Tokyo Game Show 2016: Day 1 analysis and recap with T3's man in Japan Marco Zangirolami

Handhelds are dying, Sony is on the verge of conquering Japanese gamers, US brands are everywhere and Level 5 and Nintendo are totally absent

Talk about the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) this year is really singular. While at E3 I said the US market is in a period of smooth transition. The Japanese market - believe it or not - is totally subverting the 'established' order of the last 20 years in so rapid a fashion and in such an unbelievable way that even for me having lived right here and attended this fair for 20 years (since its beginning in 1996) it is surprising.

And all in just a year and a half!

It seems like a little 'Meiji Revolution': a revolution not starting from the lower part (i.e. the market and core gamers) but from above (the software houses and corporations).

But let's start from the beginning:

I am not just talking about the Microsoft & Sony feud that is still raging, especially after the Sony Press conference that generated new flames, but the videogame industry in general, and at its highest levels.

The first clear perception of what I am talking about is that walking around the booths the titles announced for the main console of the market - the Ps4 - are at the bare bones: 1/2 for Capcom ('Resident Evil 7: BioHazard' & 'Devil May Cry 5'), 2 for Sega ('Ryu ga Gotoku 6' & 'Valkyria: Azure Revolution'), 3 Konami ('Pro Evolution Soccer 2017' & 'Jikkyou Pro Powerful Baseball 2016'), 4 Square ('Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age', 'Final Fantasy XV', 'Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue', 'Rise of the Tomb Raider') and so on.

The only exception are: Bandai-Namco with 8 games ('Tekken 7', 'Little Nightmares', 'Gundam: Battle Operation Next', 'Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2', 'Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization', 'Pac-Man Championship Edition 2', 'SD Gundam G Generation Genesis', 'Crows: Burning Edge') and of course Sony with.. 4!

At the Sony booth at TGS there is: 'Gravity Daze 2' (known in the west as 'Gravity Rush'), 'Horizon: Zero Dawn', 'Gran Turismo Sport' & 'New Hot Shots Golf'.

Seriously, if someone is coming from abroad for the first time to Japan to this fair, if they were to look at the PS4 booth they would think that it is the PSVita of the East!

If you already read the 'Made in Japan' section that I write regularly every week, you should already know the situation of the PS4 in Japan from this article.

Sony's console in Japan is struggling (in its own motherland!) surprisingly more than in any other part of the world to establish itself as the leader of the market. Where instead - as a matter of fact - it has been extremely successful everywhere else (thanks also a very good PR), in Japan hardcore gamers have been ignoring the PS4, preferring other systems and even handhelds to it.

But at this TGS this is not just the only thing that surprises. What really is evident (and doubtless) is that the huge and massive invasion of the Android and iOS games produced directly by the Japanese software houses (Sega, Capcom, Konami and so on) in quantities never seen before. They are all converting their IPs to Apple & Co. first, instead of the traditional handhelds as it has been in the past.

Believe it or not, having lived here for a very long time, if anybody would have ever predicted a situation like this in front of an editor (in a widely known picky and difficult market as the Japanese market for the international brands is) no Japanese journal would have ever given any credit to it. That has all changed though.

More than 60 titles are announced or available for play. Enough said.

Here are links to announced line-ups of many of the major players:






All this activity against the national handhelds: 3DS and PSVita, that until now have been the most popular formats in the country, is remarkable and now nobody knows what will be their future, even Nintendo, who has been widely know to be very conservative for its own IPs until the other day at the Apple conference.

There are titles announced for 3DS and PSVita in most booths, but not in as great quantity as in the past, apart the Bandai-Namco's booth that we must admit is the only software house who is still believing in this segment of the market. Here are its 9 own non-phone titles that have been announced: 'All Kamen Rider: Rider Revolution', 'Disney Magical World 2', 'Dragon Ball Fusions', 'Digimon Universe: Appli Monsters', 'Taiko Drum Master Dokodon! Mystery Adventure', 'Aikatsu Stars! My Special Appeal', 'Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan: Shijou Psi Dai no Psi-nan!?', 'Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger: Battle Cube Puzzle', 'Chou Sentouchuu: Kyuukyoku no Shinobu to Battle Player Choujou Kessen'.

