This entry was written in the thick of Tokyo Game Show, Japan's largest gaming convention. Commentary aims to open discussions, this one focused on where we are at in the gaming industry. We invite readers to add their own comments down below.
By J.J. Koester
The above photograph exemplifies what is completely wrong with TGS and why it gets more and more difficult for me to enjoy myself each go-around. Clearly, what we're looking at here is absurd, bordering on self-parody. The only thing that prevents it from being self-parody is the fact that those aren't performance artists with their heads jammed into the boobs of a two-story tall woman. Those are attendees.
Now, I know that this display isn't representative of TGS as a whole. Nor is TGS representative of the entire Japanese gaming industry (which, in turn, isn't representative of the global industry). But, with Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian so fresh, it just makes my skin crawl a bit.
Am I alone in feeling like this image is indicative of the worst of the world of gaming?
Now, THIS is what gaming is about to me and what TGS should be (and often is). What you're seeing here is the Konami booth. A ram strapped to a weather balloon can only mean one thing: Kojima has some new tricks up his sleeve. The grandiose stage design is hip and eye-catching, but more important, it hints at an experience that will include some new gameplay mechanics without giving too much away. Knowing Kojima, these gameplay elements will likely offer a new perspective on the tactical espionage genre while also being pretty silly.
This, coupled with the trailer playing on loop at the booth, was enough to amp me up about gaming in general.
Then, you walk down from the Konami booth, home of pump-up, and you stumble on the Playstation booth and the question comes up again: Why are we here?
TGS is, ostensibly, an opportunity to celebrate the gaming community and an opportunity for the industry to interact with the fans. With Sony recently predicting an annual loss 4 times what they originally projected (current prediction is a 230 billion yen loss) and their stock taking a significant hit as a result, the whole con started to feel like a con. I mean, the convention started to feel like a ruse.
Would Sony be operating at such a huge loss if they were actually listening to their customers or the shifting market trends? Japanese companies tend to make decisions slower than their international competitors, and the damage this can do to an enterprise is increasingly obvious as markets evolve with exponential quickness.
It isn't enough to follow the movements of the fast-changing tech industry. For a company to remain competitive, it has to be creating the change. And, here we are again, with the same monstrous display booths trotting out the same old promises (more polygons than ever before, real-time lighting, particle effects). The industry presence for fans is a marketing behemoth that feels incapable of change; just more.
The bombast has never felt greater than it did this year, with speakers and light-shows cranked to 11 but actual information or content fairly scarce. For me, the TGS experience feels more and more like a collection of psychotically high-risk investors shouting "Here's the thing you have to like or we go bankrupt".
So, it's been another year at TGS and I am definitely feeling worse for wear. The industry feels progressively fragmented. Sony is posting massive losses while Microsoft buys Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars. Nintendo still won't have anything to do with TGS. And, the independent community is populated with brilliant individuals who bring new ideas to the floor, but all of them feel like they were developed in a vacuum.
While the big players on the floor are screaming for our attention, non-games like Candy Crush Saga and Kim Kardashian's app continue to rake in the moolah that major devs desperately need for the tentpole business model to continue to work.
Maybe TGS really is devolving into a representation of a cutthroat industry that is bending under the pressure to make ever-higher investments in and ever-riskier market.
Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy who is ignoring the myriad ways technology has evolved so I can moan and groan from the safety of my porch.
And, maybe I'm just too distracted by the recent release of Dragon Quest One on iOs to really pay much attention to anything else. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a metal slime to chase down.