Tokyo Game Show: A Paradise for Gamers

Tokyo Game Show: The Early Years (1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999)

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1996 was an incredible year for video gameaficionados in Japan. Currently, on its 21st year, Tokyo Game Show was first established in 1996 to target Japanese gamers. It wasn’t the only event that aimed to engage the interest of video game aficionados, as that year also marked the birth of another video game related event, the E3 Tokyo. E3 was a spin-off from its U.S. counterpart, which was the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Both events are still existing in the video gaming world. E3, globally surpasses Tokyo Game Show in terms of prestige, as the original Electronic Entertainment Expo based in America became a premier global gaming even. At present, it is no longer held in Tokyo, but rather solely in Los Angeles at the United States. However, having less prestige, Tokyo Game Show has captured the hearts of more local gamers in Japan.

The primary reason why events like E3 Tokyo and Tokyo Game Show were established during the time that they were founded, is because that was the time when Japanese console makers such as Sony, Sega, and Nintendo were at the height of competition. During that time, the center of gaming within the world was Japan, so it was only appropriate that big gaming related news is announced there. The first ever Tokyo Game Show was extremely well received, having over a hundred thousand individuals attending the event at the Tokyo Big Sight.

Tokyo Big Sight was a new convention center elected in 1994 at the Tokyo Bay Area. It’s capacity to hold more than a hundred thousand people within its confines made it the perfect venue for big events such as Tokyo Game Show. After the first Tokyo Game Show event during the fall of 1996, Tokyo Big Sight managed to hold one more TGS events - one in the spring of 1997.

By the time of the autumn Tokyo Game Show event in 1997, it had already been moved to a different location, that is ironically outside Tokyo. The event had been moved to a much bigger convention center, the Makuhari Messe within Chiba Prefecture. To this day, the event is still being held in that exact center.

Interesting enough, Tokyo Game Show was not the first convention center to witness a gaming expo. In the year of 1996, when Tokyo Game Show and E3 Tokyo were both born, E3 Tokyo chose Makuhari Messe as the venue of their first ever event. This was a historic moment, but not in a good way, as that moment marked the worst E3 Tokyo event ever held in history. The planners of the original event were ambitious, having Sony sign-off as the biggest exhibitor that year. Unfortunately, Sony pulled out prior to the actual event launch as the managing directors made the decision to hold their own PlayStation Expo. This is a primary factor on why the event flopped so much. As a result, E3 decided to stay on their home turf instead and to never a video game convention in Japan ever again.

Tokyo Game Show: Now ( 2000-2017)

From 1996 to 1999, there weren't a lot of notable changes in the format of the Tokyo Game Show. It was only in 2003, during its seventh year, when the producers of Tokyo Game Show decided to change the frequency of the event. It originally came from a twice a year format, having one event held in the spring, while the other one is held in the fall. This format was extremely similar to how fashion houses time the release of their new clothing collections.

Photo by TAKA@P.P.R.S

However, having five to six months intervals between the two shows proved to be more and more difficult every year. In fashion, this timeline was easier to follow since a five to six-month gap provides ample time to create new collections. However, the scenario is far more different in the gaming scene, as this duration provided insufficient time for companies to produce new content. Having the first show of the year, usually meant that the second show would no longer have enough content for release.

Instead of struggling to release an equal amount of content for both spring and autumn shows, the producers of Tokyo Game Show instead chose to change the timing of the show altogether. From 1997 to 2002, the show was held twice a year. Originally, one show was held in the spring, usually in the month of either March or April, while the other show was held in the autumn during the month of either September or October. Instead, the producers kept only the autumn show - having the event held consistently during the month of September.

These days, a lot of western counterparts such as the American company Microsoft have become more and more competitive in the gaming business, shifting the center of video games from Japan, to the United States. Despite the shift, Tokyo Game Show stayed loyal to its roots in the Japanese gaming industry. Thankfully, its fan base was retained despite having bigger gaming news announced at different global venues such as E3 and Gamescom.

Its unwavering popularity can be attributed to the Japanese’ loyalty towards Japanese made video games. In fact, Tokyo Game Show was the perfect event for indie game makers in Japan to release their content and generate buzz from the press. It was also the perfect channel for Japanese businesses who are into making console and computer games, to reach out to their target Japanese users.

In terms of content, the exhibitions change every year, depending on the noteworthy content that would be released for the year. However, to give readers an idea of how the main events that are worth looking forward to, below is a list of the exhibitions in the 2015 leg of TGS.

Of course, the main highlight of not just the 2015 event, but every year is the general exhibition. This was an opportunity for major Japanese gaming companies such as Namco Bandai, Capcom, Sony Computer Entertainment and Square Enix to release news on their newly released products or services. Naturally, it is the heart and soul of the expo, allowing it to consume a bulk of the space within the expo. To complement this, there is a smaller exhibition where users can purchase game-related merch.

However, there are still other exhibitions that are meant to gain public interest during the expo. Naturally, gamers are inclined to purchase more than just the computer or console for gaming. There are also gaming accessories necessary such as headphones, microphones, speakers and other supplementary items. This allows companies who do not make games but makes tools to supplement gaming, to participate in the TGS.

