Tokyo games fair a 'subdued' and sweltering affair in quake aftermath

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2011, 12:00am

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It was dim and hot in the exhibition hall for the Tokyo Game Show, but the perspiring fans were more interested in the latest consoles and game titles than in turning up the air conditioning or complaining about the lighting.

Energy saving was evident at the gaming extravaganza, reflecting the society-wide pressure to cut electricity use after the March 11 earthquake.

Industry players said this year's fair was much less glamorous than in previous years. Exhibitors used dimmer lights to save energy. The weak air conditioning also prompted organisers to put up signs warning about heatstroke.

'This year's show was more subdued compared to previous years. Part of it was likely due to the earthquake,' said Mirko Ernkvist, a visiting postdoctoral research fellow at the Baba Game Lab of the University of Tokyo's graduate school of interdisciplinary information studies.

Yoshinori Ono, a game producer from Capcom (the developer of hit game titles such as Street Fighter), said the earthquake had caused delays in the release of several natural disaster-themed game titles. The summer power shortage also affected game development, Ono said.

Shinji Hashimoto of Square Enix (developer of the popular Final Fantasy series) said power supply had been a problem for the industry. However, 'the industry has already gone past the most difficult time' and electricity shortage is no longer a problem for game development, he said. Although Sony's PlayStation Vita was a star attraction at the fair, there was also an increase in the number of mobile and social games created for smartphones and tablets.

Yoichi Wada, chairman of the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association, said in his keynote speech that gaming platforms were shifting from hardware to networks.

'The most significant impression was how rapidly the shift is taking place from video games platform to SNS [social networking system] and mobile and smartphone games,' Ernkvist said.

The SNS gaming market in Japan, which had estimated revenue of 200 billion yen (HK$20.3 billion) last year 'will overtake the size of the total video gaming software market within the next two years' Ernkvist said.

The number of exhibitors at this year's show dipped to 193 from 194 last year, while the number of booths fell to 1,250, from 1,458. But the number of game titles rose to 715 from 712.