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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Show stoppers

Game makers reach out to a larger audience with mobile games and remakes of hit titles
The Straits Times - September 21, 2011
By: Jasmine Osada
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Show stoppers

Games for people on the move stole the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) this year, pushing console games to the fringe in Japan's annual display of gaming wizardry.

The annual Japanese game expo was held last week from Sept 15 to 18 at the Makuhari Messe convention centre in northern Japan's Chiba prefecture, about an hour's drive from Tokyo.

With the show taking place six months after the March earthquake, much of the venue's air-conditioning was turned off to save electricity. Even though the mood was upbeat, exhibitors and visitors alike complained about the lack of ventilation and most of the 54,000 sq m showfloor smelled of sweat.

Media and public attention was on the PlayStation Vita (right), entertainment giant Sony's second-generation hand-held gaming device that will be launched in Japan on Dec 17.

Sony's booth, the biggest among the 193 exhibitors, was largely devoted to its PS Vita, with 40-minute queues forming at demonstration stations.

Two versions of the PS Vita will be released - a 3G + Wi-Fi version going for 29,980 yen (S$484) and a Wi-Fi-only version at 24,980 yen.

Sony also announced 26 launch titles, with another 74 to come. Mr Tetsuhiko Yasuda, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Asia, said launch dates and pricing for the Asia region will come next month. A check on Sony's past launches showed that new gaming devices took about four to five months to reach Singapore. Prices here have always been comparable to both Japan and the United States.

In DL's hands-on session of the PS Vita at Sony's booth, the hand-held showcased a bevy of interactive controls woven into launch games such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Dynasty Warriors NEXT. Games ran faster and smoother on the PS Vita compared to the PSP. Graphics on the new hand-held were also sharper, while game worlds and characters sported much more texture and detail. However, certain features, such as the PSVita's touchscreen, seemed to be lagging and was unresponsive at times.

The TGS, the largest in Japan, is where game industry players often announce or exhibit new gaming devices and upcoming titles. It is the main showcase for big Japanese game makers such as Capcom, Sega and Konami, which typically set up large, elaborate booths with dozens of demonstration stations.

While some of the exhibitors, such as Japanese mobile phone game maker Gree, showcased made-for-Japan-only games, gamers here might not have long to wait before some of their works reach Singapore shores. In an announcement made earlier this month, Gree said it is planning to open a subsidiary here next month as part of an overseas expansion drive.

One key trend that emerged: Game makers who use the Android platform on smartphones are fighting the iPhone phenomenon, exhibiting 49 new titles from just three last year.

The biggest Android exhibitor is mobile handset maker Sony Ericsson, which showed its PlayStation Suite series of classic PlayStation games re-released for the mobile platform.

There were 46 game titles for the iPhone, compared with 47 last year.

In all, games for mobile phones, smartphones and tablets took up a significant 23 per cent of the total games exhibited at the TGS.

While games on portable and mobile platforms dominate, there was some activity at the booths for new console games such as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Final Fantasy XIII-2, both for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

It took an hour to get to the demo station for Skyrim, the sequel to United States game studio Bethesda's role-playing game Oblivion.

Other console game makers, however, are content to cross or combine popular franchises to gain a bigger pool of gamers.

Noteworthy crossover titles include Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken X Street Fighter, collaborations between Japanese gaming giants Bandai Namco and Capcom. Sony also announced that its two mascots, Kuro and Toro, will be featured as powerful fighters in the PS3 and PS Vita versions of Street Fighter X Tekken.

Some old video game hits got a new lease of life on present-generation platforms.

Remakes include Final Fantasy X and three games in Konami's Metal Gear Solid series. The top-rated titles were originally made for the PlayStation 2 and PSP and will be released in high definition for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PS Vita.

 

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