Ten Years of Tokyo Game Show

Tokyo Game Show is almost here.

It'll be my tenth. My first was back in 2006, when I went on one of the abysmal public days. I did the same in 2007 and 2008 before deciding that I needed a press pass, as the public are unbearable. I made some arrangements, flogged some words, and got myself in on the industry days. I've retained my pass ever since, covering the show 2009-2011, and 2016~ present.

You might say I'm somewhat of a big deal. In fact, I would encourage you to do this.

I love Tokyo Game Show, even when it's bad. I also really like reminiscing. So this is me reminiscing about TGS.

The show has changed a lot in thirteen years. It takes up more space than it used to, but the main floor is more sparsely populated. Microsoft abandoned TGS several years ago; Level-5 disappeared and reappeared, and Square Enix doesn't party like it used to. Capcom, Sega, Koei Tecmo, Namco Bandai and Konami have all hung around, to varying degrees, and Sony is still the main draw in the big hall. The indie selection is a fairly recent addition, as is the expansive merchandise area where idiots buy every-day items shaped like their favourite console.

Most years, there's a supreme hotness. It's usually hardware related and it dominates the show. In 2009-10 it was Kinnect and motion controls. Microsoft had a huge booth and punters were dancing like mentalists on raised platforms. Sony were desperate to keep up, and had you waving wands at screens at every opportunity.

3D displays were a thing for the briefest of moments - anyone remember Sony's PS-branded 3D TV? Next was The Vita. There were nowhere near enough units to go around, including at an infamous pre-TGS press junket on a boat where thirty-seven journalists were forced into a knife fight to determine who would enjoy eleven minutes of the Welcome Pack demo on a solitary Vita. That's an actual thing that happened, told to me by a friend who's cousin used to work for Polygon but is now dead, from being stabbed. Look it up.

VR was the most recent trend. It was everywhere in 2016 and 2017, but had cooled off significantly by last year's show. I enjoyed this boom, as it afforded me the opportunity to play Rez Infinite and Tetris Effect in consecutive years.

A non-hardware related trend that made headlines was insisting that Japanese games are shit. I say trend, but it was basically just Keiji Inafune doing this. To his credit, he kept it up for several years.

"Personally when I looked around [at] all the different games at the TGS floor, I said "Man, Japan is over. We're done. Our game industry is finished."
Keiji Inafune, creator of Mighty No. 9

Thanks to TGS, I've played some games that you probably have not. 2010 featured two vaporware titles that, even at the time, had "soon to be cancelled" written all over them. GunLoco was a rubbish team shooter from Square Enix. It had a huge stand at SE but was thoroughly underwhelming, despite its best efforts to be wacky. I tried Capcom's Mega Man Universe behind closed doors, from which it never emerged. It was an unpleasant slog - difficult and slow in equal measure.

Gamer tissues, for Gamers

The spectre of The Last Guardian loomed over TGS from the moment the initial trailer hit in 2009, to it's eventual release in 2016. Every year, we were convinced that we'd be playing LG only to be bitterly disappointed. Ditto for Final Fantasy Versus XIII which eventually transformed into something else. That something else was FFXV, which was alright in the end but ranks as one of my least favourite TGS demos. Press forward to push a car while being forced to listen to Florence and the Machine is a terrible premise for a demo.

My favourite TGS demo is probably the co-op slice of Lost Planet 2 we got back in 2009. As a full game, it didn't pan out, but I had a blast playing the demo with friends, climbing inside a massive beast and mini-gunning the shite out of it. The 2017 Monster Hunter World trial was a standout, as was Binary Domain back in 2011. Bayonetta was exhilarating, but that was partly due to the fact that a friend and I had blagged our way into a exclusive hands-on and knew we were about to be rumbled by Sega's PR.

Sucking at Marvel vs Capcom 3 while chatting with Seth Killian was massively embarrassing. The Dead Rising 2 demo was terrifying, thanks to a troupe of zombie cosplayers who stormed the booth when your allotted time was over. I brained four of them before Capcom PR intervened and pointed out my error. I took my complimentary fridge magnet and ran.

Every year is Yakuza-something, and I have no complaints.

Spotting industry icons wandering around never gets old, nor does grabbing drinks with fellow-attendees post-show and chatting until the last train. And then when it's all over, I get to sort through my bag of freebies and put 95% of it straight in the bin. Because no one needs a Kazuma Kiryu box of tissues.

Tokyo Game Show will run from 12th - 15th September, and I can't wait. I'll be in attendance, and will cover it here and other places.

I hope you'll join me.


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