TGS 2009: Did We Travel Thousands of Miles Just to See a Giant Chocobo?
Writers have a built-in bias when we go to events like the Tokyo Game Show: We want them to matter. I flew halfway around the world and upended my life for two weeks so that I could attend this show. When Jones and I walked into the Makuhari Messe convention center yesterday for the first day of TGS, you better believe we wanted to be wowed. We even made the header picture up top in the expectation that we'd need to show everyone how blown away we were by the super-amazing festivities!
The reality was more like this:
Though it's painful to admit given the trouble it takes us get here, TGS 2009 doesn't matter. This show feels hollow. Makuhari Messe is like a giant hangar, half full, and even among the sparse offerings, there is plenty of overlap. The Microsoft, Sony, and third-party publisher booths feature many of the same games, so it seems like there's another Lost Planet 2 display around every corner. Same for Modern Warfare 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Tekken 6, and a bunch of others. If your game isn't featured in at least 70 booths at TGS, you're nobody!
Yes, there's not much news left in 2009 for companies to announce here. I won't pretend that's such a huge disaster. It's not like anything meaningful usually takes place at trade shows—most of the usual "news" consists of corporations announcing things they will probably make in the next year or so. Not exactly Woodward and Bernstein stuff, but we post it as ZOMG BREAKING MUST-READ!!!, and you wait months for anything to actually happen, and then when it does finally happen, you realize you have spent months in rabid anticipation for a new Zelda game that's pretty much the same as the old Zelda games, and perhaps you cry a little. And then the cycle begins again. Hey, it's a sickness we all share.
But while their ability to generate news may be overrated, the good trade shows usually have a spirit of community and celebration. TGS has a little of the former—we've had some fun nights out with developers, fellow journalists, and other how-do-you-dos—but the show is no party. It feels like the video game industry is going through the motions because they scheduled TGS 2009 a long time ago, and it was too late to bag the whole thing. Meanwhile, everybody's looking at their watch and saying, "Is it 2010 yet?" (Or perhaps more accurately, "Is this recession over yet?")
There is a huge chocobo here, though. Wow!
That expression of delight is pretty genuine.