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Media & Entertainment

Tokyo gaming expo goes virtual with Amazon's help

Online venue features streamed presentations and dedicated marketplace

The Tokyo Game Show expo drew over 260,000 visitors last year. (Photo by Kai Fujii)

TOKYO -- One of the world's top gaming conventions, the Tokyo Game Show, will be held entirely online for the first time through a collaboration with Amazon Japan.

This year's expo, which begins Wednesday, also looks to become a landmark event as it showcases the competing next-generation consoles, Sony's PlayStation 5 and Microsoft's Xbox Series X, both of which will be released in November.

With the format change forced by the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon Japan has stepped in to provide platforms for vendors to sell their wares and stream their messages. The tech giant will create a page on its online marketplace that goes live during the expo. Twitch, Amazon's video streaming platform subsidiary, will be used to broadcast the event along with TGS's official site.

Through this setup, gamers can buy new titles and tie-in goods as they watch streams from game developers. These purchases normally occur within the physical venue, but this year Amazon will act as the online sales channel for gaming companies. A previous expo rule disallowing sales of products worth over 30,000 yen ($287) will be eliminated on Amazon.

Live commerce, in which products are advertised and sold during live streams, has taken off since its recent start in China. Video games mesh well with live commerce, said a media entertainment manager at Amazon Japan.

Amazon Japan's homepage will carry a link to its TGS portal to grab the attention of non-gamers.

The first day of the expo is reserved for online meetings among businesses. A paid matching system was created for that purpose. A vendor will list the tech and services it offers beforehand, and interested purchasing managers can connect with the seller through videoconferencing.

Amazon Japan will host a portal for the Tokyo Game Show on its website. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)

The system can display optimal candidates for business discussions, which will increase the potential for closing deals. The matching platform is compatible with smartphones and similar devices as well.

More than 420 companies will participate in this year's Tokyo Game Show, the 30th iteration of the event. The expo, sponsored by the Tokyo-based Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association, opens to the public Thursday through Sunday.

Among the exhibitors, roughly 220 companies will be from outside Japan. Along with Chinese game developer Tencent Holdings, Huawei Technologies also will promote games that can be played on its devices.

The global gaming market is expected to grow 9.3% this year to $159.3 billion, Dutch analytics firm Newzoo says. Not only will 2020 feature the release of highly anticipated game consoles, the stay-at-home demand caused by the pandemic has driven sales.

Next year will bring the further penetration of 5G communications networks, which will support cloud-based games and the expansion of esports.

Top European gaming convention Gamescom, hosted in Germany, was conducted virtually in late August. Streams on the first day drew 2 million viewers, organizers said.

The results at Gamescom suggest that gaming culture is highly attuned to online events. Physical expos, however, are major events that bring leading developers together with their legions of fans. TGS last year drew over 260,000 people to the Makuhari Messe convention center just outside of Tokyo.

Though direct comparisons do not tell the whole story, the number of TGS exhibitors is down more than 30% from 2019. Several companies took a pass this year, citing cost effectiveness. Organizers have sought to mitigate the fallout from the format change, including lowering the minimum exhibitor fee by 50,000 yen.

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