Tokyo Game Show swung its doors open once again from September 21 to 24 this year. During this time, Sarah Bond, Corporate Vice President at Xbox, visited Japan to take part in the country’s biggest annual gaming moment. During the visit, the Xbox Wire Japan team was able to talk to Sarah to hear more on how she perceives the Japanese and Asian Xbox markets, as well as the Xbox community within them – and their importance to Xbox overall.
Xbox Wire Japan: An abundance of titles developed in Japan have been showcased in the Xbox Digital Broadcast for Tokyo Game Show 2023. Out of them all, Hotel Barcelona, the collaboration between Swery and Suda51, definitely caught the eyes of many people in the crowd. Tell us how that piece within the show came to be.
Sarah: We have known both Swery-san and Suda-san for a long time, and our team here is very dedicated to working with creators within the Japanese market to make sure they realize their creative vision with Xbox, in any way that they wish. When they shared that they wanted to reveal Hotel Barcelona’s gameplay for the first time as part of the Xbox Digital Broadcast, we were honored to do so. We were happy that Swery-san and Suda-san themselves were also featured in the show, giving them an opportunity to speak to their fans, share their visions, and even highlight the game’s origins. This is something very unique to our approach as Xbox, and how we celebrate games, because we also love to celebrate the creators of the games as well.
Xbox Wire Japan: Fans are fascinated that titles like Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. Since last year, there has been an impression that more Japanese games have been making their way onto Xbox and Xbox Game Pass. Is this the result of the commitment you and your team have been expressing towards the region?
Sarah: Relationships in all businesses, especially in gaming – which is a creative art form – are very important. My team and I, in addition to Phil [Spencer]’s team, have invested a lot of time in building a relationship with creators here in Japan and across Asia. Game Pass enables creators to reach players who may otherwise have not known about the game, or been able to afford to buy every single game out there. I think the Yakuza franchise is an excellent example; now, with so many Yakuza games in Game Pass, someone can jump in and experience all the amazing things about the franchise, and we have it all in one place for people to start playing. Even if they weren’t familiar with the series, it’s easy to experience all of the games when they are together. To reiterate, the relationships we build are very important, but just as important is investing to make sure our partners have an opportunity to grow their franchises, to reach new players, and to extend their engagement in their games, all the while providing a choice in how to play. This is very important and core to what I and my team invest our time in.
Xbox Wire Japan: Here’s a question about Tokyo Game Show. In the past, you had E3 in the United States, and gamescom in Germany. Compared to these events, what is the position of Xbox on Tokyo Game Show?
Sarah: We really see Tokyo Game Show as a unique moment to celebrate and showcase creators from Japan and across Asia. In the Xbox Digital Broadcast, there were a total of 19 games, including 15 games from Asia. It also showcased the creators of these games themselves, speaking about their vision towards the fans. In many ways, Japan is the source of so much of what makes gaming a beautiful and creative artform today, and Tokyo Game Show gives us a unique opportunity to celebrate the innovative style of games that are built by creators in this region, as well as to show all of what is happening in Japan and across Asia – not just to the fans who reside here, but to fans around the world.
Xbox Wire Japan: Xbox hosted the “Xbox Digital Broadcast Watch Party” in Shibuya last week. Have you noticed a uniqueness in the Xbox community in Japan?
Sarah: What I really appreciate and love about Xbox fans in Japan, who we met with last night and watched the show with, is how they wear Xbox. Many of them were wearing colors, jewelry, and had their hair made to resemble Xbox, and some brought controllers and even consoles for us to sign, as well as t-shirts and hats. There’s so much passion and love, not just for games, but also for the brand and what it represents.
Xbox Wire Japan: To go on a tangent, fans have noticed that you host an emoji quiz almost every day online. When do you come up with these?
Sarah: I love emojis. But when I first started posting online, people told me that young people don’t use emojis anymore. That’s when I realized that, if I kept using emojis, people may realize that I am a mother in my forties. But you see, I am a mom in my forties, and am quite proud of it; I think it’s cool that I can do what I do while being one. I want every mom in the world to know, or perhaps every woman in the world to know that you could do something like this, and don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. And that’s when I decided to go all out and use a lot of emojis. Often, in internal emails, which the team can tell you, I now may only reply with emojis. That’s when I started to think “could I communicate just with emojis”?
And with this question in mind, when I hopped on a plane, I started making game names out of emojis. I made 50 game and emoji combinations on that flight. The first one that I made was for Clockwork Revolution, and everybody went wild. We eventually decided to do this quiz every day of the week, just like Wordle, so people could wake up in the morning and try and solve the quiz, and to keep going as long as I could. It’s been almost 3 months, and we’ll see how much longer I can continue. There still are a lot of games out there!
Xbox Wire Japan: Lastly, would you please share a message to the Xbox fans in Japan?
Sarah: First, I want to thank all of the Xbox fans for the support and feedback. I hope that they all enjoy the rest of Tokyo Game Show, and I encourage them to play and enjoy Starfield, but also, to pick up and play Forza Motorsport which is launching October 10. We hope you continue to give us your incredible feedback and support, as we continue to invest in Xbox in Japan and across Asia. We are nothing without our fans, and everything they do for us is invaluable.
Editor’s Note: We’ve removed the mention of Octopath Traveler II coming to Xbox Game Pass which was included in error. Octopath Traveler II will arrive on Xbox platforms in 2024.