The Year E3 Went to Japan and Tried to Kill the Tokyo Game ShowS

With the Tokyo Game Show having just wound up, I thought today would be a good time to look back to 1996, when for the first and only time it wasn't the only major gaming event held in Tokyo.

For one year, and one year only, it had competition in the form of E3. An E3 held in Japan.

While the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the world's most important gaming show, has made Los Angeles its home, it's actually moved around quite a bit in its 16 year history. In 1997 and 1998 it was held in Atlanta, while in 2007 it was held in Santa Monica.

In 1996, though, the show's organisers had big plans. They wanted to take E3 on the road and hold several events all over the world, much like the Game Developers Conference (GDC) does now, and their first spin-off event would be held in what was still the heartland of the video game industry, Tokyo.

Called E3: Tokyo 96, it was held at the Makuhari Messe (the same place TGS takes place), and was originally planned to be a major event, with all the big publishers onboard and Sony to sponsor the show. It was scheduled to take place between November 1-4.

Right from the onset, though, the show ran into problems. For starters, it was kicking off in the same year the first Tokyo Game Shows (there used to be two a year), meaning there'd be little in the way of new content to be shown. Then Sony pulled out, not just from sponsoring the show but from attending at all (the company instead decided to hold its own event, the PlayStation Expo). Then Sega pulled out.

Suddenly Japan's second-biggest gaming show was missing two of the big three platform holders. Perversely, given the fact these days they no longer attend the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo stuck around and showed up, but even their presence couldn't stop the event from being a dismal failure, with low attendances and poor coverage compared to the flashier PlayStation Expo, which making things worse ended up also being held at the Makuhari Messe. At the same time. Stealing all of E3's crowds.

Given the lack of success Tokyo 96 enjoyed in a country mad for video games, it would be the first and last time the show ever tried to venture outside the United States, leaving the Tokyo Game Show to enjoy an uninterrupted 16 year run as Japan's biggest video game show.

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(Top photo courtesy of ani-culture)

You can contact Luke Plunkett, the author of this post, at plunkett@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.