Tokyo game show turns to cell phones, has new star

Sep 15, 2011 By YURI KAGEYAMA , AP Business Writer
Staff members promote at a booth for social networking service GREE at the Tokyo Game Show in Makuhari, Chiba, east of Tokyo Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

(AP) -- A startup little known outside Japan that offers games for cellphones is emerging as the new star at this year's Tokyo video game exhibition, usually dominated by big-name console makers like Sony and Microsoft.

Gree Inc., a that began just seven years ago in the founder's living room, had its first booth ever at the sprawling , which previewed to media Thursday ahead of its opening to the public later this week at a hall in this Tokyo suburb.

Its stardom underlines the arrival of so-called "" aimed at casual users passing the time on smartphones and tablet devices rather than the sophisticated plots, imagery and controls found on gaming devices.

With Gree, mobile games are an additional feature to its social networking service, similar to those already common in the U.S. and other nations with and , although those don't focus as much on gaming.

Yoshikazu Tanaka, the 34-year-old founder and chief executive of Gree, said he was serious about expanding business overseas, targeting 1 billion users in the next several years.

Gree already has drawn 140 million users worldwide, and has opened overseas offices, including San Francisco and London.

Gree's booth was among the biggest at the annual Tokyo Game Show.

And it was drawing just as much of a crowd as ., which exhibits every year, and was showing off its new portable machine, PlayStation Vita, set to go on sale Dec. 17 in Japan and early next year in the U.S. and Europe.

In Japan, PS Vita will face off this holiday season against DS3, the portable from Nintendo Co., which features glasses-free 3-D imagery.

Both Nintendo and Sony executives, in presentations earlier this week, expressed worries about keeping growth going in the gaming business, perhaps because of competition from devices like smartphones, Gree's specialty.

The shift to smartphones was affecting makers as well.

"The network itself is the new platform," said Yoichi Wada, head of Japanese game software maker Square Enix. "Game developers need to keep in mind that gaming is spreading to casual users, including newcomers."

But the advantage of offering gaming on cellphones is simple: Almost everyone in the industrialized world owns a cellphone, and as more nations join that fold, people in those nations are bound to buy cellphones, too.

Tanaka said the advent of social gaming had changed the industry because people were always connected to networks with smartphones and tablets like the iPad, and people aren't necessarily going to go out and invest hundreds of dollars in a special game machine.

Tanaka said he envisioned a time whencell phones would become plentiful in places like Africa and South America for low prices, and people, who would never dream of buying expensive game machines, would be accessing Gree services from cellphones as gaming newcomers.

"What is coming next is very important," he said as a keynote speaker, a good indicator of his spot in the limelight. "Gree is targeting all cellphone-users."

Takashi Sensui, general manager at Microsoft Japan Co., said Microsoft sees social gaming as an opportunity to grow, as it is strong in games for cellphones and computers, as well as with those for its Xbox 360 home console.

What computer device people may want to use merely depends on where they are, such as whether they are on the move or they are at home, he said.

"You can use Microsoft's platform anywhere, anytime and everywhere, on any type of device to enjoy entertainment," he said.

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Nanobanano
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
"The network itself is the new platform," said Yoichi Wada, head of Japanese game software maker Square Enix. "Game developers need to keep in mind that gaming is spreading to casual users, including newcomers."


*sigh*

This is more Square-Enix code speak for, "We will continue to make games which are too easy to master, and/or increasingly void of the revolutionary content and customization of our early and mid-1990's masterpieces. We apologize to real gamers, but we must continue to pander to people who buy a game, and then play it once per week or once per month. We know the quality of our games has dropped off sharply since 1996, but we don't care. We make more money than ever off noobs, so we will continue to market to noobs."

I swear, they are going completely the wrong way. they don't have to turn into Blizzard entertainment and spend ten years to make a sequel, and I realize they have to make money, but game developers need to seriously consider veteran gamers.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
...instead of just cranking out endless, dumbed down sequels that never live up to their namesakes.

The old games were "easy to learn, hard to master" in that there were always new ways to challenge yourself: Low level runs, speed runs, handicap yourself, etc.

then, some time in the late 1990's, Mario gained a regenerating hit point bar, instead of the one-hit-kills plus a power-up. Then in the 0's, Metroid prime was a joke compared to the 2-d Super Metroid, and Zelda: Ocarina of Time could be defeated on a second play through without taking damage...Ever since then, it's gotten even worse, certainly for Nintendo console games and square enix games.

I was going to buy the latest Metroid, for the Wii, just for the heck of it, at the local game store, and the EMPLOYEE told me, "don't buy it, you'll be disappointed."

You know things are screwed up when the sequel to one of the greatest games of all time is so bad the game store employee encourages you to NOT buy it...
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
And then, there's another class of game, the "Pay as you play" online game, i.e. World of Warcraft.

These things are designed not around game play, but a fricken GIMMICK to maximize the time required to play through a game so that they can make the most profits off of you...to this end, these games are specifically designed to punish skilled players and drag out the game in annoying ways so as to make more money off you.

Even coin ops in the arcade weren't that bad, as they rewarded skill with the "winner stays loser pays". But online pay as you play games are a complete rip...You have to buy the game, and then you have to pay to play, and there isn't even a "free to play" single player mode. You "own" something, and you can't even use it without paying by the hour...that's just nuts.