Happy Golden Week, Japan!

The first week in May is Golden Week in Japan. This is the time of year when four national holidays fall in the same week, making it an extra long break for everyone. Can you imagine the joy? And because everyone’s on holiday, the leisure industries, including games, experience a spike in sales. So now it has become tradition in Japan’s gaming world to release lots of exciting news, games, and host events during Golden Week.

The week before Golden Week usually sees a number of big game releases, guaranteeing fun for those who want to remain indoors over the holidays.

This year’s big releases were:

The highly anticipated Bio Hazard (Resident Evil) Operation Racoon City, which sold 252,000 copies in its first week, despite unfavorable reviews.

King of Fighter XIII Climax (Arcade) and the Tales of series browser game Tales of World Days Adventure (PC, mobile, smart phone) made a big splash.

Fire Emblem Kakusei Awakening for the 3DS was the best seller for the previous week and remains a top seller in Japan now.

And there are also several trial versions that could be downloaded for free during Golden Week, including Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and Grand Tourismo Academy 2012.

When it comes to big games news, Golden Week 2012 had some exciting announcements too. The Dragon Quest series is almost a national obsession in Japan so news of Dragon Quest X Mezamashi Itsustu no Shuzoku Online (Dragon Quest X Five Clans Awakening) made headlines everywhere. The game itself will be released on August 2nd, with a retail price of 6,980 yen ($80 USD), and separate subscription fees (1,000 yen/$13 USD per 30 days).

The New Super Mario Brothers 2 will be available for online download, as well as physical media. The downloaded version will be stored in SD cards that can only be accessed via the user’s account, as Nintendo continues to fight piracy, in the wake its poor financial performance last year.

Two high profile names announced new titles. Mikami Shinji (creator of Dino Crisis and Resident Evil) will producing a new horror game called Zwei. And Anime director Mamoru Oshii (of Ghost in The Shell fame) will be directing Xbox 360 game Jutteki (Steel Battalion).

Meanwhile, Namco, Capcom and Sega announced a collaboration on a new game called Project X Zone. The new title will be released summer this year.

Golden Week also plays host to some major gaming conventions and events, dishing up more news and exciting stuff.

First up is NicoNico Chou Kaigi on 28-29 April. This event takes place at Makuhari Messe, also home of the Tokyo Game Show. Some of this year’s highlights include:
The upcoming Next Hatsune Miku Project Diva, for Vita, was available to play in the Sony Computer Entertainment booth.

Final Fantasy illustrator Yoshitaka Amano wowed audiences with a live painting event.

Making game commentaries is popular in Japan and can be seen on Japan’s youtube, NicoNico video-dom. Players create a commentary, as they play a game. At this year’s show, attendees could watch people play and comment live. There was also a Dragon’s Dogma playthrough with commentaries from director, Itsuno Hideaki (also Devil May Cry director) and creator Kinoshita Kento Akihabara 5th Game Festa on 3-5 May, at Bellesalle Akihabara, which is the heart of electric town in Tokyo. The first day was a closed beta test event for Phantasy Star Online, and day two was the Cross Fire championship, with a prize of 300.000 yen up for grabs. The event also showcased the latest PC gaming products, including new PC brand, Galleria, which was also the event sponsor. Event attendees were also treated to exclusive gaming and a preview of Kinect for Windows.

Pokemon B/W Global Link Japan Cup 2012 Spring. While Pokemon Global has 2.5 million members, this competition is reserved only for the first 50.000 registrations. As you can see, Pokemon is still huge over here, in Japan.

Golden Week also marks the start of summer for the rest of the city, which means all the big gaming companies announce their summer events. Capcom confirmed its summer conventions, including the launch preview of Monster Hunter The Real, a collaboration with Universal Studios Japan. The game promises to deliver a real Monster Hunter experience at the Universal theme park. In addition, the Capcom Summer Jam, is a two-day game convention, which will get gamers excited all summer long.

Although summer tends to quiet for gamers in the West, it’s the total opposite in Japan. Judging by Golden Week, things are just getting started.

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