident Evil Revelations 2. They also revealed details of a patch coming to Ultra Street Fighter IV named Omega Mode, which will add new move sets for the character roster, as well as showing new footage of the planned remake of the Resident Evil remake.
Personally, I think its good that Capcom have decided to invest in their newer franchises. It makes a nice change from what they have been doing relentlessly in recent years. Mega Man Legends 3 was abruptly cancelled, and the fans blamed by Capcom for it much to their annoyance, the Resident Evil franchise has slowly become a shadow of its former self and both Street Fighter II and IV have been updated more times than a wag’s Twitter page. But fans have also spoken out against them and demanded more originality and the emphasis on and creation of newer franchises, and so Capcom have responded. Not only have they began to focus more on the likes of Ace Attorney, Monster Hunter and creating new IPs such as Deep Down, but they have also been revamping franchises that have been untouched for decades such as Strider. Breath of Fire VI is also planned for release with the series not being worked on for almost ten years.
In summation, following the difficult patch that Capcom have gone through with the failures of entries in prominent series and the departure of and subsequent criticism aimed at them by former global head of production and Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune, the company has at least shown signs of getting themselves back on the right track at this years, Tokyo Games Show, and although I’m personally not a huge fan of most Capcom franchises, they have developed, and continue to develop, a wide range of decent titles, and for them to have faced the problems they have whilst still maintaining their status as one the world’s most prominent manes in video games development is truly a phenomenal feat indeed, and I wish them the best of luck in the future.
One of Capcom’s closest competitors, if not they’re closest, was also in attendance at this years TGS conference; Konami. Where Capcom have Mega Man, Konami have Castlevania. Where Capcom have Resident Evil, Konami have Silent Hill. And this year, where Capcom have released details of upcoming games like Great Ace Attorney and Resident Evil Revelations 2, Konami have showcased even more of one of the most highly anticipated titles of the eighth generation so far; Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
A trailer for the game was revealed during Konami’s livestream at the conference, which showed off the character Quiet and her OctoCamo skin; all followed by a 22-minute live demo of the game. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that The Phantom Pain takes place in an open world is a very positive departure from the rest of the series, and something that I think has needed to happen for some time. Although the entire Metal Gear Solid series has always had a very compelling and deep narrative, and that the series’ main formula was in my opinion perfected in Metal Gear Solid 2, making for one of my favourite games of all time, I think that something significant has had to happen in terms of gameplay for quite some time, and Metal Gear Solid V looks like it may very well bring about that significant level of change. I was less convinced during Gamescom that any major innovation had been incorporated into the game when Hideo Kojima took to the stage to demonstrate the different ways in which the box item could be used, but after seeing what I’ve seen now, I’ve never been more excited for the game to come out; especially after I was bitterly disappointed with their 2013 effort, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Overall, I think Konami’s conference was fairly exciting, but a concern I have is that at the only games they have to showcase at the moment are both The Phantom Pain and the upcoming Silent Hills. Again, like Capcom, I think Konami have had issues with putting out new IPs, but unlike Capcom, they seem to be doing little to remedy that; especially since it came into light following the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 that the future of that in particular series is by Konami’s own admission, uncertain, which wont have gone down well with the many Castlevania fans out there. But although both The Phantom Pain and Silent Hills are among some of the most anticipated games so far, I don’t think it means that Konami should simply rest on their laurels and expect them to sell as well as they hope. They need to introduce new IPs and put out more games if they even want to continue to compete with the likes of Capcom or with other developers in the Japanese and other overseas markets.
In my opinion, out of all the reveals and unveilings that happened throughout this year’s Tokyo Games Show, one of the most exciting came from Sega. As well as having the likes of Yakuza 0 and Phantasy Star Nova unveiled at Sony’s conference, there was also gameplay footage showcased of the future installation of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Sonic Boom: The Rise of Lyric. The footage demonstrated many of the puzzle solving elements of the game as well as a lot of the promised elements of exploration involved; something, which in my opinion has been sorely lacking in most Sonic the Hedgehog games. Looking at the mere five minutes of gameplay footage, I can safely say that this game looks potentially like the best thing that Sega have ever done with the entire franchise. Alleviating my biggest concerns over the series, the controls look a lot easier to cope with now that Sonic can move at a normal and reasonable pace whilst he isn’t dashing, and the other controllable characters look as if their move sets and abilities work well with the control scheme.
Again, like most Capcom franchises, Sonic the Hedgehog has never appealed to me as much as most Nintendo franchises such as Mario, Zelda, Metroid or Star Fox; but Sonic Boom to me looks as if it may be leaps and bounds ahead of any other Sonic game, including Sonic Adventure. I think that something like this has been a long time coming; not only to me, but to a lot of other disgruntled Sonic fans out there, who have had to settle for a deluge of sub-par attempts at revival ever since the release of the dreaded Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. Many games in the series that have been released since that time have included the like of Sonic Unleashed, Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic: The Lost World, which have all garnished many negative reviews by critics all over the industry.
