Sony’s conference for the Tokyo Game Show yesterday was scintillating, and a reminder of just how great game press conferences and shows can be. At just one and a half hours long, it was the shortest major showing by Sony in recent memory, but that was not because of a lack of content- Sony achieved this by cutting out all the bloat, and focusing on good pacing.
For a company that always likes to take detours to pointless side endeavors in their conferences, such as misguided attempts at a PlayStation original TV series, or fill them up with pointless montages to pad out time and make it seem like they have more content than they really do, the PlayStation TGS conference yesterday was almost dramatically refreshing.
From start to end, the conference was tight, fast paced, and no nonsense. There was almost no break- Sony started out with showing games, continued showing games with literally no breaks and gaps in the middle, except for the requisite ones necessary to invite third party executives on stage, and sometimes, out of nowhere, we’d get a new game just casually announced via a trailer that would play on the screen without warning.
"This is precisely the kind of format that all game press conferences should strive for"
This is precisely the kind of format that all game press conferences should strive for- the TGS conference yesterday is a study in contrast, compared to the big E3 and Gamescom shows that Sony and Microsoft put up every year. Without the bloat, all we got was an avalanche of game showings and announcements- the focus was just on the games, damn it, rather than the obviously rehearsed and cringe inducing banter that company executives put up on stage, pointless video montages, or projects that only vaguely and tangentially relate to the games on hand. There was no pontificating on the future of the industry by paid presenters or executives who clearly don’t actually care about games, but are just saying so because they are paid to. There really wasn’t much of a presentation at all, honestly- from frontend to backend, it was just a string of trailers and announcements.
And what trailers and announcements they were, too. Yesterday’s TGS showing is probably the strongest denouement of the ‘Japanese games industry is dying’ narrative that has been pushed so hard over the last few years. What we saw yesterday recalled the best days of Japanese games, from the SNES and PS1 eras. Major franchises such as Kingdom Hearts, Dark Souls, Persona, Yakuza, Resident Evil, and Dragon Quest were on show, mid tier games and publishers such as Toukiden 2, New DanganRonpa 3, King of Fighters, SaGa, and Star Ocean were shown off, every major third party – from Square Enix to Atlus, Tecmo Koei to Capcom, Sega to Spike Chunsoft to From – had a major, exciting product waiting in the wings, and moreover, some extremely impressive first party games were on display too- the long awaited expansion for this year’s smash hit Bloodborne, The Old Hunters, was finally unveiled, as was the sequel to the fan favorite PS Vita game Gravity Rush.
The best part is, most of these announcements were games we will obviously see in the west- too often, in the last few years, watching a Japanese conference has felt like watching a celebration of Japan’s insularity from the rest of the world. That was not the case yesterday- obviously we will see the new Dark Souls in the west. Obviously we will see Kingdom Hearts in the west. Of course DanganRonpa and Toukiden are coming to the west. Of course will Ni-Oh get a western release.
"Yesterday’s TGS showing is probably the strongest denouement of the ‘Japanese games industry is dying’ narrative that has been pushed so hard over the last few years."
But for western gamers, if that was not enough, there was a good amount of western content on display too. From Ubisoft taking the stage to not only showcase their intriguing action game For Honor, to them announcing the Season Pass and Jack the Ripper DLC for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, from a segment on the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, to a brand new trailer for the eagerly anticipated Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, there was just enough content here to keep even the most jaded and cynical western gamer interested in this very Japanese show.
In a showing that was as packed with content as this was, there was very little downtime too. Yes, for example, Sony took some time to talk about their upcoming VR initiative, but it was only a couple of minutes, and both of those minutes were packed with relevant information- the final name of the accessory (now confirmed to be PlayStation VR), as well as some of the VR enabled games that would be playable on the showfloor. We had a segment on PS Now, but it was only a brief video followed by some pricing details, and then we were done. And even this segment of the show had some major announcements- the PS4 price drop, for example.
"Sony’s TGS show yesterday is the new (old) standard- this is what all game press showings should be like."
All in all, it was an extremely strong showing, filled with an enviable amount of great content, and making a great case for the future of PS4, in Japan and worldwide, and for the future of the Japanese games industry at large. The format was amazing, focusing on just the games and nothing else (because we really only tune in to these shows to learn about the games), and there was not a single moment of downtime. In an industry that has increasingly become more and more about celebrating its own bloated and smug self, putting on three hour long shows with not enough content to fill them up, and rife with needless spectacle, yesterday’s TGS show was a reminder of what game conferences used to be like, and what they should be, going forward. Sony’s TGS show yesterday is the new (old) standard- this is what all game press showings should be like.
Better than Sony’s E3 showings? Yes, easily, for the last few years, at that, and also better than the PlayStation Experience. Better than Microsoft’s E3 shows? Another affirmative. Better than Microsoft’s Gamescom? Yeah. Even if you didn’t care much for what was announced, how it was announced is commendable and should be credited as such. Let us hope for more such shows going forward.