Last week was theTokyo Game Show. TGS is the most important video game expo in Japan. Besides having an excuse to eat the best sushi in the world and watch Sumo wrestling, I attended TGS last week in order to play the latest casual games from Japan.

It’s All About Mobile Games.

If you ever been in Japan you know that the train is the favorite form of transportation. And it would be your choice too as the Japanese rail network reaches every little corner in the island. Wherever you want to go, there will always be a train combination that will leave you less than a 15 minute walk from a train station.

While people travel in trains, one of their favorite past times is looking at a little screen. For years the Japanese had very large flip phones in which they could read the news, watch videos, or play games. In fact, their Internet use has always been larger on mobile phones than on desktop computers.


However, now the iPhone and Android phones are making strides in Japan. In my very unofficial statistic, in every train I took last week, I’d say 35% of mobile users were using a flip phone, 35% were using an iPhone, 20% were using an Android phone (of which the Sony Experia was the most popular), and 10% were using a Playstation Portable. I think I saw just one person using a Nintendo DS (it’s mostly for kids in Japan, as it’s here).

During TGS, it was clear that mobile games are an important part of the industry. In a session I attended, an executive from Sega showed Kingdom Conquest (a mobile MMO previously launched in the West, but now being launched in Japan), and said that the industry is now “in a war for people’s palms”. In the same session, executives from Capcom and Konami agreed.

Mobile and Social game publisher Gree was showing at the show a series of mobile sims. One of them looked like Farmville, the other like Cafe World. Gree was also showing a new version of Puzzle Bobble, and all of these games are or will be available for iPhone. An interesting fact is that Gree’s had the biggest booth of the entire show. It would be like Zynga would have the biggest booth at E3. That goes to show the importance of Casual Games for the entire industry.


Just south of Gree’s booth there was the Smartphone and Tablet Area, which had all kinds of casual mobile games to play. The most impressive for me was Taito’s Groove Coaster, which has been recently released for the iPhone. It’s a one tap or finger swipe music game that’s totally addiciting to play.

And lastly, even though it’s not as relevant for Western Casual gamers, Sony showed the successor to the Playstation Portable: the PS Vita. In Japan The PSP is really popular among all kinds of young gamers, and the Vita lineup has titles for everybody.

The Vita has a touch screen in the front and the back of the device. In the front it works like as any touch-based smartphone, but the one in the back allows you to be able to touch an area of the screen while seeing exactly what’s going on in it. A great casual game for the platform is the new version of Everybody’s Golf. Check out this video to see how the game uses the Vita’s capabilities:

All in all, a great Tokyo Game Show. Japan is more and more transitioning its gaming needs to portable devices, and we should expect to see this trend in the West as well.

Juan heads the production at Joju Games. Joju produces online, social and multiplayer games for clients such as Atari, Mochi Media, Shockwave, and MTV Networks. Juan has more than 12 years of experience developing online games. Previously, and as one of the first members of the Yahoo! Games team, Juan was the lead producer for the downloadable games area and community manager of multi player games. In the last year of his tenure at Yahoo!, Juan was the head of Yahoo! Games Studios. Juan is a frequent speaker at industry events, and holds a BFA in Electronic Media from the University of Illinois.