But I’ve always thought that if Sega ever have had any hope of truly reviving the series, they would have to do something extremely drastic and make a lot of departures from most of what they have done witht the series so far and tailor it into something cool, new and particularly special; and out of all the attempts that Sega have made to revive the series, Sonic Boom: The Rise of Lyric looks to me like the first overly appealing Sonic title in the series’ entire history, let alone recent history. I realize I may get quite a bit of criticism for my opinion of this, but I believe there are also many reasons why the popularity of Mario has since eclipsed that of Sega’s blue hedgehog mascot.
On the other hand, I didn’t know quite what to make of what Square Enix had to reveal at this year’s conference; whether to be excited for it or indifferent towards it. Their plans for gaming in the future involve a new cloud-based gaming company called Shinra Technologies, named after the fictional organization the critically acclaimed game Final Fantasy VII. The company claim that this initiative is not just whats next for them, but that it will be the technological breakthrough, which will propel the industry even further forward in the future. They went on to add that they are currently working with more developers to bring new gaming experiences, and that Shinra Technologies will be the epicentre for cloud-based gaming.
Since the concept of cloud-based gaming is still a relatively unproven idea, despite the fact that it has garnished a lot of momentum over the last two years, the questions I’ve been left asking myself involve how Shinra Technology is going to be any different from it’s competitors in the long term. How can they expect to compete with Sony, who will be releasing PlayStation Now in the near future, which will inevitably have a wider range of games on it than Shinra Technology will? When Microsoft and Nintendo follow suit of PlayStation Now, what will come of Shinra Technology afterwards? But I believe as of now anyway, my opinions of this aren’t and shouldn’t be considered finalized, simply because the idea of Shinra Technology itself is not finalized; and by the same token, nor is cloud-based gaming. I think what would have been more exciting and more valid to me would have been if Square Enix had introduced an incentive scheme, which would be attached to their games, similar to what Ubisoft have done with uPlay. I’ve wondered for some time now why that idea hasn’t caught on to other developers and why it hasn’t applied to ever Ubisoft game since it was first introduced in Assassin’s Creed II. I certainly think it would have made South Park: The Stick of Truth a lot more interesting than was.
But I digress. As I said, I wish gamers had given a bit more information about Shinra Technology, and that Square Enix would have been able to better explain exactly how the prospect of the idea could match their confidence in it, but for the moment, I’m left feeling sceptical about it until more information is divulged.
However, opinions of mine that I do consider to be finalized regard Microsoft and the current state of their latest home console, the Xbox One. Microsoft did not hold a conference at the Tokyo Games Show this year. However, Xbox’s CEO Phil Spencer was in attendance to observe what was happening and to witness each unveiling as events in Japan unfolded.
To me, it’s just as well that Microsoft chose not to hold a conference, since not only did they not have anything new to showcase at the event that no one hadn’t seen before, but the Xbox One has continued to sell poorly in comparison to not only the PlayStation 4, but in comparison to both the original Xbox and the Xbox 360. In it’ first week in the region, the Xbox One sold just shy of 23,000 units, leaving them 5 million units behind the PlayStation 4’s net sales and 1 million behind worldwide sales of the Wii U. But in my opinion, Microsoft have no one but themselves to blame for their failings in the Japanese market. Earlier this year, they promised an array of appealing titles exclusive to the country upon release of the Xbox One, but they failed to deliver; instead, releasing titles that have received success in the West, but have not appealed to the Japanese market, and a deluge of games that have under-performed so farm such as Kinect Sports: Rivals, Dead Rising 3, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Murdered: Soul Suspect.
The way I see it, this is where the root of the problem lies. Instead of learning of or asking the Japanese market what they want, Microsoft are trying to tell them what they want, and it hasn’t worked. They’ve failed to show any kind of understanding of the video games market over in Japan, and what it is that makes gaming a cultural phenomenon. And I think that for someone from Microsoft to simply sit down and listen, like what Phil Spencer has now tried to do, hasn’t been soon enough.
Though Microsoft have decided to open their ears as opposed to their mouth in Japan for a change does show a vague desire from them to want to learn about what the Japanese want in terms of gaming, I think they need to dedicate a lot more than just a few days at a games conference. Even though Nintendo didn’t have a conference of their own either, 3DS games were on show at the Namco Bandai and the upcoming model of 3DS was made available to the public to try out. Microsoft need to study the market thoroughly, they need to understand what kinds of games sell in Japan and what franchises are the most popular; but most importantly, they need to understand why, so that Spencer and Microsoft will be able to accommodate them accordingly, and support the Xbox One with more immersing and more attractive titles than what has been seen so far. I think that if the Xbox One and the games have seen lacklustre sales over in the Western market, there was never any chance of thing getting any better in Japan anyway. But in all, I think 2015 will be pivotal to the future of the Xbox One; the year that will either truly make or break the console, and even Microsoft’s own foray into gaming overall. They need to make drastic improvements to their initiatives and ideas for all markets for the foreseeable future, and they seriously need to consider a substantial improvement in the Xbox One’s video game library; and to me, their lack of presence at the Tokyo Games Show, in terms of either future Xbox One games or company initiatives, unanimously proved that.
So, that’s my account of the 2014 Tokyo Game Show. What did you think of the shows events? What got you most excited? What do you think the show’s main highlights were? As always, I look forward to reading your opinions, and that I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.