Article: The Player — Japanese Queuing for Arcade!

Kevin Williams of The Stinger Report has penned a new article just for us and this one takes a look at the growing interest in the amusement sector in Japan, despite the doom and gloom that had been shopped around a couple of years ago when some companies had begun closing some locations there. Entitled “The Player — Japanese Queuing for Arcade!”, it takes a look at games that are getting players to stand in line, sometimes for an hour or more, to have their chance to try out the latest arcade titles. Click the link below to continue

The Player — Japanese Queuing for Arcade!

Written by Kevin Williams (KWP) – 16/8/10

In the first of an occasional exclusive series looking at the modern amusement playing audience — territory by territory, and the Stinger Report (in syndication with our friends at Arcade Heroes) looks at the — the Japanese player scene.

While many have attempted to paint the Japanese amusement market as dead, a number of sources have spotted an influx of player interest in the latest new arcade machine launches. Queues of players waiting patently round the block to be the first to get their hands on the latest release — while consumer game sales plummet — as well as their own queue lines.

Though reported by underground sources, the Japanese mainstream media has blatantly spotted a emerging new trend for crowds to follow the latest generation of amusement gaming, and no matter how hard their consumer game correspondents try and dismiss it, it seems to be growing.

The trend was rammed home to the media with this years’ Amusement Operators Union (AOU) show — the first of the Japanese trade season — saw a phenomenal increase in attendance on the public day.

“Can not hide the major numbers on the public day of AOU’10” (Image from blog.livedoor.jp)

“The queues gather round the Konami booth at AOU’10” (Image from fangril.eu)

Crowds thronged to get their first glimpse of the Konami Digital Entertainment booth and play ‘Metal Gear Solid Arcade‘. The early version of this 3D shooter proved a major hit, and the players have kept flocking, most recently seen at the games first public outing on location test (LocTest). Veiled media criticism that this game was just a flash in the pan concerning public interest was proven bogus only a matter weeks later with the next gathering.

“The crowds start to spill off the show booth at AOU’10” (Image from gamebridgeNews)

Hoards collected again on the Tokyo streets with the news that Taito would be organizing with publishers Capcom, the first LocTest appearance of ‘Super Street Fighter IV‘. A game that wowed the console scene, its amusement appearance owed much to a tsunami of player support, after previously closed minded Capcom executives, suggested they could be swayed if there was interest in an arcade version release.

Flying in the face regarding Capcom US executives denials of any interest in a amusement appearance, the new SSFIV coin-op announcement has gone on to reveal new costume and hidden character options unique to the arcade presentation beyond the scope of the previous console release. Extreme embarrassment was registered at some console media sites that only days before they had refuted claims there would ever be a amusement release of the brawler.

An element in this new found interest has been generated by the Asian trade embracing Social Networking as a new communication tool to the underground rise in popularity that plays a major part in this re-emergence and growing queue line. Twitter feeds and QR-Code connectivity hot linked directly into e-AMUSEMENT (KDE), NESYS (Taito/Capcom) and ALL.Net (SEGA, Namco) tournament infrastructures. Literally ‘Flashmodding’ LocTests, as ranked player and those that enjoy the unique social networking of amusement gathered.

Now some weeks later and another momentous gathering — now players queue in anticipation of getting to grips with the sequel to the innovative shoot-em-up, with the launch of Taito’s ‘Darius Burst: Another Chronicle‘. An expansive simultaneous four player Shmup in the old style, player reaction to the launch of this title in a special deluxe cabinet with vibrating seats and a super-wide HD screen has dumbfounded the console media. Denial has been met with derision and finally distain, as it became obvious that the players were leading the wave of interest, not the media!

“Darius returns to the arcade, and so do the crowds!” (image from gamewatch.jp)

This move for player support of amusement — comes just as leading venue operators such as Namco, SEGA, Taito and others, totally restructure their amusement venue operation, and look towards expanding their profitable sites. Recent first and second quarter financial reporting from these corporations has shown how much amusement (and even pachinko) operation has bolstered these corporation’s bottom lines as console game sales falter.

The faltering consumer horizon has impacted corporations on the home island that had been previously been rumored to be abandoning an amusement presence. The failing queue lines to recent AAA console releases (some publishers forced to hire queue sitters for appearance sake) marking a serious down-turn in console gaming interest. Apathy fueled by a slew of formulaic releases from publishers. Quoting the Japanese console game sale statistical service Enterbrain, “…the island nation generated $2.3 billion from December 29, 2008 to June 28, off 24 percent from the same period a year ago.

The future hopes of the Japanese consumer sector resting on Japanese launches of SONY’s ‘Move‘ and Microsoft’s ‘Kinect‘ peripherals coming close behind the phenomenal success of the Nintendo ‘Wii’ — a fundamental sea change from AAA to casual gaming. However, the space restrictions of the average Japanese house-hold will play a factor in their success.

The apathy now driving Japanese console sales could be the factor that will drive the player back to amusement — linked to impressive new designs — that forces gaming back Out-of-home, for that unique social experience.

[NOTE – If you are a player from the territory covered in this feature – or run a blog or website covering your interest in amusement gaming – please let me know so we can add your impressions to future coverage.]

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