Category: What’s going on?

Becoming an ethical gamer in China, a brief guide

Be an ethical gamer in China

Be an ethical gamer in China

Improving what we have in the Chinese game industry requires a combined effort from three ends:  the government, the game developers and the gamers. while as gamers we can only hope the government to loosen the restrictions and  the game developers to make quality games. As gamers we can also contribute to improve the gaming environment in China. Here are my thoughts:

Be proud of your gamers identities.

Gaming is a entertaining activity. despite all the negative issues that gaming has involved in, there is nothing to be ashamed of If you’re a gamer. It’s just as normal as, or should I say, as cool as a basketball fan or what else you have on your mind.

Don’t be a game snob.

You are a gamer, the games you play does not define who you are. you should not let other gamers judge you by your gaming preference and more importantly, you should not judge other people by the games they play either. Playing games like Halo does not make you worse than others and playing World of Warcraft certainly does not make you better than others. Respect other’s gaming preferences.

Give substantial advises to game developers when given the chance.

Support our game developers, encourage them to make high-quality games for us to enjoy.If the game is considered distasteful by you, try to be nice, tell the developers what you expect in a decent game, don’t curse them, they( at least most of them) work very hard to deliver the game to you and they deserve your appreciations.

Have leisure activities other than gaming

So that gaming would not be the thing that consume all your time. Or in other cases, If the situation won’t allow you to play games, you have some other ways to enjoy your spare time. Which I think, would be a solution to reduce gaming -related crimes in China.

Pay for your games, to the right person.

I can’t stress this enough – the copyright issue in China. Like I mentioned above, the developers worked very hard to deliver those great games to us, they deserve to be rewarded, both mentally and materially. After all, it’s what they do for a living. Paying for the game you like means a lot to them. And remember, give your money to the authorized retailers.

Contemporary gaming in China 101: Does China need a rating system like the ESRB?

Do we need a rating system like the ESRB?

Do we need a rating system like the ESRB?

In China, we don’t have an official game rating system for the gamers. Instead, we tend to regulate gamers’ gaming practices.

In The Report of Developming Online-Gaming Addiction Prevention System released by the GAPP  in 2005. it is suggested that the regulator should regular gamers'(especially gamers under the age of 18) behaviors by:

promoting a healthy and commonly accepted sense of time

Gaming within 3 hours is defined as “healthy”, gaming between 3-5 hours is defined as “exhaustive” and gaming duration over 3 hours is defined as “unhealthy”.

Setting regulations on gaming duration:

With the established definitions, online-game developers are required to build in a penalty system that cuts down gaming bonuses (e.g. experiences, in-game currency and items. etc.) when the gamers pass the “healthy” phase. Besides, the developers are also required to building notification system aims to notify gamers for their online gaming time: the notification starts when the gamers pass the 3 hour limit, and will become more frequent if the gamers choose to continue the game.

While we give the regulators credit for their good will towards underage gamers, we are skeptical about the regulations.

It regulates online gaming behavior only:

Then what about PC/Console gaming? how do you measure gaming time that’s offline, is that even doable? If not, what would the regulators do for underage gamers who plays only offline games?

Gaming contents:

How can they be sure the game is suitable for gamers of a certain age? While you are frustrating about being beaten by a 12-year-old in Call of Duty(which is rated Mature by ESRB), should you also be concerning about the influence Call of Duty has on the kid?

underage gamer mature games

your gaming skill and these underage keyboard commandos’ mental development should be both taken into consideration

 

With that being said, we do need to have content rating system, like the ESRB. However, Chinese regulators cannot just bring everything ESRB has established to China. the system won’t fit our situation because our gamers are different from gamers in the States due to socio-economic and cultural differences. We need to  develop our own rating system based on the factors around us.

A Brief Outlook: Working in the Chines Gaming Industry

Working in the gaming industry in China

Working in a gaming company, are you ready?

 

The general outlook of gaming industry as a career path in China is promising due to the development of online gaming. Recently the emerge of social and mobile games are developing in a very fast pace as the developments of mobile devices continue. The development of social and mobile games does not necessarily indicates a decline in the online gaming segment. Online gaming in China has moved to a mature phase which the growth is steady.

