Very Large Arcade Show Shakes Consoles Confidence
The build up to the Tokyo Game show for the consumer publishing industry took a major body blow with the incredibly large crowds that filled the few days of the Amusement Machine Show (AM-S) in Japan a few days before.
The concern for the console sector is that the consumer scene may not be supplying the home players what they want. They are developing 30-hour play mega games that seem to be the only products in development of the Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, while the popular Nintendo Wii offers simple mini-games using a simplistic interface. While popular, the console sector is concerned by the support of a market they had written off.
The problem is that the player base in the core heartland wants something different, and the phenomenal interest and coin-drop into Capcom’s ‘Street Fighter IV’ has not faded away, but actually fired a new momentum (sources speak of a update to the game in coming weeks).
Capcom has been pressured by the consumer game media to announce the March 2009 proposed release date for the console (and PC) version of the arcade brawler – but has also had to admit that many of the elements of the arcade game will have to be ‘modified’ to suit the console environment. At the same time, Capcom have ad to source arcade controllers for the consoles all showing the issues in representing an identical version of the arcade for the home gamers.
But rather than being just a one-off fad, SFIV has been followed at AM-S this year with vast interest in other new releases. Again Capcom rocked the show with the appearance of ‘Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes’, the fighting homage to both the classic characters from anime and arcade.
Another big interest title was the SNK-Playmore appearance of ‘The King of Fighter XII’, this sequel to the popular series was supported by great 2D action and enhanced fighting features that talked directly to the hardcore players A lively argument now fuelling the internet regarding the merits of the 3D representation of SFIX against the traditional presentation of KoFXII.
The players are extremely keen to get their hands on the games, and the Japanese amusement scene is bracing to see a major influx of players when the game is launched.
These three games run on the licensed Taito Type-X hardware, offering a flexible architecture for the independent studios to play on. Another eagerly anticipated brawler on this hardware at AM-S was ‘BlazBlue’ from ARC Works Systems.
Keeping in the fight, Namco Bandai Games has updated their hugely successful ‘Tekken 6’ title with a new technical version, brining new characters and locations to the game and boosting the character customisation element along with the online tournament features.
Shown for the first time at AM-S, the consumer division was left in an uncomfortable position when players started to question if these updated features would be in the expected PS3 release of the game expected. The disappointment voiced that console versions of these brawlers never fulfils the promise claimed.
SEGA also brought to the AM-Show the latest update to their brawler; the new ‘Virtua Fighter 5’ version, like Tekken, hope to keep the games current and popular against stiff competition from the new releases; both these games on high-priced arcade architecture (one powered by the PlayStation 3 in arcade guise).
The competition is considerable, as new low cost hardware architectures allows independent arcade studios place their games in a means to hit directly their core players without the restrictions of going through the larger arcade distributor / manufacturer circles.
The eX-Board from EXAMU is on such platform and is gaining great momentum with the studios, the system launching ‘Arcana Heart 2’ that has started a major buzz in the player scene. The game has started to attract a major following, and the availability on the eX-Board has increased that momentum.
One aspect of the eX-Board that surprised many at the AM-Show was the announcement of a home version – literally selling the box directly into the home market. Emulating the good old days of the SNK Neo-Geo, the actual arcade hardware is able to be plugged into a VGA screen and USB controller for home gaming action.
The hope that all this player interest in arcade would just be a Japanese situation was debunked with the growing player clamber to play ‘Grey Imports’ of games like Street Fighter IV and Tekken 6 in America, estimates that tens of systems have been shipped into the States – a market that numerous consumer game websites and magazines have tried to call dead!
Now more official routes to ship these new arcade releases into the international scene have been established. Sources have confirmed that ‘BlazBlue’ and ‘Arcana Heart 2’ will be officially shipped into American arcades, while negotiation has started towards shipping Tekken 6 and Street Fighter IV into the US market.
All these moves means that the console market will have to change the way it supports its core player base, or be faced with further erosion of their player-base to a market that they are trying to write off!
*Thanks to Japhei Game Blog, and DGames for images and information
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