Inside Japan’s Indie Games Fest, Where Crazy Is Mandatory

KYOTO, Japan – “This is the year Japan’s indies make a statement,” said BitSummit founder James Mielke last weekend, kicking off the second annual festival of Japanese indie games.

“Last year we had no idea how many indie developers were in Japan, and this year we’ve had to expand the venue to about four times the size to accommodate all of you,” he said. “The world is starting to take notice and take Japanese indie games very seriously.”

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This was no idle boast. Since the first BitSummit event shed light on Japan’s fledgling independent game community a year ago, the response from the game industry’s heavyweights was immediate. Tokyo Game Show, the country’s massive annual exposition that has traditionally been the home of industry titans, added a dedicated “Indie Games Corner” for last year’s exhibition, while Sony hosted an indie-focused evening event at its Tokyo headquarters.

This year, both Sony and Microsoft sponsored the BitSummit festival, which opened its doors to the public and expanded from one to three days. The prefectural government of Kyoto even kicked in sponsorship dollars. More than five thousand people streamed through the doors – a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of thousands who visit Tokyo Game Show each year, but an encouraging number in a country where the notion of independent games is still very much out of the mainstream.

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