Tokyo Game Show: The Dos and Donts - Part 1: Preparation

Hello everyone!

It’s been so long since the last post! The problem is, one does not simply feel how much time has passed unless he starts writing again. Doesn’t feel to assuring eh? But all that aside, today’s blog is a little bit different to what we normally post about. Though in the end, it’s game-related and – hopefully – educative and useful to the game developers out there.

So a few weeks ago, 2024 Studios was able to participate in the Tokyo Game Show with the game “Keys to Success” (yaaaaay!) and it was definitely an educative experience. Briefly, Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is – as stated by Wikipedia - “is a video game expo / convention held annually in September in the Makuhari Messe, in Chiba, Japan.” TGS is one of the biggest gaming events that takes place for 4 days; 2 business days and 2 public days. Since Egypt and primarily the Middle East doesn’t usually hold or organize such big events, we got to commit some numerous mistakes due to our inexperience. As noting them down for the future, we decided,” Why not share them with everyone else?” So in hopes it becomes useful to other developers, we have assembled some advice, dos and don’ts!

For starters, how do I get to showcase?
TGS opens submissions for indies who want to showcase their games in around May~June. They take their time filtering the submitted games and get back to the accepted teams by mid July to arrange exhibitors’ stuff. (renting/free and extra passes/etc..) TGS only offers indies the booths and passes, all the trip’s cost is the indies’ responsibility. In the submissions’ form, you also pick the days you want to show-case your game on.

Are the four days just for showcasing?
Well, yes and no. The first two days, the attendees are the press and the VIPs. Mainly the first 2 days are called “Business days”, where the exhibitors at TGS can set up business meetings if they will and discuss future co-operation plans and so forth. The remaining 2 days however are the “public days” where the event is open for the public and they’re basically the really really busy days. Nevertheless, in terms of showcasing, you do showcase your game during those 4 days (in case you submitted all 4 days as the desired days to showcase on in the application form)

So after submitting and getting accepted, now it’s time to prepare!

Prepare stuff to hand out in the event
As you showcase and people pass by, or even right at the entrance door, you’ll need to spread awareness about your entity’s and game’s presence, and it would be nice to add your location so people who get interested can actually stop by! (Okay cool, fliers, easy!) Note that I had said “Stuff”, not necessarily “fliers”. Fliers, though useful, are simply easy to dispose of. We don’t want that, do we?
As I walked around the TGS halls, I was able to see the kind of stuff that other companies were handing out (for free) that were actually hard to dispose of! (I even brought them home!)
That’s an A4 flier with its back designed to act as a poster, which I thought was pretty clever!

Another cool flier – For Mafia 3 – which I thought would be a waste to throw away.

Interesting thing was that this kind of fan was handed out even more than fliers! I brought home about 25 ones! The thing was that while it’s September in Tokyo, the humidity and the crowd makes the halls so hot, and these little guys served as the visitors’ best companion. I was baffled by their wit!

A4 files were also one of the many things that were commonly being distributed. With a cool/catchy cover design, and the company’s flier inside. Some of those fliers had that “Poster” feature, so a double win for them. I liked collecting A4 files from different kinds of booths the best, because I thought they were the most useful ones.

Another fan design

This was the handiest of them all! While you’re walking around collecting, you find it difficult to handle the stuff you’re carrying. Voila! A bag to stuff in all the “loot”! And if you’re lucky, it might originally contain a pin or a sticker, bonus! Many distributed bags each with different sizes and shapes, and Twitch handed out those super big and super light bags that were really convenient but easily damaged.

Stickers, because who hates them?!

If you’re a Final Fantasy Fanatic, like me, you’d probably know who that is! Square Enix were distributing face masks related to its upcoming game, Final Fantasy 15. And interesting enough, the first time I had visited their booth, they were distributing Gladiolus’ mask, but I had really wanted Noct. When I asked the guy distributing the stuff, he told me that each hour is a specific character’s hour and Noct’s hour was 3 o’clock. I couldn’t stop my die-hard fangirl side from revisiting the booth.

Believe it or not, that was handed out to people! As a developer, I only thought of the cost of all those stuffed toys, but as a visitor, who the hell cares?! Just gimme that!!!

A bookmark

Post cards! Though I’d never use them!

A 46-page manga (Japanese comics) about the game’s characters and their backstory. It’s all in Japanese though.

Trading cards. The Egyptian part of me made me go visit that booth again to try and collect all the characters. Though I wanted to collect more, I felt embarrassed about showing my face a third time (it’s easy to be remembered when you’re the only Hijabi in the city lol)

Believe it or not, that tissue pack was distributed by Sega! YES! SEGA!!! I wasn’t sure why such a popular and a big company would give out such an unimpressive thing, but it’s still useful.

