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  • There’re 7% fewer arcades in Japan now than there were a year ago

    Posted on April 10th, 2013 keving 1 comment


    This is according to Law Enforcement for Crimes Related to Businesses Affecting Public Morals in 2012, part of the annual white paper released last month by the public safety department of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. It was reported upon by Game Machines, an amusement-industry publication in Japan that’s been in business since 1974.

    According to the white paper, the number of businesses defined as “game centers” that have sent the correct paperwork to the government to remain in business (following the stipulations of Japan’s entertainment-related business law) was 6,181 as of December 2012. This is down 7 percent from 6,648 establishments at the end of 2011.

    I think it’s fair to say that there are two kinds of “game centers” in modern-day Japan: Places by rail stations or inside large-scale supermarkets (which are often almost, if not completely populated by skill cranes, medal games and other amusements), and facilities like the lovely, eye-catching one in Yokohama pictured above that focus on traditional video games. I probably do not need to prove my case too rigorously when I claim that it’s mostly the latter kind of establishment that’s dwindling in number over there.

    Looking at previous years’ Tokyo Metro Police white papers (and confirmed by the JP Wikipedia), Japan reached “peak arcade” a quarter of a century ago in 1986, when there were 26,573 registered game centers across the country. This went down to 19,540 in 1992, then 11,499 in 2002, and after that it’s been falling by a remarkably even pace — 500 arcades a year ever since. At the current pace, therefore, there will be no game centers in Japan by 2025. (I love flawed statistics.)

  • “Once you get old, it gets harder to play games, doesn’t it?”

    Posted on April 9th, 2013 keving 4 comments


    A thread from the “News Flash (VIP)” section of Japanese forum — which, despite the name, is mostly full of random crap, kind of like /r/gaming on Reddit now that I think about it:

    1 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:52:41.56 ID:ckKKVh7q0
    You want to play games, but you don’t make it to the point where you do it

    2 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:53:07.84 ID:vKDZjYhU0
    I kind of understand

    3 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:53:34.88 ID:7HUgc7nD0
    Just buying them is enough for me.

    4 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:54:02.90 ID:mA4sJ/h50
    My hobby is collecting games

    5 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:54:11.02 ID:ckKKVh7q0
    Even if I buy or rent them, it feels like such a hassle to turn on the console

    6 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:54:27.81 ID:SbCyT/2l0
    In the past I’d have the game system on right after waking up and start right then, but lately it takes time to get to the point of “Okay, let’s do this”.

    7 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:54:57.50 ID:ZmanyUPt0
    I don’t want to abuse my eyes any more than I already am staring at a screen all day at work anyway

    11 [] Date: 2013/04/04 06:56:17.07 ID:gkm2BpjW0
    I just don’t have any time

    12 [sage] Date: 2013/04/04 06:56:24.88 ID:TyC1pHYz0
    I can’t finish any games, even if I don’t have any complaints about them.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Yoshi’s Safari (Nintendo, 7/14/93)

    Posted on April 8th, 2013 keving 2 comments

    Called Yoshi’s Road Hunting in Japan, which is a much apter name I think. The landscape is so flat and barren, I’d be hard pressed to call it a safari really, any more than I would call a trip across I-70 in Kansas that.

    Yoshi’s Safari, that most whimsical and cartoony of the games that supported the Super Scope 6 TV-bazooka, is pretty easy. With a real-life rifle, anyone of average coordination can beat it in two or three hours. Yet the TAS (freshly posted today) takes distressingly long to get all the way through. Ah well.

    The game is also worth noting because the American release in the fall of ’93 marks the first time Nintendo of America called Princess Peach “Princess Peach”, a fair while before Super Mario 64 cleared the air once and for all. She had been called that in Japan since ’85, but you know the sort of goofy stuff NES manual writers came up with all the time…

  • Famicom Lode Runner and the early Master Takahashi years

    Posted on April 6th, 2013 keving 10 comments

    The story of Lode Runner on the Famicom — the game that turned Hudson from a computer-oriented developer to a console-oriented one for the rest of its existence — begins in 1983, when president Yuji Kudo decided that they needed to start making games for Nintendo’s new console. Toshiyuki Takahashi, the “Master” of all 8-bit gaming in Japan and a guy working in Hudson’s sales department at the time, wrote about it on his blog a week ago.

