Have organizers crossed the line where they expect more people will buy tickets to look at beautiful women than try cool games?
As has become the norm at the Tokyo Game Show, attendees at this year’s event were greeted at many booths by attractive models in revealing costumes. But even though Japan is relatively okay with open admiration of the human physical form, there’s one industry figure who takes issue with the practice.
Hiroshi Matsuyama is the president of software developer CyberConnect2, the company behind the Naruto Ultimate Ninja video game franchise, and which previously produced cult classic Tail Concerto and the .hack RPG series. While Matsuyama was pleased with the high level of energy and excitement on the show floor this year, he wasn’t always happy about why the crowd was getting amped up.
He explained why in a recent post to his blog, Zetsubo Kinshi (“Despair Prohibited”), which he opens by asking the question “How about we stop with the Hostess Club Game Show?”
“Even looking back at just the last few Tokyo Game Shows, I feel like things are escalating every year,” writes Matsuyama, in reference to the amount of skin being shown by booth babes at the four-day event. “Originally, I think exhibitors dressed up models in costumes to recreate the atmosphere of their games’ worlds, and by borrowing the models’ power, they were able to produce an exciting vibe,” he recalls.
“Recently, though, aren’t the models’ outfits too revealing?” he asks. To Matsuyama, the whole thing has become a case of the tail wagging the dog.
“Since when did the Tokyo Game Show become something that draws crowds because of models showing a lot of skin? Wasn’t it supposed to be an event where people came to learn about new games before they went on sale, and were even willing to buy tickets to be able to do so? Is software so powerless now? Can we not get people to pay attention to us without offering them something other than games at our booths?”
It’s worth pointing out that Matsuyama enjoys a plum position in the game developer world. Not only does his company’s cash cow, the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja series, benefit from being a tie-in with one of the most popular anime and manga in decades, it’s published by Bandai Namco, one of the true titans of the industry, with a massive marketing budget. CyberConnect2 is also involved with the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, another project that comes with a huge amount of built-in fan enthusiasm and interest. As such, it’s a lot easier for him to look with disdain at promotional ploys that have little or nothing to do with the game itself than it would be for someone helming a less bankable franchise. It’s also not like exhibitors at the Tokyo Game Show only use female models to beckon passersby with come-hither glances.
Matsuyama isn’t uniformly and prudishly opposed to any and all sexiness, though. As a matter of fact, he praised this year’s booth for Sega’s Yakuza series, which regularly features women dressed in hostess club-style cocktail dresses. Not only were their outfits less revealing than the costumes seen at many other booths, they fit with the game’s setting of Japan’s criminal underworld and adult entertainment enterprises. He also clarifies that he bears no ill will towards the models themselves, but the exhibitors employing them in this manner.
“Let’s stop with the Hostess Club Game Show. Let’s stop fishing for customers by having beautiful women expose their bodies,” pleads Matsuyama. “We haven’t and that’s why the number of kids in attendance is down, and why all you see are middle-aged men coming to the show.”