Creating a Wikia alternative for video games in China
Yang Chen, founder of the portal Joyme.com, wanted to create this kind of culture for its own games, and others in China. Though rights and ownership were not discussed at GDC China (Chen referred to a Chinese student doing a scan translation of an Animal Crossing guidebook as a "heartwarming story"), he provided some interesting insights into the Chinese game fan.
If you want to build an online community surrounding a game in the U.S., Chen thinks maybe one in 10,000 people will actually contribute to something like a Wikia. In China though, that answer is more like one in 100,000, or fewer.
Chen doesn't believe that a dedicated site like Wikia could be launched in China, unless it were done by Baidu, since Baidu controls the search results. But when making your own game wiki in China, Baidu's communities are still very useful.
Joyme.com creates the structure of the content themselves, making it easier for users to enter information (what the users call "the divine tool"). "In China, we have too few hardcore gamers," says Chen. "Those who have the perseverance to learn, and are enthusiastic enough to cross the barriers, are too few. Don't think that if you just start a thread in the BBS that the users will fall in love with your game." But these players still want the kind of content that might come from a Wikia.
You can't make this work on your own site alone, either. "We find that many users won't find fault with you or criticize you in your territory," he says. "Especially in a mature product, users might feel shy about it. But in some other forum, they would criticize you vigorously."
To this end, Joyme.com started canvassing Baidu BBSes. "We set up a division in our company called Social Platform Operation. The daily work of those people is to take action in those BBS and forums," he says. "According to yesterday's data, we have altogether 363 forums in Baidu, and in those forums, we encourage the players to participate and contribute to our product by giving feedback. We find that some of the comments are really grounded and evidence-based. If we find those users, we approach them and say, why not give a comment in our wiki with your name, it's a great honor for you."
"It's very boring work, so we gave it a great name," he joked. The company also has more than 300 small QQ groups. They're called the wiki contributor group. "We give them the feeling that these people are screened out of millions of users," says Chen, though they may be employees as well. The idea is to give users the impression these people "have shown great interest in the game, so think twice before you act, because other users might be experts. This is the kind of operation we do, with Chinese features. Maybe Americans might not do this, but in China you have to.
"If you would like to get close to the users, you can't still sit in your territory, please go to their territory," he says. "Please be close to your users. If they don't think something is good, we encourage them to make a contribution or suggestion for improvement of the product."
"Maybe only one person will write a passage, but 100 people will take fault with the passage," he says. To try to coax this information out of players, Joyme.com puts an error reporting button in their games "We need to spend effort to lower the threshold of user contribution," he says.
As the results of these actions, Joyme.com's wiki sites have increased to over 300,000 pages, with 5 million edits, acquiring over 100,000 new fans within a year and a half. It's very different from how things work in America, but this is something to consider when entering the Chinese market.
Gamasutra and GDC China are sibling organizations under parent UBM Tech.