Nintendo HQ and What's Eating TGS
In this entry of Japantown, Q-Games' James Mielke talks Nintendo and what TGS needs to make a comeback.
It's amazing how much can happen in the space of a month in the gamingsphere. Let's cut to the chase: How about that Wii U? Are you excited for it? Are you bored senseless? Although I have--in recent years--hit a patch of Nintendo fatigue (all the Mario sequels look the same to me; I blame my fading eyesight and raging apathy), I am still planning to preorder a Wii U based on how fun New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land look. Since I have a soon-to-be-3-year-old daughter running around the house like a tiny pink tornado of destruction, I'm looking for a console that will accommodate her increasing demand to play games with me. Although she has always been curious about the "ge-muu" that daddy is playing, it was one weekend day when I was couch-surfing and grinding EXP in Dragon Quest X on the Wii that my daughter walked over to a completely unrelated PS2 DualShock, picked it up, and sat down next to me pressing buttons and wiggling analog sticks. Later, she demanded equal time when I fired up Street Fighter vs. Tekken, this time actually pressing all the buttons on my DualShock 3 in an unforgiving loss to the CPU.
But games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 on the Wii are perfect for parents with kids--and this is becoming a more interesting concern for me--since friends and family can "assist" the primary player by waving a second Wii Remote around and pushing the A button to help pick up coins and create added visual effects. In the case of my daughter, she'll feel involved in the game, and that's a good thing. So with the Wii U, I'm expecting Nintendo to build on that premise, despite the fact that it looks like they designed the console to satiate disgruntled children who want to play by themselves on the iPad-sized controller.
Plus, I'm also very interested in games like Platinum's The Wonderful 101, which just looks like a lot of crazy The Incredibles-meets-Pikmin-style fun. I just hope third-party support doesn't vanish after a short while like it usually does on Nintendo platforms, leaving us with mainly first-party Nintendo games as our sole recourse. Of course those first-party games are usually stellar, but I like seeing what other developers can do with the system (it also helps to justify the system purchase to budget-conscious wives), since the first-party offerings are usually pretty predictable.
Interestingly, one thing I haven't done since moving to Kyoto is make a pilgrimage out to Nintendo HQ (which is based in the city) like many others have, for a few very simple reasons. First of all, there's almost nothing to see. Nintendo HQ is housed inside a very basic-looking office building with a guard at the entrance (or so I've heard) that you can't get past without an appointment. And there's nothing on the outside of the building beyond the Nintendo logo that even indicates that this is the house that Mario and Miyamoto built. It's nothing like the Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Plaza that's loaded with Nintendo merchandise and memorabilia. So the only thing I could achieve by going there is to maybe take a picture of myself outside their corporate HQ, in front of the security booth. Not something I feel the need to do, to be honest.
That said, I think Nintendo should make a Nintendo museum (or theme park!) in Kyoto or Osaka, because people would visit it like crazy. Feel free to use that one, Nintendo. That idea's on the house.
And since we're discussing Nintendo, I'd love it if they would--and I know this is very unlikely to happen--partner up with CESA and participate in the Tokyo Game Show. You know how people are always talking about how TGS is dwindling in relevance every year? Well, if Nintendo would establish a beachhead at TGS--instead of just piggybacking TGS timing and doing separate events around it--then you would have two full bona fide halls' worth of stuff to see (Sony in one, Nintendo in the other) and mega-massive crowds on the public days. I know that Nintendo's nonattendance dates back to the competing Yamauchi-era Space World days, but I'm just saying it would be healthy for the Japanese game industry in general. Imagine the signal it would send to the Apples and Androids of the world if TGS had both Sony and Nintendo (and even Microsoft) entrenched in the show, among the many third-party publishers in attendance.
Regarding the Tokyo Game Show, even though the Q Live Crew didn't have any games to show or announce (don't worry, we're working on "stuff," just nothing we can talk about yet), we still went up to Tokyo for a few reasons. One was that we had some meetings we needed to attend, and another was that I was scheduled to DJ the annual pre-TGS industry party thrown by game localization specialists 8-4 Ltd.
Qnother reason is that we wanted to reconnect with some of our industry friends, but the fourth reason was that we wanted to document our adventures by livestreaming everything using iPhones--disguised as inert cameras--strapped around our necks, allowing us to film ourselves playing games without the booth cops giving us a hard time. In total there were three of us (Dylan Cuthbert, John Davis, and me) filming things like our visit to Nakano Broadway (super-nerdy awesome gaming/giant robot mecca of Tokyo) and of course the game show itself. Although we were riddled with technical difficulties, like a crappy UStream app that forced us to reenter our log-in info every time we lost a connection (which happened about every five minutes), we still had a decent number of followers who tuned in. Regardless, it was a fun experiment to try out that will only get better as the technology improves.
Every year that I go back to TGS I am amazed that the awesome TGS posters that line the doors to the convention halls are never put up for sale. The TGS kiosks are usually filled with all sorts of random memorabilia, but never official show posters. Vexing, to say the least!
The show itself was pretty decent, but still not great like it used to be 10 years ago. Capcom, Konami, Sony, and Sega had some great stuff in their booths, but because Microsoft didn't attend the show, it felt more compressed than usual, with the GREE and social media booths that took up half the space seeming more an intrusion than anything. I think one of the problems is that we're at the tail end of the current console cycle (think about Dead or Alive 4, which came out 1 million years ago for the Xbox 360; yeah, that was a 360 game), and there aren't a lot of new surprises at the moment. The things that people (aka the media) want to see, like The Last Guardian, are still under wraps.
Midway through the first day at TGS, our feet were already killing us, thanks to the monster walk through Tokyo Station one must endure to reach the underground train line that travels out to Makuhari Messe (the location of TGS). I'm guessing the two previous nights' worth of running around and partying with industry friends from around the world didn't help us stay rested, but it's only a few days out of the year. So after we were done looking at the hall-and-a-half's of stuff, we checked out the merchandise kiosks filled with overpriced Monster Hunter jackets and Square Enix figures. I bought myself a Sega T-shirt (featuring every Sega console on the back), and after bumping into a few more colleagues on the way to the exit, we departed.
Minor disaster struck after we took the Shinkansen bullet train back to Kyoto, as I managed to forget one of my bags on the train. Surprisingly enough, the usually helpful station attendants were absolutely useless in helping us retrieve it. Dylan called the ancient station attendant who did little to assist us "the most useless public employee he'd ever met in Japan," and this is coming from a guy who usually has only high praise for the quality of Japanese service. A few phone calls by my wife the next day quickly sorted things out, though, so I had my bag back a day later. All in all, it was a busy month full of planning for TGS, but October will signal the change of seasons, a busy work schedule, party planning for my daughter's third birthday, and the unpacking of boxes of winter clothes.
The final anecdote for the month: As of this writing, a few of us from Q-Games are scheduled to attend V-Con in Mexico in November, but as details have not yet been finalized, anything could happen; that is, the trip could fall through. Hopefully I'll know more in time for my next column, which will certainly give me some fresh new things to talk about. In all my travels, I've never been to Mexico, surprisingly. Anything good to watch out for? Let me know.