PSVita is still present even if with a more modest titles announced.

PSVR is also present but it must be admitted even if the CESA (the Japanese organizer of the TGS) has reserved an entire area for the latest VR technologies (various VR companies are here), this new add-on doesn't seem to stimulate much interest from the Japanese gamers and, consequently, of the various software houses.

An example of what I am saying is that Sega presented just one game ('Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live'), Capcom also just one ('Resident Evil 7: biohazard'), Bandai-Namco only three ('Summer Lesson', 'The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls Viewing Revolution', '' ) and Square-Enix a big fat zero.

Sony in this case plays at home in a stronger position, with its own complete line up ready to hit the market next month, so probably the helmet has more chance here to be successful than in any other part of the world. This is probably helped due to none of the US competitors, such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, having a large presence. This is unlike E3 where HTC Vive and Oculus Rift stole the show. You can check out their dominance by reading our Day 1 and Day 3 E3 2016 coverage.

Most of the games are the same as those seen at E3, some probably have been updated (I have not yet had the time to check them all out) and some have been specifically added to the Japanese market, such as: 'Summer Lesson', 'Happy Manager', 'Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live' (if you do not know who she is check out this article), 'The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls Viewing Revolution' and.. last but not least (finally) the mighty 'Rez Infinite'! The upcoming release of this last game will make all Dreamcast lovers happy for sure, those who played this milestone of music wave rhythm games back in the day.

Of course most of the international publishers are absent, but what really is once again surprising is that not only is Microsoft not here, but also giants such as Electronic Arts and Level 5 .

While the house of Redmond in its latest press conferences has revived the interest in the west over the the Xbox, in Japan the love was never even born. Right now, from what I can see, the Xbox management's interest is Windows 10 - to expand and conquer first the south-east Asia and Chinese market where PC gaming is dominant.

Windows 10 is clearly the new MS-DOS, and if it is going to happen that MS is capable (even losing money at first as it did with XBOX LIVE! in the first few years) to establish its OS services for any gaming platform (handheld, home computer, console, tablet and/or mobile) well I think we'll see a miracle comparable only to when Bill Gates was capable of selling his OS to the Japanese MSX consortium in the 80s!

Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, and already clear to everybody: after just 3 months since Phil Spencer's statement (Head of Microsoft's Xbox Division) when he said that from now on any game for Xbox game will be playable on any PC with Windows 10, the whole market of "exclusives" is really collapsing.

But it will take some years to see who will get the edge - for now we can just register that the market and the gamers are reacting, in one way or another.

Last but not least: Nintendo.

As already noted at E3 2016, Nintendo - with its limited funds and delicate financial position (as you know from Pokèmon Go's phenomenon the Kyoto HQ takes just a minimal part) - is clearly focusing its efforts on what is already almost done from the previous management (i.e. the new Zelda). It wants to improve the Wii U's sales (in Japan doing pretty well) and limiting the expenses for the release of the 2017's NX.

In the end: who is the real winner of the TGS 2016 between Microsoft and Sony?

iOS & Android, no doubt.

Remember to check back in tomorrow for T3's Day 2 report.

Dr Marco Zangirolami

Marco Zangirolami has been reporting on the video game industry since 1996. During his career he has been a correspondent from Japan for the most important Italian firms, head of the 'Made in Japan' section on 'ConsoleMania' (the most important Italian video game magazine of all time) and 'Automat', the leading magazine of the Italian Jamma's Arcade Association. He is a contributor to, writing about the video game industry. In his spare time Marco likes to collect and restore classic arcade machines from the 1980s and 1990s.