About a week ago I was still at the Tokyo Games Show, and here’s my full report of it. This article is going to be as much off topic as I can imaging getting, but since Pandora owners are usually gamers, I can probably afford to venture into this article without much restraint. So let’s get down to it.
I don’t mean to speak from authority but this is my seventh TGS this year and I can claim to have seen a lot. I even wrote a whole article on the TGS trends over the years for the magazine SANQUA (in french, sorry guys). There are indeed two major trends at work:
– First, the event gets more and more attendees every year.
– Second, the large booths lose space year after year: there is a loss of space and an ongoing fragmentation into small booths.
This year is no exception. There were tons of small booths for different companies or universities, and some major publishers completely missing, such as Konami or Level 5. This probably means they did not have much to show for this timing and this is not reassuring for publishers of that size. Koei Tecmo was there but they had almost no games per se And there are still large parts of the show dedicated to WTF companies like Gung Ho, Bushiroad, or even World of Tanks. Gung Ho is what I call a junkware company. They made a fucking stupid game for mobile phones called Puzzle And Dragons, and somehow managed to take if off the ground. Now you even see TV advertising for this shitty game. You can’t really go more casual than that and I don’t mean casual in a good way here.
So what do you do when you spend time in such a depressing trend? Well the national sport seems to be taking pictures of booth babes, and the babes at the TGS do NOT disappoint. So, why not…
This year I expected a bit more, since the Playstation 4 and the Xboxone were to make their first appearance in Japan.
As usual for all big announcements, Sony took the stage for a keynote. And OMG, you have probably heard that Japanese people are bad at presenting, and if you need an example Sony was the right one to pick. You had a guy in the corner who inspired as much passion as a sponge, and who literally failed to give you any sense of magic for their new systems.
The PS4, as you know, looks ugly like shit. I mean, the Xboxone too, so I guess they are brothers in awfulness. Since when did the shoebox design become popular? Is that a new way of doing branding, making the box so ugly so that you focus on something else?
We have been told as well that Sony loves Indie devs. Really? Since when ? They were showing many of the indie games coming to the PS4, and that was another good time for ridicule, since most of them had already been available on PC for like 6 months or… years! If you love Indie games, you probably need a PC, not a PS4.
They did present their PS Vita TV as well, and while it may do well on the market because it’s so cheap, its sole reason to exist seems to stream games from the ps4 to another screen in another room at home. Wow… like… we had never seen that before right?
Oh wait, just two years ago Yoshida did the exact same presentation with the vita streaming a ps3 game on its tiny screen. Which is exactly the same thing. Guys… innovation, do you ever know the meaning of the word? Here’s Yoshida below doing a useless presentation of Augmented reality via the PS4. Pretty, but not very fun and useless. Shouldn’t you guys be making GAMES instead?
The pitiful Sony keynote ending, I went to try a number of games. I wanted to see what the PS4 and the Xboxone were capable of. Overall I was quite disappointed by both. Maybe even more by the PS4 because none of the games they were showing were remotely impressive. Deep down was just a rip-off of Dark Soul but without the interesting elements of it. Drive Club looked actually pretty bad and ran at like 25 fps or something, and was so aliased I thought it was a PS3 game.
The Xboxone was having the edge with a number of games pretty good looking such as TitanFall, Forza 5 and the new Panzer Dragoon like game.
Killer Instinct was gorgeous too. But no matter how good they looked it still seemed very much like mid-range PC kind of graphics.
Nothing amazing. No WOW effect. And this is quite disturbing since these consoles are supposed to last about ten years, right? If they are already obsolete when they come out…
Besides, since the graphics jump is not very high between, say, a ps3 and a ps4, it will be tough to convince a number of gamers to switch. And you could easily see that both Sony and Microsoft were still showing strong support of the current platforms as well.
