Tokyo Game Show 2023 (TGS 2023) took place from September 21st to 24th in Chiba, Japan. As if the event itself was trying to prove its huge influence in and relevance for the gaming industry, TGS 2023 invited 700+ exhibitors from 44 different countries who introduced 2,200+ titles spread out across 2,682 booths. Compared to TGS 2022, at least 400 more titles joined the event.
More than 200,000 people visited TGS 2023
As the numbers show, a bunch of interesting news about the gaming industry were shared during the event, such as the announcement of the winners of Japan Game Awards 2023, where CAPCOM’s Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak won the Grand Award. Additionally, the first preview videos for upcoming games were also released during the event (Live stream on YouTube).
Tokyo Game Show 2023 (I)
This article attempts to capture the notable news that was announced during TGS 2023 and discover the market trends and what app and mobile game developers should keep in mind before launching a new app in Japan.
Tokyo Game Show 2023 (II)
The overall disposition of Japanese users
At TGS 2023, Hike’s group company, Sarugakucho shared the results of a survey about Japanese mobile game users.
How many titles are you playing? (2021)
According to Sarugakucho’s (サルガクチョウサ) research about paid users in the mobile game market in 2023 (2023 モバイルゲーム市場における課金にまつわるユーザー調査), users who play more than 5 game titles have decreased about 10% in 2022 when compared to 2021. Sarugakucho states that it is likely that such a decrease is due to the end of COVID-19 shutdowns.
How many titles are you playing? (2022)
How to become users’ first or second pick
Sarugakucho’s research shows that fewer users are playing more than 5 game titles but more users only play one or two titles. Their research also indicates that the gaming space in Japan has become more competitive, making it harder for games to capture people’s attention and acquire new users. With this in mind, several trends can be observed among upcoming games that received a lot of attention from the public at TGS 2023:
- Remake/remaster of Hall of Famers
- New expansion or series to games with popular IP
- Creating a new big title to make it the next trending IP
- Nostalgic graphics and game concepts
Games providing cross-platform capabilities are universal, so it may not be a unique finding from TGS 2023, but it is an essential factor for users as it opens up more possibilities.
Remakes and remasters of Hall of Famers
The first strategy games implemented to appeal to gamers is to remake or remaster a widely loved series of a franchise.
Remakes and remasters
Of course, such a trend can be seen in Activision Blizzard’s Starcraft: Remastered or World of WarCraft Classic, but it was notable that there were two big titles in TGS 2023 that are to be reborn in the near future: Final Fantasy VII (FF VII) Rebirth and Persona 3 Reload.
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FF 7 Rebirth
FF VII Rebirth and Person 3 Reload could have been released with better graphics, but they did add some attractive new elements, such as new storylines or dialogues to the original, as well as new gameplay elements, such as a revamped battle system, so that not only the fans of the originals but newer players can be drawn to the games.
New expansion or series to games with popular IP
Similar to remaking/remastering previous titles, another notable trend at TGS 2023 was the release of new expansions or series to games with popular IP. The list can be a lot longer than the titles added in the image below. Though developing a series can be a double-edged sword, it seems like game developers prefer making series as IP can easily become viral, drawing the attention of gamers.
New expansions or series to popular IP games
One title worth mentioning is Dragons’ Dogma II. It has been more than 10 years since the title’s previous series, and after such a long wait, the game announced some interesting features to be added. It will provide an AI-supporter “Pawn” character, which guides a path to a new legion, suggests the most effective way to clear a quest, or saves the player from danger, all within its own judgment.
Dragon’s Dogma II
AI in the game industry so far mainly supported writing NPC dialogues, creating designs, or enhancing the in-game resolution quality, but “Pawn” in Dragon’s Dogma II indicates that AI characters in games will be more lively from now on.
Create a new big title to make it the next trending IP
The patterns discussed so far only suggested a method only possible for games with popular IPs. But how about new titles that have relatively low brand power?
Notable new titles
Some game developers/publishers seem to have found a simple answe: make a new trending IP.
Below is a list of notable new titles and how they are attempting to establish their new games as trends:
- Project Mugen: NetEase’s new action RPG game that adapted Spiderman’s web swing across in-game maps.
- Zenless Zone Zero(ZZZ): Mihoyo’s anticipated roguelike game.
- Wuthering Waves: Genshin-like open-world game, developed by Kuro Game, the developer of Punishing Gray Raven.
- Lies of P: Neowiz developed a Soulslike game.
- Synduality: Mech, an open-world PvPvE game; it also has an animated series on air in Q3 of 2023 and will continue in Q1 of 2024.
- Blue Protocol: Bandai Namco’s Tales Series developers/designers’ new ARPG title.
The list only includes the upcoming titles from the big, renowned game groups, such as Mihoyo, NetEase, Neowiz, and Bandai Namco, so one may say that making an IP is only for conglomerates in the game industry.
It is true it is relatively hard for smaller companies to come up with epic, graphically high-end games, but as the next paragraph may suggest, it does not always have to be grand, open-world, or with high-end graphics to attract gamers.
Dot-style graphics games and the “nostalgic game” concept
One of the characteristics of the games exhibited at TGS 2023 was the dot-style graphics, which tend to be more popular among relatively smaller game groups and indie game developers. Yet making dot graphics-based games is a decision that goes beyond restricted budgets and fewer resources; it could also be an aesthetic decision. This style of games can bring players memories of the good olden days, as many of the dot games shown at TGS 2023 use game concepts that were popular in the past.
- Sword of Convallaria: XD Network’s new SPRG title adapted the game concept of Tactics Ogre.
- Black Finger Jet: Kohachi Studio’s belt-scroll action game, developed and designed by the team who created Metal Slug.
- Sanabi: Neowiz’s new belt-scroll action game that has a chain-arm game element which is a homage to the Worms series (or Bionic Command: Top Secret as some users commented on YouTube).
Dot-style graphics games and the “nostalgic game” concept
This list can be a much longer one, too, but these three seem to have the clearest homage to games that were popular in the past. In any case, dot graphics and nostalgic games can be a good way to begin a new trend and make an IP that becomes players’ next favorite.
There were 787 exhibitors, 2,682 booths, and 2,291 titles from 44 countries. Compared to 2022, there were about 400 more titles this year. So, it is hard to determine if a certain genre, theme, or element of games will be trending in the upcoming year.
On top of this, Japanese gamers play fewer titles after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. This means that the gaming market in Japan is getting more competitive and will be tougher for a game to be users’ first pick, especially as a mobile-only game.
How can a mobile game survive in such a difficult market then? What this article talked about may give you a hint: paying attention to what users have been willing to pay for, whether it is relying on a popular IP, creating a new big title, or bringing up good memories for users.
For your information
Below are the TGS 2023’s official 7 trends, so take a look for more insights.
Tokyo Game Show 2023 7 key trends:
- Technological innovation with AR/VR.
- Newly released games from big players like Sega, Capcom, Square Enix, and so on.
- Gaming PC and movie streaming devices are diversifying.
- Lots of indie games are more popular than before.
- Game Academy focuses on the niche market according to user trends.
- eSports is a major event now.
- Gaming is not a hobby but a lifestyle.