Gamers gather for look at new consoles

DIGITAL DUEL::Sony said the PlayStation 4 is more competitive in a new world of gaming, while Xbox One is being touted as a portal for games, videos and music

Bloomberg and AFP, CHIBA, Japan

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 - Page 15

Gamers were gathering yesterday for the start of the Tokyo Game Show, an annual extravaganza that this year will give punters their first real taste of the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and the Xbox One.

Developers from more than 350 companies in 33 countries were vying to showcase their latest offerings, with special areas in the vast Makuhari Messe convention center set aside for romance simulation games, cloud gaming, and the booming smartphone and tablet game sector.

About 200,000 people were expected at the event, which runs until Sunday just outside the Japanese capital, with many relishing the chance to get their hands on the new consoles from Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp.

The home-grown PlayStation 4 hits shelves in North America in November, in time for the holiday shopping season, but will not be available to Japanese buyers until February.

For the original PlayStation, 18.6 percent of global sales were in Japan. Its successor, the PlayStation 2, tallied 14.7 percent of sales at home, while the PlayStation 3 racked up 11.9 percent, according to data from VGChartz Network.

North America, by comparison, accounted for about a third of all PlayStation sales.


Meanwhile, its rival, the Xbox One, is being rolled out in 13 countries, including the US, Australia and the UK, on Nov. 22. No date has been set for its release in Japan, although it will reportedly not be before next year.

Sony Computer Entertainment president and chief executive Andrew House told convention-goers in fluent Japanese yesterday that the PlayStation 4 had been developed to make it competitive in the new world of gaming.

“For game consoles to be at the center of the home they need to have high quality content, which all family members, from children to adults, can enjoy,” House said.

“Also important is to offer the experience of social networking ... we have really pushed the status of games to that of films and TV,” he added.

“In our next generation PS4, we have added new functions and services,” House said, including networking with other game players through smartphones and tablets.

Sony expects sales of its new console to reach 5 million units for the 12 months ending March 31, House said.

Microsoft said it would expand its TV programming beyond the show based on its best-selling Halo game as it tries to position the new Xbox One console as a portal for games, videos and music.

Microsoft Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer declined to elaborate in an interview in Tokyo yesterday.

Xbox One is an attempt to merge TV watching with video game playing as Microsoft teams with partners including the National Football League to offer features such as viewing highlights and game scores.

To underscore that broader approach, Microsoft is producing a live-action Halo TV show, in which director Steven Spielberg will be involved, and has a production team in Los Angeles developing concepts.

“They have literally hundreds of ideas that they are incubating right now,” Spencer said.

“We will have some new announcement for TV shows coming pretty soon,” he added.

Spencer said sports programming would be an important element of the new console.

“We believe sports is a very interesting category globally,” Spencer said.

“We’ll be expanding what we do in sports to bring more international sports into the mix,” he added.