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Why no global hits are made in China
by Junxue Li on 03/20/14 07:18:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

   Video gaming in China is big business. The No.1 Chinese mobile game publisher Tencent, in terms of revenue, has the size of many Zynga and King combined. But, one thing embarrassing is, since the beginning of gaming, there has not been a single game created by a Chinese company taking the global market by storm, like Angry Bird, Cute the Rope, not even an indie game as simple as Flappy Bird.

   Why? I’ve gathered a few points, they might be poignant, they might be inaccurate. But, please don’t take them seriously, entertaining, perhaps. Ok, here we go:

Poor soil:

Video games, like other types of art form, needs good soil to grow from and a cultivated audience to appreciate.

Now China is at certain historical stage of development, she has just accomplished a herculean feat to eliminate illiterate in the younger generation. And the average degree of education still lag behind western countries. The rate of college students is still low. And thanks to the Exam Centric Education, even this handful of happy people get little from the schooling, nothing more than Chinese language and arithmetic(other courses like physics and chemistry are devised in a nature not up to practical use, that most people tend to throw them away altogether after school years). Unlike western people, Chinese people generally are not in the habit of reading(but they do like mahjong very much), most of them don’t know much beyond their profession. For example, most people can't tell what provinces China has and where they are. This is nothing to blame, think about our mother, she has many children, she’s strived very hard to give everyone a small apartment to live in, and certainly she has no more resources to offer everyone a garden presently.  

1st grade guys don’t engage in this business:

By the above point, I by no means insinuate that China can’t produce world class artists, writers. In fact we have them in droves. But in China, there’s a long lived culture to demonize video games, they are generally regarded as poison and Children’s toy. So those elite people would tend to find a career in elegant business, movies, and traditional art, other than game industry. On the contrary, in the global game production business, we can find many best seller writers, world class composers. This is unthinkable in China, it would take a long way to get video games an equal status of literature, movies.

Why invent while we can copy:

Even in a global scope, the jungle is too dangerous, it’s much safer to copy than invent. This issue is more prominent in China. Due to the long time loose intellectual property protection, a bad culture grows in every industry: car manufacturing, web products, games. It’s quite pragmatic: for designing costs money, copy costs nothing. Whenever we have a Facebook, Twitter, Clash of clans, we would soon or later have a unofficially localized version.

Why go global while we’re doing well locally:

I have many Serbian friends who make games. For Serbia is small and with little player base, that they have to aim the global market, and they have to evolve their product to survive in the ecosystem.

Looking into the Chinese games, you may feel some how they’re not at the same level of global counterparts. They don’t have to evolve locally, for they are doing well, thanks to a strong local protection imposed; And they don’t have to evolve globally either, for they don’t even bother to present themselves there.

Lots of people have argued that how we should improve our local industry, and how we should protect IP. This is perhaps not the issue for game industry alone. China is a world power now, but She doesn’t have her own Sony, Disney, EA, yet. But at least for our industry at present, I don’t think it’s really a problem. It’s doing well, and it makes big money. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Copy and cater for the mass, at least for now.  

More of my articles about games & art production:

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/JunxueLi/940564/

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Comments


Pallav Nawani
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"Why go global while we’re doing well locally"

I think this is a great sign for China, Actually. This shows that the local ecosystem is able to support the game developers and is profitable. This is great because this will allow the chinese to develop games with a local flavour and eventually Chinese games will evolve into something quite distinct from the western games and yet just as enjoyable.

Junxue Li
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Yes!

Ken Williamson
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There is also a very big aesthetic/cultural divide. Chinese iconography, graphics, and type of gameplay don't translate well to Western audiences when they are required for any sort of success in China. The reverse is also true for Western style games crossing over into China. Blizzard had all sorts of problems porting WoW for Chinese audiences, for example. On top of that, the business models that work inside China are very different to those that work outside of China (right now) just because of economic and deep cultural differences with regards to money.

David Fried
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Blizzards issues with porting WoW had little to do with the Chinese audience and everything to do with government regulations on cultural artifacts (you can't show bones), as well as a bump in the road from certain people in China's game industry that pushed the government to crack down on WoW while they tried to grab more people with their own WoW based mmorpgs. The majority of the delays were government pressure. Many people in China were already playing WoW on hacked servers.

The game business models for inside and outside China are not that different. The primary difference is that you can sell power in China whereas it's highly frowned upon in other countries (i.e. pay to win). That said, many games that have been allowed into China have become just as popular there as they were in the U.S. Plants Vs Zombies, WoW, and League of Legends all spring to mind.


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