Updated at: 2016-12-29
Having been lucky to receive free tickets through a game designer friend, I went along to my first ever game show experience, the Tokyo Game Show 2016 （東京ゲームショウ2016）, held from the 15th to the 18th of September in Chiba prefecture at the Makuhari Messe, a famous exhibition centre about an hour’s train ride west of Tokyo.
The first two days of the show are actually ‘Business Days’, only open to companies and businesses for trading purposes, while the remainder of the two days (Saturday and Sunday) were open to the public, drawing a record high crowd of 271,224 visitors in total this year. Although predominantly aimed to showcase Japanese games and local game giants such as Sony, Sega, Bandai, Namco and Capcom, there was also a surprising number of international exhibitors and companies present (345 of the 614 companies were foreign to be exact). This year’s game show marks the 20th anniversary of the Tokyo Game Show - TGS for short.
From a non-gamer or tech expert perspective, the whopping 11 exhibition halls were a mind-blowingly spectacle of flashing lights, performances, crowds, screens, visuals and audio - basically a game Carnival. Halls 1-8 housed the general exhibitions while Halls 9-11 featured VR, E-sports, Indie Games, Cosplay and merchandise for purchase. (Something I found extremely handy and awesome were the free charging stations for your mobile devices, provided by Japanese telecompany Docomo available in Halls 1 and 7.)
This year’s Tokyo Game Show also saw a new focus on VR with a lot of gaming companies demoing their latest game technology. Playstation offered visitors the chance to experience their new VR headset that is yet to be launched until October 2016. One game in particular was the epitome of the weird and wacky of Japan (what I more or less expected from the TGS); a VR game that used a cosplayed mannequin to simulate contact with a virtual anime girl. What made it such a hot attraction was most likely the unlimited VR groping it offered. Other busy exhibits included the Final Fantasy XV demo release where die-hard fans had lined up most of the day just to play the game first hand.
Amidst the maze of unknown games and exhibits, I managed to recognise a few from my childhood that had obviously received a revamp such as the new mobile era Yu-Gi-Oh app game projected on screens for visitors to battle it out. The amount of foreigners exhibiting also came as a surprise as I had a quick chat with some of the indie developers of the Dutch convoy that had their own section right next to leading gaming video platform Twitch.
Other highlights for me included seeing the array of cosplayers and so called ‘booth babes’ that TGS is famous for. Girls (and guys) dressed up as games characters promoting their respective exhibits seemed to be the main attraction and reason of visit for most of the photographers. (You’ll notice in the photos the sheer swarm around some of these scantily dressed ladies.)
Overall, the TGS is definitely an event I’d recommend to check out if you’re lucky enough to be in Tokyo at the time (the 2017 TGS is scheduled for 21 Sept - 24 Sept). It not only combines the weird, crazy, high tech and imagination games have to offer, but also gives you a glimpse into the modern impact of the gaming industry.