    “Game cartridges were all manufactured at Nintendo’s factory, and you needed to pay half the manufacturing costs at the time of making the order and half on delivery. This took a vast amount of money, and the figures we had dangling before us were such that we’d easily go under if it didn’t sell. So, naturally, we needed a known quantity whose popularity we could be sure of.”

    Having been involved with games for Japan’s assorted 8-bit PCs for several years by that point, Hudson had numerous close connections with American game publishers. They decided to pore through the licenses they had at the time and port one of them to the Famicom.

    “As we made our selections, one of our criteria was that it needed to have a lot of stages. Most games in 1983 basically just had three stages that repeated over and over again. It was hard to fit any more into the limited memory space of the time, but we figured that if we were going to go in on this, we needed something that would surprise gamers. So we wanted a game with lots of stages, that still didn’t take up a lot of memory, and would probably become popular. Around that time, Lode Runner was just beginning to get a worldwide following, so that was a top candidate from the start.”

    Lode Runner was ideal for this sort of thing since its simple game world of blocks, bricks, and ladders could be easily compressed to a small space. However Shinichi Nakamoto, the programmer who handled the Lode Runner port and went on to be involved in many other FC and PC Engine titles, wasn’t convinced.

    “He said that giving it the same-looking screen as on the PC wouldn’t be acceptable for kids. He ported it so that the character sprites were the same size as in other games, which had the side effect of making each stage too big for a single screen. That’s why he had it scroll right and left, and this turned out to be a big hit within the office. Lode Runner on a single screen offered a mixture of action and puzzle elements, but this way, you also had the thrill of not knowing when an enemy robot might pop up from outside the screen. It made it more fun as a game. However, Brøderbund needed some convincing — they said ‘This isn’t Lode Runner‘. I don’t know exactly how they were convinced to come around, but I think it was just our president constantly hammering on them what our impressions were inside the office.”

    Development of the Famicom Lode Runner reached its closing stages in the spring of 1984.

    “At the time, in order to get Lode Runner distributed, we had to go through a toy wholesaler called Shoshinkai which Nintendo introduced us to. Myself and Nakano, my boss in the sales department, went around to all the wholesalers across Japan in order to introduce the product to them. Nakano could have gone by himself but we thought it best to show the game in action as we did our little presentation, so I put on a business site and basically went on these day trips around Japan daily for about two weeks. And the thing everyone always asked us was ‘Isn’t the Famicom from Nintendo? Are you sure you can just make games for it?’ There was not much understanding of the concept of a third party yet in 1984. Nakano would have to explain that we had a license from Nintendo and it was all on the up and up.

    So while he was explaining this and outlining our sales plans and so forth, I’d play the game for them and answer questions they had. I had the impression that people really liked it, especially the fact that both this and Nuts & Milk (which we were showing off at the same time) had 50 stages and let kids make their own levels to boot in edit mode. With the level of orders we got, we probably could have placed an order for half a million cartridges and just raked it in, but with the sort of finances Hudson had to deal with at the time, we could only afford to produce 300,000 — and that was combined for both of those games.”

    Hudson wound up going through this entire shipment of both Lode Runner and Nuts & Milk in about a month, midsummer 1984.

    “After the launch, we had heard about this toy distributor conference being held at the Prince Hotel in Akasaka, so we brought in a TV and Famicom and held a presentation. There were four people — me, Nakano, Nakamoto, and Mr. Osato over in PR. So we did the whole thing, and after the end of it, one of the distributors asked us something like ‘You have a game packed with all of these hot-button features and you only produced 300,000 of them? Are you seriously trying to sell this, or what?’ I remember Nakano struggling to come up with an answer, because he couldn’t exactly lay out the whole truth to them.”