In terms of sociology, they say that China is a collectivist society and America's an individualistic society, so there's some fundamental difference there. Do you think that specifically affects social gameplay mechanics?
SX: Yeah, it definitely affects a lot I think. Just like I said, I just use Happy Farm as example, with Happy Farm we especially focused on the leveling up system. And we have a very specific goal for every user, is you have to develop all the lands. And we have 18 pieces of land, and at the beginning, you have six. But the 18th piece is right there, so you see this is your goal.
Every time you have to develop one new land, it requires more gold, so you know how to achieve that goal specifically. It doesn't have a lot of places for you to decorate and everything; express your own ideas.
So that's one point that's different, and another point is for the Chinese for Happy Farm we really focused on the competition part. I think competition is very important over here. That's how we kind of incorporated a stealing concept; that concept is definitely not going to work over there in the U.S.
I think where people might compete in the U.S. is showing off.
SX: Right. Competing, right? Showing off.
Who's got the better farm, who's got the cooler farm…
SX: Cooler farm, right? So they define "cool" all from different perspectives. But China, we define "stronger" in one certain way -- always more money or more power. It's simple; nobody has a different view of that. That's very different.
And the interesting thing about the stealing is… I was talking about this at Inside Social Gaming Summit. Like for the Chinese audience, when we make girlfriends and boyfriends, we steal each other's books. So, for example if I really fall in love with a girl, I steal something from her, just letting her know I want to know this from her. And this is very different; it's a very indirect way to express my feeling towards some person.
Because I steal a book, then she'll notice me; she knows I'm doing something. So this is very different. I think in the U.S., yeah you just "Hey," right? "I just let you know I love you."
Well, the thing you do in the U.S. is you leave a toothbrush at their apartment.
SX: [laughs] Really?
Yeah, like you know if you stay over, you get a toothbrush at the store and you like leave it in their bathroom so it implies that you're going to keep coming back.
SX: Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know that.
SX: Now I learned a new skill.
There's so much discussion about culture, right? It's no secret that China's becoming more and more important in the world, and America is very keen on keeping a strong relationship. So there's a lot of cultural interface going on different levels.
And it's interesting to see how that affects games, because ultimately games are a purely cultural product.
SX: Also the business model will be different. For the U.S., we can focus on a paid percentage rather than the ARPPU -- the average revenue per paying user; I think the focus will be different.
With China, it's like, [his tone of voice is almost begging] "Hey, come on!", right? You still have to face the fact that not a lot of people will pay online, because they're not that wealthy, so you kind of have to focus on the rich people. For China, it's like the rich people are very rich; the poor people are very poor. For the U.S., the whole middle level's so big, right? So the rich and poor people are in two sides that are smaller. So the business model will be shaped differently, I think.
You spoke about the competitive nature of Chinese gaming, and the need to achieve. If you look at MMOs that are popular in both countries, it's my understanding that here way more play PvP and in America way more play PvE, so it's kind of in the same vein.
SX: World of Warcraft is popular in both -- a lot more PvP here. PvP is the way that we actually gain the core achievements.
The thing that's interesting to me is that -- in America anyway, and I don't know if the demographics are the same -- we think of a FarmVille player, on average being a 35 year old woman. You're thinking of a 35 year old woman with a PvP kind of mentality? Seems a bit strange.
SX: I think for U.S., you want to conquer the world, right? For us, we want to conquer the person; we want to conquer each other.
BZ: I think there's something interesting, something in common with our Happy Farm, the stealing part, with FarmVille's mechanism. I think FarmVille's gifting is very fun; it's like the first thing that American users get to use to communicate between the mother and daughters.
That's the first thing, you know, they ever had before -- like mother and daughter can communicate in one [game] that they have something in common. Same thing with the Chinese market with our Happy Farm, that's actually something. For the first time in their life, daughter and the mother -- or son and mother or even the father -- can play the same thing and they'll be somewhat competitive about one thing. That's just a phenomenon that was never seen before; I think that's a very interesting point.