StarOcean5
Star Ocean 5, already planned west

We have a saying on this show when something happens in Japan that we have a hard time explaining: “It’s Japan being Japan.” Never has that held more true then at TGS (Tokyo Game Show). TGS has traditionally been a Japanese-only affair, focused exclusively on games made by Japanese developers, for the Japanese market. This year however, the times are a-changing, and for the first year ever, TGS was aimed at the world.

The Slump

If you were unaware, the traditional Japanese game market has been in quite a slump lately with various issues, including:

  • Games too long in production
  • Lack of use of third party engines
  • Very insular appeal

The one thing that has thrived in Japan is the mobile market. Japan was already focused on handheld gaming prior to mobile’s existence due to its very “on the go” society, so mobile’s takeover was simply a matter of time. However, mobile popularity is at an all time high (as our in-house oracle, Fallon, has predicted), not just in Japan, but around the world.  Japan is the single largest mobile market worldwide, and, in comparison with traditional games, mobile accounts for over 60% of all game revenue in Japan. With current trends looking the way they are, the only hope for the traditional Japanese game market is to think internationally, and I think they are finally starting to realize that.

SCEJA In English

Sony held its SCEJA press conference on September 15th as a way to kick off TGS, announcing a large slew of games(which I covered here) for PS4PS3, and Vita for Japan. The entire event was in Japanese, but, for the first time ever, English subtitles were provided so that those of us in the West could easily follow along. Not only that, but for games with a planned release date in the West, trailers were released at the same time on Sony’s YouTube page!

Gravity Rush Remastered, one of the games which received a concurrent announcement
Gravity Rush Remastered, one of the games that received a concurrent announcement

This was unprecedented.  Previously, games announced at Japanese game events were games for Japan. Those games might come to the West at a later date, but the time and place for that was not announced at the Japanese event.  This case flies in the face of all of that.

Now, not every game shown at the event was announced for the West; there were a few exceptions such as Gravity Rush 2, where Gravity Rush Remastered was announced instead of the sequel.  However, it’s a fair assumption that if the original does well, the second entry will be seen going to the West. Others, mainly games made by Sega (not Sony), will most likely never see their way over here due to Sega being stuck in the past, or, if they do find their way here, they won’t be in the form we want (see Yakuza 5). But, that’s Sega’s problem, everyone else was/is waking up to the idea of being internationally focused for the first time ever and SCEJA kicked it off.

TGS Continues the Trend

TGS for the first time was thinking internationally with a handful of streams available in English and talking about games that are now coming to the West. No longer was TGS talking exclusively about games that were mainly destined for Japan, but also games that were destined for worldwide launches and thus something we all should pay attention to as gamers. Sure, there were plenty of games only destined for Japan, but most of those were mobile games.  The far more important and bigger games had their eyes set internationally.

TGS has begun to shift its perception from a Japanese game event, to a game event being held in Japan, marking the beginning of the Japanese game market’s shift to an international focus.  This shift is something that the Japanese game industry and gamers should both be excited about.  This gives all those titles that were thought of as obscure before a new boost in presence and popularity as they find their new international fans. Of course, the benefit for us gamers is that we have more to play and a new set of games to sink our teeth into!

It’s a win-win for everyone and I personally look forward to more Japanese games to play!