Tokyo Game Show is one of the biggest conventions for gamers and developers in the world. Most commonly known as TGS, it is a video game expo held every year in September in the Makuhari Messe, in Chiba, Japan. It is hosted by the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association (CESA) and Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. Historically, the main focus of the show has been on Japanese games, although some international video game developers also use it to showcase upcoming releases and related hardware. Like Germany's gamescom, Tokyo Game Show is also open for the general public to attend during the last two days only.
This year, Japanese gaming giant Nintendo, which usually does not participate in the Tokyo Game Show, was expected to not just be present but also launch its impending NX console. However, fans were disappointed when the final exhibitor list came out, days before the convention, and Nintendo was, well, missing.
What added fuel to speculation of NX announcement was the fact that Nintendo, although seen as conservative and rarely predictable firm, has been in news in the past weeks. First with the launch of Pokemon Go, an unprecedented success of an augmented reality smartphone game that took the world by storm, and second and most recent, during the launch of Apple’s iPhone 7 in San Francisco. Here Nintendo’s most famous game creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, announced the first on-the-go game starring the popular Super Mario character. This was actually one of the most rare public exposure by a firm’s official. Audience present at the launch and gamers and developers across the world saw Miyamoto's guest appearance at an Apple event as a sign that top guys at Nintendo's in Kyoto are finally becoming aware of and catching up with the tech giant of our times – while leveraging one of the most popular characters as well as rising love for smartphones.
Benjamin Outram, a researcher at Keio University, who was giving a demonstration of virtual reality goggles and a vibrating digital immersion suit at the Tokyo Game Show, said "There's a huge saturation of mobiles, there are billions being made in mobile gaming … and Nintendo has realised that. Nintendo is an entertainment company so will go in whatever direction they can entertain."
As many would say, Super Mario's little dive in to the world of Apple devices is a big leap for Nintendo, releasing the most famous and equally loved moustache donning plumber from the Japanese company's conservative stand of resistance to the world of mobile economy.
For a long time now, Nintendo has resisted against offering its flagship games for smartphones and other devices, choosing to keep them restricted to its very own Wii business. However, they were in for a rude shock as soon as smartphones replaced gaming consoles to be the preferred and only hand held gadgets for the millennial generation. Wii sales came down from over 100 million devices in its initial five years to a meager 13 million in the last five years. Nintendo has finally woken up to the power of smartphones in this age of digital economy.
Gavin Parry, managing director at Parry International Trading in Hong Kong believes that this shift is a sign of Nintendo's internal philosophy changing and opening up. He said, “ They held their own kind of Nintendo world and did not want to corrupt their own characters and brands and trademarks by allowing their products or characters to be utilized on other platforms."
Gamers and game developers across the world have often said that Miyamoto, 63 is actually like the "Walt Disney of video games" and is the instrumental catalyst to bring about this shift in Nintendo.
Hirokazu Hamamura, a director at Japanese publisher Kadokawa Dwango and a gaming commentator who is a business acquaintance of Miyamoto, said "Miyamoto is not a conventional game maker, he wants to create family entertainment. Mario is the jewel in Nintendo's crown, so if they are letting him out it means they are serious." He adds, “Even people at Sony and Microsoft look up to Miyamoto as gaming deity."
The man behind Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong and various other famous video game characters, as well as the inception of Wii, Miyamoto started out as a puppet maker, and then became responsible for early designs of Donkey Kong and Mario. He sketched on paper and handed them over to computer engineers, according to his previous media interviews. He has earlier described himself as the first non-computer programmer game creator, even though in the United States, he would more likely have command the status of a superstar.
In 1977, when Nintendo shifted from making toys to video games, Miyamoto joined this company which has historically been making playing cards in 19th century Kyoto. In his earlier conversations with press, he had mentioned that he became concerned that gamers were turning anti-social and like "zombies" when era of computer gaming in cafes, arcades and malls ended and gave way to more isolated and private games often played on a bedroom desktop or console. This is the time when Pong and Space Invaders frizzled out for Minesweeper and Solitaire.
It was his need to address this concern and reverse this trend when in 2006 the Wii console was launched. This appealed to wider range of customers and gaming buffs all across the world. In fact, Miyamoto’s wife herself turned a gamer by playing various social and fitness-focused games on the new Wii-like the Wii Sports and Nintendogs, which is a game for training virtual pets.
In March of 2015, Nintendo entered a partnership a social gaming company in Japan called the DeNA Co and launched five free-to-play mobile games in less than two years. Two of those, versions of Animal Forest and Fire Emblem, have been delayed according to Nintendo officials.
"We believe Nintendo will be able to create a new style of games and spread them all around the world," Miyamoto had said in his address to Nintendo investors last year
Talking about Nintendo’s absence from the Tokyo Game Show, Masao Masutani, who helps develop game software for Sony said that it was Nintendo's nature to do what they want and at the same time let others do their own thing. He was not surprised by the firm’s decision to not factor in the gaming convention in its plans.