Editorial: Where’d The Japanese Arcade Makers Go?

arcadehero December 20, 2012 6
Editorial: Where’d The Japanese Arcade Makers Go?

We haven’t had an editorial piece in a while but Kevin Williams of The Stinger Report felt it necessary to address the subject of what is going on in the Japanese amusement space, which saves me the trouble of writing up anything lengthy right now(thanks Kevin!). What he is discussing is not Japanese arcades themselves but the game makers. All of them have scaled back from what they were doing back in the 90s as far as the amount of content released as well as where, companies like Taito and Konami keeping their focus more at home than overseas with occasional forays outside of those boundaries. Of course the promise of the new year contains plenty of possibilities and it does seem like we may finally be headed int he direction of more online enabled content, judging by what we have seen with Big Buck HD, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and perhaps soon MaiMai and Maximum Tune 4. Anyways, to the article.

Kevin Williams:

– Where’d the Japanese Arcade Go?
Some of you may be feeling that the Japanese amusement industry has vanished from the face of the Earth – possibly hiding from the Mayans prediction of the end of the world! But the reality is slightly more mundane.

The Japanese amusement manufacturers (commonly referred to as the ‘factories’) have been in a suspension of new promotions, following the agreement last year to abandon the veteran AM Show that would have been normally held in September – reverting to holding a merged new show in the February slot (AM Show + AOU Show).

The new Japanese Amusement Expo (JAE) – planned for the 15-16 February, 2013 has an expected 688 booths representing some 47 companies, and will represent a new look Japanese amusement trade. In the mean-time it has felt like the whole factory system has gone into hibernation.

What would be normal at this time of the year traditionally would be a feverish activity to take the concepts and prototypes that would have been shown at the previous AM Show (affectionately called the JAMMA show) and focus on the feedback from the exhibition towards getting ready for Q1 release the following year.

Now with no AM Show, the focus is on the limited number of Japanese new releases launched in July – and preparation to make the JAE show next year a great new beginning; both in new developments, but also better promotion of the trade to the home and international audience. However, when we say international we are referring to close neighbors in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand.

All this said, 2013 could still prove a very interesting and decisive year for the factories.

Suggestions from well-placed sources hint that corporations such as SEGA, NAMCO and others are looking at international deployment of their connected machine network architecture. Secondly there are suggestions of more autonomy on the table for satellite divisions of SEGA and NAMCO, towards creating new games suited wholly for their market, (as has been seen recently with ‘Dream Raiders’ and ‘GRID’).

However there are some indications of some hard times ahead in redressing a diminishing of investment regarding international amusement releases – Konami Digital Entertainment having abandoned all Western amusement business after problematic relationships in the territory; and likewise Taito could be forgiven for being seen to have abandoned any Western releases.

Other than new releases coming from bitter competitors from the Asian Tiger territories (such as China, Taiwan and Korea); the only major Japanese developed amusement piece from a factor deployed in the West has been the release of ‘Dark Escape 4D’ from NAMCO Bandai.

It is hoped that 2013 will be filled with a number of new compelling releases from the factories; or the danger exists that Japan could be superseded by Chinese (and even Western) new developments ramping up to fill the supply vacuum!



  1. Arcades4ever December 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    It could be due to last years tsunami and power plant incident why companies have had to scale back and I bet Japan’s still recovering after the awful aftermath.

  2. editor December 20, 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    @Arcades4ever – a very valid point – the Japanese home islands have been impacted by three major disasters:

    1. Economic Decline (a recession that has decimated the country for the last 8-years)
    2. Quake/Tsunami (one of the largest submarine quakes followed by tsunami that decimated the north islands industrial base)
    3. Power Outage (a component of the quake, Japan has rolling brown-outs impacting productivity already hampered by the first disaster, and continued by the 22% dependance on N-power)

    All that said, SEGA, Namco, KDE and Square/Taito (with some issues) have seen steady growth in amusement business, and the investment in new amusement has continued in the face of the above disasters. But I do agree that the slow-down in international exposure from Japan may be more fueled by the above disasters than just a failure to have a show in September!

    • arcades4ever December 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      but then you get the biggots, you know the “arcades are dead” chanters saying it’s due to having more entertainment at home. It’s not just arcades that are suffering but consoles and games for it too I heard from somewhere yet arcades fairing a little better yet the biggots pinpoint that arcades are still a dying breed
      one thing they lack in japan is the amount of space. there is very little space. arcade games in arcades are more sucessful in arcades yet also being avalable for consoles too some of them e.g. time crisis gun series, why isn’t it selling millions of copies worldwide on consoles yet making a killer in arcade machines being sold? that really begs the question

  3. CD ageS December 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    What’s this about Tag 2!?

  4. CD ageS December 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Yes, I recall reading this article a while back… and yet, the game is still MIA to US arcade market.

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