The Tokyo Game Show is the largest annual video games event in Japan. Video game developers, platformers, hardware and peripherals’ manufacturers, game schools and many others attend the event showcasing the latest industry developments. We attended the 2018 event and found three key trends: eSports, VR and connection/communication.
The rise of eSports
One of the biggest trends seen at the Tokyo Game Show 2018 was eSports. The keynote session of the event was a panel discussing the two essential things needed for eSports to become even more popular. One is to increase the number of professional or leading players and enhance their skills to an even more impressive level. The other is to expand the fan base for eSports, with every panellist stressing the importance of grassroots activity such as holding local events or involving schools.
In order for eSports to succeed it is important to think of them not just as video games, but as a type of sport. Just as traditional sports such as football or baseball, eSports generate excitement and attract company sponsorships. The fan base is also growing and includes significant participation from women.
Associations and stakeholders are even trying to raise the profile of eSports high enough to join the Olympic Games. Therefore, the potential for eSports is huge and Japan has the potential to play a key role with PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Street Fighter and Winning Eleven all originating from Japan.
VR/AR technology: Video games and beyond
VR/AR related technology and video games are advancing, and more content is entering the market, providing a new and exciting experience for consumers and helping drive strong demand. For example, Sony had a large section displaying the games available on PlayStation VR. The company’s test play was very popular, and many attendees waited in line to try out the new technologies first hand. One of the most popular games was the latest version of the Ace Combat series for PlayStation 4. This has introduced a VR mode to allow the user to feel like they are inside the cockpit of the fighter jet plane during highly realistic flight combat situations.
Numerous companies, both large and small, displayed their VR/AR technologies with VR/AR increasingly expected to be used outside of the entertainment video game industry in more practical, daily applications. Some of these new technologies are being designed to simulate emergency situations and job training to help provide better practice for hard to replicate live incidents like operating a forklift in a busy warehouse. VR/AR is expected to grow in popularity and spread to multiple industries, as the technology and content advances.
Interconnectivity in gaming: Connecting players in a social hub
Video games used to be something you did on your own or with friends in the same room. However, with the development of online gaming, each player now is able to compete/communicate regardless of their location thanks to advancements in gaming technology and interconnectivity. For example, the popular third-person shooting game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was one of the games that received an Award for Excellence at the event, with it allowing up to 100 players to compete online at once. Meanwhile, Monster Hunter: World, the top-prize winner of the 2018 Japan Game Awards, allows up to four players to work together to accomplish missions. Playing online with friends – regardless of location – is commonplace around the world and should help attract new consumers and encourage more playing occasions.
Another interesting development are services allowing improved player and non-player communication. For example, Twitch provides an online platform to live stream your play for others to watch. Another example is Mirrativ from DeNA which allows you to play a game on your mobile phone while simultaneously live streaming/chatting with online followers. Some people like to watch a livestream of their favourite personality – sometimes a professional video game player, sometimes just a popular YouTuber – playing video games, and communicating live. This communication between players and non-players is in turn leading to a strong relationship between the consumer and the games, with it advertising and promoting a positive image and thereby helping to generate new fans for games.
Challenges and opportunities in a fast-evolving industry
The Tokyo Game Show highlighted how Japanese companies are playing a large role in the industry, and how the industry is moving towards eSports, VR and connection/communication. These three trends will have more impact with the launch of 5G wireless technology, which will make the world even faster-paced and more connected and complex. As a result, digital games will evolve not only in terms of technology, experience and communication, but also in terms of their position as a source of entertainment such as real sports.