Metaverse, VR in spotlight as Tokyo Game Show opens

The Tokyo Game Show opened to media and industry figures Thursday, with the general public permitted to attend in the coming days for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus, bringing the latest in metaverse and virtual reality titles and technologies into the spotlight.

The annual extravaganza for video-game lovers, one of the biggest of its kind in the world, is being held at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe convention center, near Tokyo, through Sunday. The general public can access the show from Friday afternoon.

The show was held largely online for the past two years due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions and the organizer expects to attract some 150,000 visitors across the four days this year.

The Tokyo Game Show opens at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe convention center on Sept. 15, 2022. (Kyodo)

About 600 companies and organizations from 37 countries and regions, including Japanese giants Capcom Co. and Square Enix Co., are participating in the event. Despite opening to the public again, some of the exhibitions can still be accessed online, according to the organizer, the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association.

“People have come to re-evaluate the intrinsic value of games during the pandemic as they serve as a communication tool,” Hideki Hayakawa, the head of the organizer, said during the opening ceremony.

“We want people to enjoy the thrill of games both in the real world and online.”

The metaverse has become a buzzword in the game industry and beyond as more companies from game developers to banks have begun to see the business potential of a virtual world that allows users to experience shopping, attend events and communicate with each other from anywhere.

During the keynote lecture, Bandai Namco Holdings Inc. said it is developing a metaverse themed after Gundam, a robot featured in its popular animations.

“We want to create a space where fans from all over the world can gather and connect,” the company’s “Chief Gundam Officer” Koji Fujiwara said.

Facebook Inc., the operator of its namesake social media service, changed its name to Meta Platforms Inc. last year to concentrate on its metaverse business, focusing public attention on the nascent technology.

As part of efforts to promote public interest in VR, the company exhibited its VR headset Meta Quest 2 for the first time at the game show, along with seven titles, including the popular music game “Beat Saber” and a new shooting game “X8.”

Capcom displayed a VR version of its popular survival-horror title “Resident Evil Village,” specifically developed for Sony Group Corp.’s VR headset PlayStation VR2 expected to go on sale next year.

High-quality graphics and 3D audio are particularly effective in immersing a player in the world of a spine-chilling game, Capcom said.

Metaverse venture Cluster Inc. announced the launch of a game based on Pop-Up Pirate, a popular toy that sees players take turns sliding toy swords into a barrel with the player who causes the pirate doll to pop up from the barrel losing.

“Metaverse is a big movement going beyond the genre of game,” Chief Executive Officer Naoto Kato said. “We want to create a world where you can become whoever you want to be and live whatever lifestyle that suits you.”

With Japan increasingly easing anti-virus restrictions, the number of participating organizations recovered to about 90 percent of that seen in 2019, which stood at 655. The number of titles exhibited is 1,864, surpassing the 1,522 in 2019.

The Tokyo Game Show is one of the world’s three biggest gaming events, along with E3 in the United States and Gamescom in Germany.

A visitor tries out a virtual reality game at the Tokyo Game Show at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe convention center on Sept. 15, 2022. (Kyodo)