Why 2013s Tokyo Game Show is the most important one in a long time

Tokyo Game Show starts on Thursday this week, and I’m feeling more excitement for the show than I have in years. Japanese development could finally awake from the slumber that’s lasted the entire PS3/360 generation, and be ready for a whole new generation of consoles. For the first time in too long, Tokyo Game Show has that big time feel, something that was lacking the last couple shows (at least).

First, a quick and personal history lesson. Before I became a universally lauded games journalist, I would read everything I could about each year’s Tokyo Game Show. The annual event has been one of the top gaming events in Japan since it began in the mid-’90s, and I soaked up reports on new entries for mega-franchises like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid. I longed to cover the show myself some day, and when I finally did in 2011 and 2012--for as fun as it was--it felt like I was arriving at a party just as it was winding down.

Companies like Namco, Sega, and Capcom were there with expensive-looking booths that rivaled anything I’ve seen at E3, but it all felt far too insular. The companies focused on franchises like Yakuza, Gundam, and Monster Hunter; games that were localized almost a year after launch in Japan (or not at all). New demos for Metal Gear and Final Fantasy were present, but they were buried under mobile games and super-niche stuff that would never come to the US. Its as if Japan games were sick of being rejected by the US, and decided to stop asking American gamers to the prom ever again.

After years of seeing TGS direct so much attention to its base while ignoring (or giving up) the international impact it once had, TGS 2013 looks to finally be taking a step towards prominence once again. Japanese development is coming off its strongest E3 in years thanks to impressive next-gen reveals for the aforementioned Final Fantasy and Metal Gear. The top Japanese devs seemed hyp for the PS4 and Xbox One, and TGS is primed to take advantaof the excitement.

Sony’s home base is Japan, and despite the company’s surprising move to hold the PS4’s Japanese launch until next February, the makers of PlayStations are really bringing it to TGS. They’ll have a huge number of playable PS4 games, including the first ever hands-on with Capcom’s gorgeous PS4-exclusive, Deep Down. On top of next-gen wonders, Sony surprised everyone with the announcement of PS Vita TV, and the device will be at TGS to grant gamers a preview of the future of the Vita. Sony has one of the biggest booths at Tokyo Game Show, and it looks to be stacked with exclusive content from all over the world.

TGS 2013 isn’t just noteworthy again because of Sony, as Microsoft is making Tokyo Game Show a next-gen battleground. After skipping last year’s TGS--and who could blame MS after a long history of Japan’s disinterest in the Xbox?--Microsoft has returned to give the Xbox One a proper reveal in the country. Perhaps the Xbox One is just there to steal some of the spotlight from Sony, but the awesome byproduct of this competition is that TGS sees the exciting addition of exclusives like Titanfall and Forza 5 to the show floor.

Those two games are joined by big western titles like Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV, and they don’t appear to be treating TGS as an afterthought. It gives an air of inclusiveness to western development that was lacking in previous years. Franchises like Battlefield and Assassin’s Creed had been present in years past, but they felt like an addendum compared to the newest, indecipherable Idolmaster and Hatsune Miku games. Then again, it wouldn’t be TGS without incredibly strange Japanese titles you won’t find anywhere else, and for Japanophiles, Tokyo Game Show still has room for those too.

It will take some time for Tokyo Game Show to return to the level of E3 or Gamescom, but this is the first year in some time that it seemed like the show was even interested in reliving its glory days. After Japanese development had such struggles in the PS3/360 era, some of the biggest names in gaming look ready for this new generation to be a fresh start, with TGS 2013 being the next big step. So this week you should expect fresh impressions and new game reveals that will hopefully give Japan some of its lost relevance. Of course, the only thing that would make this show perfect is some news on The Last Guardian, but there’s only so far we can suspend our imaginations.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

Henry Gilbert

Henry Gilbert is a former GamesRadar+ Editor, having spent seven years at the site helping to navigate our readers through the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. Henry is now following another passion of his besides video games, working as the producer and podcast cohost of the popular Talking Simpsons and What a Cartoon podcasts.