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Pre-TGS: Konami Showcases Top Franchises

Gamasutra was at Konami's new Tokyo headquarters in the lavish entertainment and office complex Tokyo Midtown in the Roppongi district as Konami held its Media Conference 2007, showcasing titles from the Metal Gear Solid, DDR and _Winning Eleven<

September 19, 2007

11 Min Read

Author: by Christian Nutt, Tokyo

At its new Tokyo headquarters in the lavish entertainment and office complex Tokyo Midtown, in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, Konami played host to a wide swath of Japanese and foreign video game press in its Media Conference 2007, held the day before Tokyo Game Show is to open to the press. The media packet provided at entry contains an overview of the Konami Tokyo Game Show lineup. The list suggests a company in transition, with few new announcements -- the most significant to the US perhaps being Metal Gear Solid 2: Digital Graphic Novel for the PSP; hardly a powerhouse title. Otherwise the list contains an array of known titles, and likely Japan-only non-games for the Nintendo DS including Dokodemo Pilates -- dokodemo meaning "anywhere." Suikoden creator Junko Kawano, known for her work on the original RPG for the PS1 and Suikoden 4 for the PS2, reappears with Time Hollow, a graphical adventure game for the DS. Konami's TGS Lineup Metal Gear Solid series: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots / PS3 Metal Gear Online (working title) / PS3 Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops + / PSP Metal Gear Solid 2: Digital Graphic Novel / PSP Other series: Time Hollow / DS Silent Hill Origins / PSP Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party / Wii World Soccer Winning Eleven 2008 / PS3, 360 Powerful Pro Baseball / Wii, DS Training games: Dokodemo Yoga / DS Dokodemo Pilates / DS Chizu Saeki Style Yumemihada - Dream Skincare - / DS A lot of mobile games including new installments in its Japan-only dating series Tokimeki Memorial and cult-hit RPG series Suikoden, any or all of which are unlikely to see the light of day in the U.S. The Presentation The presentation began with Konami Digital Entertainment president Fumiaki Tanaka offering a few words, mentioning that he wanted to show the most interesting titles to the press. Discussing the changes in the gaming market worldwide, Tanaka laid out plans for Konami Japan's participation in the International Contents Festival, a mixed media event with games, anime, manga and music. Tanaka talked about the production of games internationally -- with the center of the operation being the new offices at Tokyo Midtown, an office Konami moved to in April 2007. He then invited the press to check out the company's games at the Tokyo Game Show booth. Speaking through lousy interpretation, Tanaka said "Konami the contents maker, we have to show our competitive edge going forward. Content makers like us are going to play a very important role for the game industry. This is a mission given to us and we believe in this mission," said Tanaka. "We have to make our best efforts so that we can afford to improve the content. The one content can be deployed on multi platforms, but at the same time we have to fully understand the strength of each platform so we can come up with the best value added. We would like to have contents employed on many different platforms." "It is the era of networking, and communication is one of the keywords we have to pay attention. Communication, getting together, community gathering -- this is the keyword we have to address." He also said that another keyword is "health aspects. People wish to stay in healthy conditions, so the second keyword is health." The third keyword, he said, was "diversity. Men and women, people speaking different languages. We have to provide contents in different languages for different cultures. We're going to be concentrating on localization going forward... six or seven languages. We would like to challenge more languages going forward." His final point related to Konami's mix of extant series and new franchises. "We wish to be unique. We want to expand our franchise operations -- many of the contents you will be exposed to soon will be out of the franchise environment... but one or two contents will be new. We would like to produce more new contents." Old And New Content Next came Katsunori Okita, Konami's game contents production executive producer, to introduce two titles. The first game introduced was Time Hollow, a new adventure game. Due in winter 2008 in Japan, the game features a main character who wields a pen which can change the past -- an obvious match to the DS' stylus control. The scenario is written by Japanese novelist named Takehiko Hata. A dramatic, character-driven trailer followed. The next presentation was for Silent Hill Origins, under its Japanese title, Silent Hill Zero. Soon to be released, this game is already well known to the press and gamers. Okita offered a little information about Silent Hill V, which was announced at E3 in July. "Regarding Silent Hill V, whether it be the story or the action it is further evolved. We are preparing it on next generation hardware and we will release it in FY '08. I will not be able to release the details, but before Silent Hill V, the Silent Hill content will be deployed in various other methods." The third series Okita presented was the female-oriented training games for the DS -- the first of which was released last October. The games he mentioned were Dream Skincare, Dokodemo Yoga and Dokodemo Pilates. A trailer for Pilates was then presented. These games seem unlikely to come to the U.S. -- unless Wii Fit takes off. The exercise games do, however, tie in well with Konami's chain of health clubs throughout Japan. "To become beautiful while having fun and to become healthy while having fun are the keywords in these products," according to Okita. "Regarding this [health and beauty] genre we hope we will able to strengthen the lineup going forward." Network concepts were also discussed -- that will connect the Konami health clubs and arcades "anytime, anywhere," another of Okita's keywords for the "sports and entertainment" series. A video showing a Konami peripheral consisting of two armbands with sensors and a plastic mat with sensors in it was then played. Stat tracking via a Windows PC was also shown, though details were vague, as the trailer mostly concentrated on the entertainment and health benefits of the software. After this video, Okita left the