I’m sure that there are quite a few student gamers like me who wants to work in the gaming industry after they graduate due to their passions of gaming. With that being said, what are the options for us in China? Let’s find out…

Basically there are 3 career option within the gaming industry in China: game design, game development/programming and game management

Game design:

Game Design

Game Design

The position generally requires high level of tech knowledge. Due to this reason, there is a strong demand of applicants and therefore a higher payment for the people in this position. The applicant are usually expected to be familiar with 3D animation, modeling and special effects. Many of the game producer started at Animation studios or other visual production agencies and this might be a start for those of you who are planning to choose this path.

Game development/programming:

A stereotypical game developer

A stereotypical game developer

As the title suggests, applicants will be responsible for the development/programming of the games’ core mechanisms. Although this is also a tech-related position, the industry’s demand is relatively lower (but still high in general) because programmers are not as few as producers since almost all colleges/universities in China offer C++ and java courses.

Product management:

Product Managers

Product Managers

A position responsible for market research, business model building, marketing and public relations.

This is also a high demanded position due to the seemingly polarization of job applicants in China: those who are familiar with gaming are new to product management, those who are familiar with management are sometimes new to gaming and the overlap of the two “polar” are considered rare.

A product manager is required to have the ability to understand the gamers in order to figure out their needs and demand, then communicate what they find to the producers and the developers. Plus, it is preferable for a game manager to familiarize with not only their own games but also games from other companies and the production/development process in order to improve the business performances. with the fast-pace development of social media, it is crucial for the managers to become social media savvy.

 

With the  steady online gaming market, the fast growing social/mobile gaming market and the PC/consoling market, which is striving to make a comeback. The demand of human resource of every gaming company in China is increasing. While being excited by the opportunities, are you ready to take up the responsibilities?

Contemporary Gaming in China 101: Give Domestically-Made Games a chance?

Do Chinese gamers play domestically-games? Yes and No.

Based on my observation, industry revenue generated through online gaming in China contributes to most of the total industry revenue. Revenue generated through domestically made online games, contributes a large portion of the online gaming revenue.

But for PC games, It’s not looking as good as the online segment.

Gamers don’t play them, don’t care about them and make fun of them.

Here is a video I made to address this concern:

Support our developers.

Social Media Observation: EA China’s Weibo Account

Let’s begin by taking a look at EA China’s landing page:

EA China's Weibo Landing Page

EA China’s Weibo Landing Page

As you can see, like Ubisoft China, EA China’s landing page is also well-developed with a profile page and a background that is consistent with the organization’s positioning, a list of links to the subsidiary accounts and a message board.

Let’s find out if EA China is developing substantial contents on the page:

EA China, like Ubisoft China, also releases information on games that won’t be coming to China, but with less counts, based on the contents provided by EA China, a followers would easily notice that most of the tweets are related to EA’s mobile apps, which is consistent with EA’s current strategy in the China market – mobile gaming. Furthermore, tablet/mobile games are accessible for Chinese gamers, so instead of putting informations that Chinese gamers can’t relate (about PC/consoles that can’t be purchased in China), content’s of tablet/mobile games are more attractive to Chinese gamers.

However, it seems that EA China is covering gamers’ gaming experience of PC/Console games(e.g. trivia of Dead Space series, the celebration of N7 Day from the Mass Effect Trilogy) at the same time with it’s awareness of the pirated versions of EA products. From my standpoint, this is EA’s effort to promote it’s gaming culture , however, this might go both ways: there is a possibility that the gamers, who play pirated EA games, would think that EA is embracing their behaviors by communicating related gaming events with them.

What about Interactions with the followers?

A Sample of EA China's interaction with customers

A Sample of EA China’s interaction with customers

Questions, Retweets, Polls and interactions on the message board. It seems like EA is doing a much better job interacting with followers compared to Ubisoft. Besides that, the tone EA China uses is very casual and humorous when communicating with followers.  With the efforts EA China put into online interaction, it is certain that followers are more likely to engage with the brand because they get the sense of their voices being heard.

Social Media Observation: Ubisoft China’s Weibo Account

Gaming companies are using social media to promote and to expand their businesses in China, just like any other organization is doing everywhere nowadays. Are they doing a good job? Let’s have a look.

