industrial robots
Cranking out widgets in search of meaning...

JAMMA Show 2002


This convention, put on by the Japan Amusement Machinery Manufacturers Association was conveniently timed to coincide with my trip to Tokyo Game Show this year. I've seen the changes in North American arcades over the last ten years, and was very curious to see what the state of the industry is in Japan.

a japanese woman plays some type of shooting game above the acronym JAMMA

My first impression was that the show seemed small overall. There were less than a dozen video game companies represented and the games they were showing weren't exactly innovative.

a bunch of signs showing various events at the convention centre

The newest games fell into the standard categories of gun shooter, racing, fighting and bemani. Of these, it was strange to see that King of Fighter's 2002 was the newest fighting game, being from the defunct / resurrected SNK. Gun shooters must still be pulling in decent coinage, since Sega's House of The Dead III and Konami's World Combat were arguably the two best games at the show. World Combat seemed a bit better to me, and you can play with four players simultaneously, compared to HoTD3's 2.

several people play the world combat light gun gamepeople crowd around demos of the house of the dead 3 under a large logo poster

One nice surprise was Sammy's "Dolphin Blue", a Metal Slug inspired 2D shooter where your character rides a dolphin and fights hordes of opposing SCUBA clad minions of the evil boss.

a japanese man plays dolphin blue

The industry as a whole has really started to focus on gambling machines from pachinko and video card games to prize redemption, where the player performs feats such as throwing darts, manoeuvre levers or good old whack-a-mole actions to win prizes, usually stuffed animals. There's also a huge fad stuffed animal here in Japan right now called "The Dog". Stuffed animals with huge heads and tiny bodies that are collectible, they have been exploited into every industry and are a popular redemption prize, even spawning a video-game derivative.

people crowdaround a dogstation deluxe cabineta closer view of the game shows people typing on keyboards and on-screen menus

There were also a couple of other hard to categorize games as well, one being Sega's follow-up to their group horse race games that was a multiplayer BINGO game.

people sit on stools around a large area game called bingo party

Overall, I'm glad I took the time to check out this show, but I'm really surprised at how stagnant the industry really is. I guess it's a function of the power of new home consoles and other forms of entertainment like the internet eating into the public's leisure time. It's good to see the multiplayer games offering something that can't be reproduced at home, but it looks like the days of the standard arcade video-game are probably numbered.

people dressed as tv characters perform for childrena small crowd watches someone play a rhythm game