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:
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.
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.
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.
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.