Of course those weren’t all, there were also pins, pens, coins, plastic sunglasses, water bottles, headbands and a whole lot more! Sadly, some of the stuff I was able only to see with other people yet never knowing where they got it from. (*cries in a corner*)

For printed handouts, localize it into Japanese
Since it’s taking place in Japan, most of the attendees are Japanese – who can or cannot speak English. It would never hurt to prepare a Japanese version for your fliers and other stuff.

At least two people to attend the event
While a team gets 5 exhibitor passes (and they can pay for more), I alone got to travel to the show. As I have mentioned before, you get to showcase, meet with people, attend shows, do some business meetings, even get interviewed by the press; it’s a lot to do when you’re alone! (I never felt busier and more tired in my life). Moreover, when I was away attending meetings, the booth was left alone and unattended. Never mind the security problems, thank God there were none, but not being able to hand out the flier or show the gamers your game or even see/hear their feedback. It was hard, so yes, two people at least to take turns and make full use of the opportunity.

While you’re packing, make room for loud speakers
That was my biggest mistake, though originally I had prepared headsets for better engagement while players tried the game. The thing is, the whole place is crowded and it gets so loud and noisy, and the exhibitors will compete for the gamers’ attention for whoever gets noisier wins (GOSH some of the game themes are still playing in my head!) So you should proudly prove that you’re the noisiest fellow around, and work hard at it.

Arrange as much meetings as you can
One of the drawbacks of being solo on the trip was I couldn’t arrange many meetings because of having to attend the booth. The thing is, Tokyo Game Show provides a business website for exhibitors with a “meeting organization” system so you’d set up meetings with people/other companies way before the event. It’s very handy but needs lots of time, patience and endless browsing through the HUGE list of exhibitors.

Prepare a “Special demo”
By special, it means a demo that can act as a video player and a playable game. In other words, in case the game has been inactive for so long, the game should play a video/trailer of the game. When it becomes active again, the game switches to the playable demo (preferably reset as well) This would be very convenient so you wouldn’t have to switch between the game demo and the trailer to attract people when no one is playing then (there’s only room for one screen, you can’t use two screens to solve that problem)

While preparing the demo, make a “Japanese Controls” options
One of the most frustrating moments (actually more than once it did happen) would be Asian/Japanese players clicking “X” for cancel and “O” for confirm (I was raised with a PS controller with the opposite functionality) It’s mainly because in the Japanese language X (Batsu) means wrong and O (Maru) means correct. It was hard for them to get used to the type of controls and they would quit eventually (some couldn’t even start the game because they kept hitting O and all they got was “Would you wish to exit the game?”)

Still while preparing the demo, localize the game
Lots of people from many different places will gather in TGS, and some of them can’t speak English. It’s important to localize your game (at least to Japanese) for all the gamers to enjoy.

Pack some decorations
Preferably related to your game’s theme; that way it would be catchy and attract the players’ attention. There was a really really good booth that I thought its decorations was quite simple and easy and yet made the booth so catchy!

The game was apparently some kind of windows XP simulator during the 2000s, so the booth’s setup as a desktop was actually befitting.

Pack a small bag
It’s mainly to carry giveaways, business cards and water for you. It’s for when you move away from your booth and decide to distribute your fliers at the hall’s entrance or elsewhere. Don’t forget to place in the bag some small snacks as well in case you got tired, like chocolate or sweets.

When filling the renting application, rent a big screen
Or buy/get a stand to place your screen on it for everyone to see. When it gets crowded, your game might not be easy to spot/see. You can always pack your own screen if you want, but TGS offers renting 40+ inches screen.

Study some Japanese if you can/have time
Most of the attendees are Japanese, or Asians who can speak Japanese. Not all of them can speak English, which is quite frustrating. It was okay for me since I have been studying Japanese for 5 years now, but I can’t imagine how it would have been otherwise with the press, the players who can’t speak English, and the reviewers. Try to at least memorize the easy stuff, like good morning, or here you go, to use while distributing fliers. Japanese become friendlier when they hear you speaking Japanese.

Now that’s all about the preparations that you might need while you’re still home. Of course, preparing yourself mentally for the trip and the event is important as well!
The next step is to actually exhibit! Overwhelming it might feel at first, but you’ve got so far so don’t worry about a thing and just enjoy :) Next blog would be all about the dos and don’ts during the exhibition!

Happy gamin'!
~Nourhan ElSherief


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