Aside from tools and accessories, there is also a dedicated space within the Tokyo Game Show to provide the best new personal computers, notebooks, and laptops. Naturally, the models showcased during the same are the ones that are meant for gaming purposes. Another exhibition would usually cater to up and coming developers, not just from Japan but usually from neighboring Asian countries as well. As mentioned earlier, TGS is used as a channel for smaller players to introduce their own games.

As the population of Tokyo Game Show attendees became more diverse, the exhibits not only catered solely to hardcore gamers but also to other demographics. In the recent years, there has been more attention to both social gaming and mobile gaming. Aside from the diversifying demographics, the advancement in technology in the past years in terms of mobile development have also allowed mobile games to become more noteworthy.

Another interesting booth for the diverse audience of TGS caters to the young ones. By young, this means the children visitors of TGS. Since Japanese game makers such as Sega also market games for young children, it was the perfect opportunity to showcase their new stuff. Meanwhile, another booth targets the high school audience who are interested in getting a career in video game making. This part of the exhibit provides information of college or university programs wherein one can earn a degree related to video game making, such as programming or digital animation.

As cosplaying became more and more popular during TGS, it was only in due time that it would garner its own exhibit spot. It was a star-studded event, at least for the cosplaying scene, as top cosplayers locally and abroad joined the festivities. There are several events during Tokyo Game Show that put the spotlight on cosplaying such as a fashion show.

In the year 2014 and 2015, there were indoor competitions for Street Fighter that became well-received during TGS. This event increased the air of excitement within the expo. Unfortunately, Mad Catz, the big American company responsible for games like Street Fighter and Call of Duty, experienced financial troubles in 2016, causing them to cease their participation in the event. As an alternative, the 2016 leg of TGS featured an in-house VR gaming center.

A Profile on Tokyo Game Show: Its Target Audience and Annual Attendance Count

Of course, Tokyo Game Show was created to target an audience of gamers. Upon its establishment in 1996, the attendees were primarily male. However, an increase in the population of women attendees has been seen since the dawn of the 2000’s. A reason for this is because globally, not just in Japan, there were more and more females who engaged in video games. Even at present, gaming has become almost equally popular among females than with males.

Despite being a local gaming event, Tokyo Game Show attendees still manage to grow in number every year. Even when the center of gaming has shifted from Japan to America, Tokyo Game Show never lost its sparkle. There aren’t just more attendees, but the profile of attendees increases in variation each year. Of course, they would all be inclined towards video games, however, there are much more evident peculiarities between the visitors of Tokyo Game Show.

Photo by Morten Skogly

A good example of how the profile of gaming aficionados attending Tokyo Game Show has diversified through time is the rise of cosplayers attending the event. Back in its early days, the main demographic that Tokyo Game Show catered to a male dominated population who were purely to learn about new releases and the latest gaming news. Now the demographics have shifted, as even creative costume players are highly present in the Tokyo Game Show population. The rise of females who were engaging in video games also paved way for a lot of women cosplayers to attend the event. Female cosplayers who were dressed up as video game heroines, in sometimes provocative outfits deeply sparked the interests of the male attendees. They would gather a lot of attention, and hundreds would be taking photos as well.

The attendance of the first Tokyo Game Show event, way back in 1996, is far from a measly number. There were exactly 109, 649 individuals who attended the pioneer Tokyo Game Show event. As mentioned earlier, the number of attendees continue to rise every year.  Upon reaching their fourteenth year in 2010, the number of Tokyo Game Show attendees has already gone above the 200,000 attendee mark, with every year having more than 200,000 individuals joining into the festivities. 2013, in particular, was a good, albeit crowded, year for Tokyo Game Show, when it reached its record-breaking number of attendees at a 270,197 headcount.

Tokyo Game Show 2017: Dates and Venue

Photo by TAKA@P.P.R.S

For 2017, Tokyo Game Show will be held again in September, much like it’s previous years. The exact dates for the show are September 21 to 24. However, only September 23 and 24 are open to the public. The venue still remains to be Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba.

TGS has an official website, which provides various resources related to the upcoming event such as information on the sponsors, major exhibitions, up to details such as indoor landscape. However, the website is purely in Japanese, so foreign viewers will find it hard to navigate and comprehend, as the reading materials aren’t available in an English version.

Tips on How To Score Tickets to Tokyo Game Show 2017

Those who are interested in scoring tickets to Tokyo Game show 2017 would find that it isn’t hard to score tickets at all. It is worth noting that only two days of the show are for public access, while the first two days (September 21 and September 22) are limited for industrial guests - meaning, representatives from big gaming and tech companies, as well as dedicated press to cover the event. The last two days (September 23 to September 24) is accessible to anyone, from individual gamers to hardcore gamers who have formed gaming clubs, to young students, and families.

Scoring tickets are easy since tickets can be bought ahead of time through the official Tokyo Game Show website. It is also advisable to purchase ahead of time, since pre-selling rates are only at 1,000 Yen, versus the door charge of 1,200 Yen. Those who are unable to purchase beforehand do not have to worry about tickets running out since plenty are still available during the actual day. Parents who are interested in bringing their children are also encouraged to do so since children who are at middle school and below are free of admission.