TGS '07: The masses overrun the Messe

Japan's premier gaming event opens its doors to frenzied hordes of booth babes, cosplayers, game fans, and media.

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TOKYO--The third day of the Tokyo Game Show is the first day that the doors of the Makuhari Messe open to the public. During the prior 48 hours, admittance to the suburban convention centre was reserved solely for members of the media and industry insiders with clout enough to gain entry.

The crowds started forming about 7 a.m.
The crowds started forming about 7 a.m.

GameSpot's temporary Tokyo HQ on the 46th floor of the plush Tokyo Bay Makuhari Hotel had a bird's-eye view of attendees massing in front of the convention centre hours before it opened. The line's size began to swell around 7 a.m., eventually stretching all the way around the Messe's extensive circumference--five or six people wide--by the time the doors were unlocked at 10 a.m.

The heavy turnout wasn't exactly a big surprise. The event's organisers at the Computer Entertainment Suppliers Association (CESA) had already stated that this year's TGS had record numbers of companies and booths. Indeed, by mid-afternoon, the crowd's density made movement within the convention centre difficult, and many game stations were turning away potential players. By CESA's forecast, over 180,000 people will attend this event--a number that seemed conservative to anyone emerging from the jam-packed scrum on the show floor.

Yep, busy again this year, then.
Yep, busy again this year, then.

This year, TGS' show floor was split into three main areas. Halls 7 and 8 housed the kids, education, and merchandising areas and the food court. Halls 4, 5, and 6 contained the booths of some of Japan's highest-profile publishers: Sony, Sega, Konami, Tecmo, and Namco Bandai, as well as the mobile-games area. Finally, Halls 1, 2, and 3, where the public enter the show, is home to more big names such as Square Enix, Capcom, Koei, and Microsoft, along with the Overseas Pavilion, which featured stands from Canada, Taiwan, Thailand, and Australia.

Nintendo's booth at this year's TGS.
Nintendo's booth at this year's TGS.

Of the 217 companies exhibiting this year, Sony had the biggest booth, with myriad games on display in Halls 4 and 5. In Hall 6, the game giant showed off its recently announced Dual Shock 3 controller for the PlayStation 3.

Kitty-corner to Sony was the Konami booth, where the central focus was on the PlayStation 3 exclusives Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Online. To emphasize the series' martial themes, the area was decked out like a military base, complete with barbed wire, sandbags, and warning signs.

Konami prepares for war.
Konami prepares for war.

In Halls 1, 2 and 3, Square Enix had installed a closed megatheatre, where it was showing off trailers of its upcoming titles. On the first business day of TGS, the company had announced it would be bringing three new Kingdom Hearts titles to the world, and its booth sported some life-size Kingdom Hearts figures. Playing on the outside was the short but sweet trailer for the Xbox 360-exclusive role-playing game Infinite Undiscovery, which seemed to generate as much confusion as interest.

Watch that blade, sonny.
Watch that blade, sonny.

Just in front of Square Enix, Capcom had constructed one of the more imaginative booths of the show, with each game on display in a customized room. For example, creepily framed flatscreen TVs sat above Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles Wii stations inside a haunted house, complete with dim lighting and gothic chandeliers. (Unfortunately, despite the ornate nature of the display, Capcom expressly forbade photography of any sort.) Nearby was the semi-infamous game Parse Rorunpe: Empty Wars of Magic, which has players navigate onscreen action by sitting on and manipulating a vibrating broom.

Words fail me.
Words fail me.

In between Halls 3 and 4 lay the heart of cosplay territory. The throngs of elaborately costumed attendees drew crowds of photographers who stand in line to snap pictures of their subjects in a variety of different poses. Some of the more enthusiastic shutterbugs asked for autographs and stopped to chat with them afterwards.

In the merchandise area, Square Enix and Capcom set up stalls stocked with soundtracks, plush toys, figures, and clothing. There were also a number of other companies with smaller, queue-less booths selling a variety of goods, including some questionable products. Within minutes of the show opening, the queues for both were already very substantial, and continued to grow as the day went on.

Though Microsoft was on hand to try to boost the Xbox 360's flagging fortunes in Japan, another next-generation console maker was nowhere to be seen. Although there were a huge number of Wii and DS games at TGS, Nintendo's absence was glaring, especially because Satoru Iwata used TGS 2005 to introduce the now-ubiquitous Wii Remote. But while the Mario Factory being MIA was at the back of everyone's minds, it didn't deter the crowd from drinking in TGS's overflow of sights and sounds.

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