Tokyo Game Show to Open Amid Slow Console Sales

Courtesy of Michael Jianu
One of the 400 exhibitors at Tokyo Game Show may have the next 'Minecraft.'

New gaming devices will be vying for gamers' attention as mobile gaming continues to grow

The Tokyo Game Show (TGS) opens its four-day run on Thursday, with Sony Corp. and Microsoft battling to hold on to the hard-core gaming segment on their consoles as the market for smartphone and tablet titles continues to grow.

Asia’s biggest gaming event is expected to draw more than 200,000 people to check out nearly 750 games from 400 exhibitors, more than half of which are from overseas.

Both Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox One will be making their TGS debuts, alongside a host of games for the new consoles. While the PS4 has been outselling its rival two-to-one globally, shifting more than 10 million units in 10 months, neither console is lighting up the Japanese market.

The PS4 has been selling 6,000 to 7,000 units a week recently, sometimes being outsold by the older PS3. The Xbox has always struggled in Japan, and the latest incarnation sold a modest 25,000 units in its launch week at the beginning of the month.

Microsoft always puts in a strong presence at TGS, despite its low sales in Japan. Nintendo doesn’t attend, although many games for its consoles are on show.

Sony will be looking for a successful TGS after forecasting a bigger than previously expected loss of $2.15 billion for the current financial year on Wednesday.

As elsewhere, the consoles’ rival in Japan these days is casual gaming on mobile devices, but Japan has taken to that like nearly no other country. Spending on smartphone game applications in Japan jumped 400 percent in 2013, driving the Japanese app market to overtake America’s as the world’s largest. Much of this was accounted for though by one game, GungHo’s Puzzles & Dragons, which is reported to take in millions of dollars a day through its “freemium” model in which players pay for special virtual items.

TGS will feature games for every type of console, smartphone and tablet, including games that run on multiple platforms and an indie game corner. The smaller developers will be hoping they are sitting on the next Puzzles & Dragons or even a Minecraft, which has sold more than 50 million copies across all platforms, is to hit the big screen and whose Swedish publisher Mojang agreed this week to be acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 billion.

Twitter: @GavinJBlair