The Xboxone and PS4 controllers are quite different from each other. First they are both doing away with the start and select buttons and introduce nonsense buttons; one dedicated to sharing on PS4 for example. WTF!A typical example of bullshit at work. The social network bullshit. Yeah so kids spent all their waking lives on Facebook, so what? Is it really a good idea to encourage them to use their social networks for gaming as well? I’ll let you ponder on that. My own answer is FUCK THAT and bring me back solid solo offline gaming and I’ll call myself a happy man. Stop dealing drugs to social addicts. It will just cheapen up the platform in the end.
Anyway. Back to the controller. You are going to think I’m a Microsoft fanboy but this is not the case. However the Xboxone controller is really well designed and felt really right in hands. Amazing work they did here, especially after the already excellent xbox360 pad. Everything smelled of high quality. The materials, the buttons, the nubs… they did their job and did it well. More of the same, but well done.
The PS4 pad felt awkward in many ways. The shape was slightly modified and not for the better. Now it looks like someone bridged two dildos together or something. What were they thinking?
On top of that, you get a trackpad like surface on the ps4 pad, the kind of hugely useless thing that can only come from the fucked up minds of Sony engineers. How this will ever be used, nobody knows. Guess it will follow the same destiny as the back-touch screen of the PS Vita.
Talking about the PS Vita, two news made the headlines. First, a new model is going to come out, and it looks like a cheapened version of the Vita, now using a LCD screen instead of the OLED Sony used to brag so much about. Whatever. Still, I was kind of surprised the PS Vita was not canned altogether.
On the contrary, they expanded the line… with the PS Vita TV. Another shoebox kind of design, how original! Why would they expand the line? God you can imagine how much unsold inventory of Vita they have right? The best way for them to hope to get rid of it is to package it into something else and sell it as a “new thing”! An old marketing technique that’s been used by Sega and the 32X before. For those who know History.
The main purpose of this machine seems to be to stream PS4 games from the living room to a bedroom, as I said, but I had the chance to sit down and play with it over a game of Soul Sacrifice, in multiplayer mode with 3 other players using PV Vitas.
It worked. I was playing with the TV screen, however, and I have to saw the very same game looked awful on a large TV. It just does not translate very well, unfortunately. And that’s where you see that the Vita is far, very far from being a portable PS3. There’s clearly a gap between the two systems and the lack of picture post processing just makes games look awful on large surfaces.
If I had to hand out a winner between Sony and Microsoft in the show, it would clearly be Microsoft as they had much more decent games to show for their system. TitanFall was one of them, since it a cool idea of big robots fighting in multiplayer in city environments. It was clearly one of the most popular games there.
Of course we are only talking about the launch window so things may change over time but at this point in time the PS4 lineup was not very impressive. But don’t get me wrong. I don’t think for one second that the Xboxone line-up was very strong either.
There were no killer titles, and nothing that would trigger a purchase for me. And more importantly, the visual gap was not that great between the current generation and the upcoming one. How are they going to sell the new hardware when games do not look radically different? They are probably worried about that since there were still many titles presented for the Xbox360 and the PS3. By the way the PS3 still had very big titles coming, such as GT6 (not bad, but shows its age a little), and Beyond: Two souls, from Quantic Dreams. Beyond:TS was quite pretty, but it’s just another Dragon’s Lair game, if you know what I mean. Not much hope for anything good there.
Sony and Microsoft are apparently targeting a slow transition as they know they do not have a strong case to push people to move to the next gen. No doubt we will see both the Xboxone and PS4 reach easily 5-10 millions of units, but beyond that the bets are off. Getting a larger share will prove difficult in the fragmented games market that we now live in, unless they come back with exceptional games only for their hardware. That sounds unlikely.
Outside these two, the first thing that was very clear was the notorious absence of WiiU games. I guess it’s fairly obvious by now that third parties have abandoned the system to focus on other ones. Now this remains to be seen whether Nintendo has the muscle to make up for the lack of good titles on their own. My guess is that they will let it drift away bit by bit just like they did for the Gamecube, and focus entirely on their portable systems until they find the right time to launch something for the home market again… or not.
