Microsoft Corp opened the Tokyo Game Show yesterday by unveiling plans to help Japanese game makers — recently seen as insular and lagging overseas competitors — to aggressively pursue a bigger share of the global market.
In a keynote address, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s games division, announced five new partnerships with Japanese studios and declared the country’s creativity as key to the Xbox 360 console’s future.
“Japanese games are the games that the world loves to play,” Spencer said, noting the Japanese origins of classic arcade games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.
Microsoft has inked deals with five Japanese companies — Spike Co, Treasure Co, NanaOn-Sha Co, Grounding Inc and Grasshopper Manufacture Inc — all of which are developing Xbox-exclusive games for release next year.
The Tokyo Game Show, which runs through Sunday, is Asia’s largest video game trade show. More than 185,000 people attended last year’s event.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has been on a bit of a roll lately. The Xbox 360 was the best-selling console in the US three months in a row, according to market research firm NPD Group. It shipped 356,700 units last month, up about 66 percent from last year.
The console is No. 1 across Europe as well, Spencer said.
Microsoft appears to have a blockbuster on its hands with the latest edition of its popular Halo first-person shooter franchise.
Released on Tuesday, Halo: Reach made US$200 million on its first day alone, making it the biggest entertainment debut this year.
The Redmond, Washington-based company also has high hopes for Kinect, its new controller-free gaming system that goes on sale in North America on Nov. 4.
Once known as Project Natal, Kinect stretches the concept of motion capture that propelled the Nintendo Wii’s global success.
Instead of a hand-held controller, Kinect relies instead on a camera system that recognizes gestures and voices, enabling players to control on-screen avatars in action and sports games simply by moving their own bodies.
Separately, Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console will work as a Blu-ray disc player for 3D movies and music videos, not just 3D games, with a software update download starting on Sept. 21.
The free-of-charge update for movies and other content had been promised for later this year. However, the date is being moved up to ride on the momentum of 3D popularity, Sony executive Hiroshi Kawano said at the Tokyo Game Show yesterday.
“The appeal and impact of games will be definitely enhanced with 3D technology,” Kawano said during a two-hour presentation at the Sony booth.
Sony also showed a motion-controller wand for the PlayStation 3 called Move, similar to the one already on sale from rival Wii. Sony said Move will go on sale on Sunday in the US and on Oct. 21 in Japan.