stage. Konami's Mobile Games He was followed by the online contents production executive producer, Kazuya Takahashi, who came to the stage to discuss online and mobile games. Takahashi mentioned that the PSP and DS are popular, and the cell phone is "a must in our daily life" but oddly asked "Who here has a PS3? Probably none." His thrust from there was improving the quality of cell phone games with "what we call super rich contents." Of course, his discussion focused on the Japanese cell phone market -- concentrating on the evolution of games across NTT DoCoMo's cell phone lines. He then introduced Metal Gear Solid Mobile. "I think this was a breakthrough, it was quite smooth and quite immersive. We would like to deploy this worldwide." He moved on to sports titles such as Winning Eleven and Mobile Powerful Pro Baseball 5, neither of which will probably leave Japan; both of which use a horizontal screen orientation on the cell phone. Silent Hill: The Escape, which uses the phone's camera to orient the game's camera, was then introduced. Konami's new mobile dating game, Tokimeki Memorial 2, is most notable for having a 15 MB capacity, huge for a cell phone game. An eight-player game with nationwide rankings, Quiz Magic Academy Mobile 2, was then introduced. "As long as the devices are available, we would like to deploy these contents worldwide," Takahashi said, though when or how that might happen was in no way suggested. He noted that in the Japanese market 7.48 billion yen was spent in 2006 for games on mobile devices. He then moved on to discuss Pachinko gambling machines -- a lucrative and absolutely Japan-only market, which Konami is licensing and tying in with cell phones. Two Sports Stalwarts Winning Eleven Productions executive producer, Shinji Enomoto, took the stage to talk about the popular soccer series' "cross platform and global deployment." He first spoke of Winning Eleven for home consoles -- also known as Pro Evolution Soccer internationally. Across 2005 and 2006, the series sold 15 million units worldwide. In 2007, the series will appear across 360, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii and PC. This was followed by a trailer for the PS3/360 version of the game: World Soccer Winning Eleven 2008. Enomoto talked about the ability of the next generation systems to make the soccer game more realistic -- both from a graphics and gameplay perspective. The game will hit Europe and Asia in 2007, and North and Central America in 2008. The Wii game was then introduced. "I thought we could create something completely new -- that was my gut feeling," Enomoto opined, when speaking about the Wii controller as an input for a soccer game. "This is the creative soccer, and this is what we aspired for. The new game and the conventional game is merged," Enomoto mentioned, while introducing the first screenshots of the Wii game. The global launch of this game will be in Spring 2008. Enomoto followed up with the latest Japanese mobile Winning Eleven game, and a separate game for the European mobile market. This game looks much less advanced than the full 3D Japanese game, featuring 2D graphics. Pawapuro Production executive producer Kazuhiko Uehara came to the stage to talk about Konami's long-running baseball series, which will make its debut in the US via 2K Sports in October as MLB Power Pros on PS2 and Wii -- for the first time in its 14 year history. Footage of the Japanese version of the series was shown under its Japanese title -- Jikkyou Powerful Major League 2. A trailer for the latest DS version, which has online Wi-Fi Connection play, was also shown -- though this game is Japan-only for now. Bemani production executive producer Yoshihiko Ota followed this presentation to discuss the company's music game series. He talked about the series current lineup -- which includes Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania, Guitar Freaks, Drum Mania and Pop'n Music. Ota admitted "[In] year 2000 [the series] was at its peak. With regards to North America the DDR boom still exists." According to Ota, in North America the home DDR games are the most popular, selling one million copies a year. The only title that Ota covered was Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party for the Wii. "This is for the family entertainment." The game concentrates on full-body play, four-player multiplayer, and health and enjoyment -- these three points are Ota's vision for the game, which is in line with the expanded audience for the Wii led by Nintendo's own games. The game features a calorie counter based on information provided by Konami's sports clubs. Finally, Metal Gear Solid Of course, Kojima Productions executive producer Hideo Kojima took the stage last. He talked briefly about the series 20-year history, dating back to the 8-bit MSX computer, and the various celebratory events KP has undertaken. This was followed by a new trailer for MGS4, the usual mix of confusing plotlines, bizarre humor and hyperrealism the series is well-known for. The game will be playable for the first time at Tokyo Game Show. "It is going to be like a Disneyland tactical espionage attraction," Kojima offered. He then moved on to discuss Metal Gear Online for PS3, with another trailer. While the graphics aren't as advanced as MGS4, its squad-based gameplay looks promising. The game is also playable at TGS. MGO Starter Pack will be packed in with MGS4; it was not made clear how this differentiates from the final version of MGO. A trailer for PSP title Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops Plus, with new stages, soldiers and modes was unveiled. Old Solid Snake, the protagonist of MGS4, was also included. Global release plans were not outlined. This was followed by a trailer for Metal Gear Solid 2 Digital Graphic Novel, another PSP title, which includes the first title, which was released last year, on the disc as well. Kojima finished with Metal Gear Solid Mobile -- again, showing a trailer. After Kojima's presentation, the Media Conference came to a close. Konami reps invited the press to play the games at the show. The press conference didn't show a lot that was new, and showed a company with a lot of different types of content and platforms to support -- casting about, perhaps, for a direction. Cautious steps are being made to embrace platforms, but only mobile seemed to be overloaded with titles; PS3, 360 and Wii getting very obvious games and DS getting a few late-to-the-game training titles.

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