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Monday, October 05, 2009

Tokyo Game Show 2009

Crap in a kolache, I totally blew past The Tokyo Game Show, which is normally a pretty important gamer milestone (largely consumer, though there are a couple of biz-dev-ish days that precede the bulk of the show).

I blame it on GDC Austin, and a wealth of games coming out as the holiday season groans to life (Halo ODST, Bowser's Inside Story, Scribblenauts, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and L4D DLC) -- all of which I'm playing in rotation.

But for what it's worth, despite fewer games and lower attendance at this year's show, here are a handful of things from the event that floated my boat:
  • Natal buy-in -- Nay say as you will about motion controllers (I won't), but the train has left the station, and Microsoft for one is truly making it core to their business (I don't yet feel quite the same about Sony's offering, which doesn't even have a name yet). To add weight to the tech, at TGS Microsoft paraded 7 big-gun Japanese developers who are supposedly bought into Natal. This included Capcom's head of R&D Keiji Inafune (Dead Rising); Namco Bandai's GM Yozo Sakagami; Tecmo's Keisuke Kikuchi (Rygar); Kojima Productions's Kenichiro Imaizumi (Metal Gear Solid 4); Sega's Toshihiro Nagoshi (Monkey Ball); FromSoftware's Masanori Takeuchi (Ninja Blade); and Konami's Naoki Maeda.

  • Epic Games expands to Japan -- Sure, it's largely a support organization, but there's now way it's going to stay that way. And with top game dev talent in-country (and with recent, hefty, in-country game dev layoffs), the makers of the Unreal Engine are well positioned to make use of ground forces to directly address local game tastes, and conceivably work more closely with Japanese-HQed Sony and Nintendo.

  • Nintendo Wii price drop -- I'm not sure what I found more interesting -- Nintendo's price drop of the Wii to $199, or their brilliant timing of making the announcement during Sony's TGS press conference (which felt a bit lackluster anyway, and really lost live-blogging steam once their competitor's price drop was announced).

  • Square-Enix and billing innovation -- This was interesting, and got poo-pooed by a lot of gamers. Since I'm a financial services tech guy who moved into the game industry, and spent years in my previous life trying to push gaming payment solutions (I was told, "there's no money in that"; so I left), it's good to see a high-profile company raise awareness of the infrastructure innovations that must happen for games to evolve -- it's not just about hardware and game design innovation.

  • Universal video capture for 360 games? -- This one slipped a bit under the radar, but, allegedly, a gamer made a sideways comment about not building vid capture functionality into their game -- "... why work on something that the platform holder is already developing".

    Video capture, by itself, doesn't really float my boat (what is with me and boats, lately?) -- but theater capture (a la Halo 3) does. Why? Because this kind of capture captures (erm) the game data -- not just a video feed of the game being played. This lets you do all sorts of wicked cool things like play the scene over and over from multiple angles, from multiple cameras, speeding up and slowing down motion, etc., with a negligible memory footprint (especially when compared to raw video).

    Make that available in the Xbox XDKs for developers, and not only do you have cool functionality for gamers, but really useful stuff for game devs as they debug, test, and iterate on polishing their titles for gamers. This is tech on which to keep an eye.

  • Games -- Hey, I'm a gamer, so even if things weren't new, per se, I get stoked for new content for titles I like. For me, this included Snoopy Flying Ace (Snoopy versus the Red Baron on XBLA); Ni no Kuni (NDS RPG from Level-5 Studio (freaking) Ghibli); Dead Rising 2 (zombie games are not "old and busted"); Crackdown 2 (sequel to one of the most underrated games evahr); Alan Wake (I will not lose faith in this game); New Super Mario Bros. (co-op Wii franchise goodness); L4D2 (what is with this franchise? There are so many things that should make this not work, and I. Can't. Get. Enough.); and Dante's Inferno (a classic-made game; I hope it's success signals a Watership Down RTS).
Sorry for you letting you down on the real-time updates, Gaming Faithful. Still friends?

Anyway, get more retcon coverage from people here, here, and obviously here.

(And apologies to any folks in the kolache industry.)

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