Japanese publishers did not give the impression of a strong pipeline.
Capcom was relying again and again on their massively shitty rpg, Monster Hunter 4. Japanese gamers seem to be really addicted to this crap.
They had a new Strider game (remember the arcade game from the 80s?) that was decent ut rather looked like an indie production. It’s probably only sold as DLC, I guess. Since they were also distributing GTA5 they had a large part dedicated to it as well. For Capcom, that was it! (Ignoring a few more crappy games like Lost Planet 3 already sold over here and already heavily discounted everywhere…). At least they had no Resident Evil crap this year, we kind of have to be thankful for that. And Capcom is still the booth with the BEST booth babes of the show, so no matter what crap they come up with, people still love them for that:
Square Enix had nothing much to show apart from a couple of new games, one of them being another follow up in the FFXIII series (Lightning returns or some shit like that).
I mean, again?? They seriously ought to stop and think twice whether or not it makes sense to expand crappy game universes in the first place. They were showing a video of the PC version of Dragon Quest X, a surprising move after the game launched on the Wii. Why not on PS3? I am not sure what their strategy is.
They were also showing the HD remake of Final Fantasy X, which looked really bad since they only improved the resolution and the textures and that’s it. It looked really dated. Finally a video of Final Fantasy XV part of the Versus universe was certainly very impressive, but that was only a trailer. Who knows if the game will be actually fun to play? FFXIII looked like a great game 5 years ago but it ended up being just a turd.
Konami was altogether not in the main part of the show, while they did have a MGS5 event on the Sony stage with Kojima (which I missed… but watched on youtube after). It was an overview of the gameplay of MGS5 . It looked promising but there were several issues, such as the crosshairs/pointers on enemies, the first time ever they noobify MGS. But the open world concept is potentially a good idea as long as the world is coherent and… not empty. This is a game we will really need to test hand-on to find out if it’s any good. And since I was very disappointed with the 4th installment of the series, I guess any change can only be positive… who knows?
Konami’s absence made it easier for Fifa to shine, since it was prominently demonstrated its next gen version. This could have been a good opportunity to counter it with Pro Evolution Soccer. Fifa 14 was surprisingly enjoyable and easy to play. I haven’t touched a Fifa game for years and my last impression was of an average playability, but this version felt easy to control.
Namco Bandai was as usual busy showing shitty games on their booth, most of them adaptations of existing franchises. They had this one fighting game using many of Shonen Jump’s characters from Dragon Ball, One Piece, Trico and many others. Another Gundam. Another Saint Seiya game (I tried it and my hands felt dirty after. What did I do??). Well at least these were appropriate games for a Japan audience I guess ?
Sega was as poor as ever. They simply had a new Yakuza game taking place in the medieval Japan (I did not even bother checking it out, the Yakuza series are pure garbage), and the Otaku Project Diva crap of which Japan cannot get enough of, it seems. I don’t recall seeing anything else that was worthy talking about there.
There were some curiosities in the show, such as this android tablet with physical controls kind of similar to the Pandora but much bigger.
This was made by a Japanese company in Fukuoka, in the southern part of Japan. They had a custom interface to map the touchscreen elements to physical controls in a very easy way (drag and drop!). The screen was decent as well. Not bad, while I certainly do not want to spend all my time on Android.
Another portable console was in demonstration but it was quite small. I did not have a chance to check it out but it was probably running some kind of Android backend as well.
Another oddity: the section of games made for women. Usually love simulations targeting females, basically. I can’t say I was particularly attracted to find out more.
So there you have it. Another TGS that utterly failed to meet any of my expectations. I can say my expectations were higher this year because of the new consoles to be released, but nonetheless there was not much worthy to play or to see. What a shame.
Following the recent announcements of Valve about the SteamOS, the SteamMachines and the Steam controller, I’m confident I should stay on the PC for some time for my gaming needs. This is going to be a quest for relevancy and survival, and we will see who can manage to get out of the crowd and win popular vote, 2 years down the road.