Weibo is the Chinese version of Twitter, and companies are using the platform intensively. Ubisoft is an example we will be using:

Ubisoft China’s Weibo landing page

As you can see from the snapshot above, Ubisoft China’s landing page is well-themed: companies logo, themed background, demonstration of the latest games. the lading page even features subsidiary weibo accounts of their games for further promotions

However there are something missing.
The relative content:

Ubisoft China's tweets

Ubisoft China’s tweets are mostly videos of games that Chinese gamers won’t be able to play legally

Yes, there are tweets about Ubisoft’s latest games (mostly videos), but only a few of them matters to the gamers in China since most of the videos are about games that have the slightest chances of getting in China, and the number of retweets of these contents proved my point. What should be done is to have more relative contents for the followers. To start, Ubisoft China can have more information put out for the new Assassin’s Creed game, which is set to release in China. Furthermore, they can have more information for the followers regarding their social games, given that it constitutes a large portion of immediate profit in China.

The interaction with the followers:

Ubisoft China's Message Board

Ubisoft China’s Message Board,as you can see that none of the latest messages was responded.

The One of the business advantage of weibo.com compared to twitter is the message board. Instead of interacting with the followers with tweets, the message board offers a more direct and instant interaction. However, Ubisoft China did not do a good job on that.

Just take a look at how many follower messages were replied by the account.  None. How would you get people to interact with you if you don’t reach out to them? where would they find motivations to engage with you if you don’t let their voice be heard? Of course the followers are not expecting you to reply every single message posted on your message board, but your gesture of taking care of your followers’ concerns will be appreciated.

Tablet/mobile gaming? It’s still cute for China.

If the current gaming environment in China stays the same for PC and gaming consoles, would  tablet/mobile gaming be a new way out? With a increasing number of quality games for our smartphones and tablets, this solution seems very promising.

However, if focusing on tablet/mobile gaming is what Chinese gaming industry choose to progress then the Industry needs to wait.

Here are the reasons:

1. The limitation of gaming types and mechanisms:

What are the most popular games on your devices? Social games (Word with Friends, Draw Something, any game that ends with “ville” or “story”). These kind of games fits for the device perfectly because tapping and dragging would be the majority of your actions when playing social games and your smartphone/tablet’s touchscreen is perfect for your actions.

However social gamers are not the majority of gamers in China. Like everywhere else, gamers are roughly divided into three groups: role playing (RPG), action (ACT) and first person shooting (FPS).

If the tablet/mobile games want to reach out to these 3 groups, the touch screen would be considered as a disadvantage sometimes: aiming on an enemy by scrubbing your finger on the touch screen is harder than it looks compared to moving your joysticks or your mouse; you won’t be sure if you have hit the virtual button on the screen because the screen is flat. your touch screen might not be able to receive your action correctly if you have sweaty hands.

Recently developers brought out the controller attachment to the tablets (as shown in the picture below). Does this solve the problem? yes and no.

A controlling attachment aims to boost your tablet gaming experience

I don’t need to explain the “yes” part as the picture is very self-explanatory. The “no part” on the other hand is about your investment.

Normally an action game (or RPG or FPS) won’t exceed the price of $6.99, but a controller like this probably would cost you about 30 bucks. Does the improvement of your gaming experience worth the price?

Also, if you have been a frequent tablet/mobile gamer. you will notice that an RPG or action game lasts shorter than you have expected. Of course it can’t last for 10-12 hours of gaming time because you might have paid only $3.99 for the game, another reason is that your device (whether it’s your smartphone or your tablet) can’t hold a game that’s as big as a game for your Playstation. Do you really want to spent 30 bucks to play games that are not long enough?

2. The perception of tablet/mobile gaming in China:

“I grew up playing games that takes a long time and requires complex commants, I don’t really want to settle for games like Angry Birds.” Given the factors I mentioned in the last bullet, mobile/tablet gamers are considered casual gamers in China. It’s not that the notion of casual gamers is negative, it is just that the notion is new to Chinese gamers, and it is hard for the Chinese gamers to participate in the transition.

Also, if we’ve overcame the transition, the mobile characteristics enabled us to play games wherever we want and whenever we want and that will eventually lead to playing games at work/school (actually people are doing this nowadays). There is a chance that your boss/professor does not like this characteristics as much as you do, not to mention your parents, who might have already been pissed by the fact that your play video-games.

Contemporary gaming in China 101: Is China going to have Xbox legally?

Microsoft created the Xbox Live website for the Chinese market, along with its’ promotion of the new system Win8.

Before the win8 debut, Microsoft brought it to Shanghai, China. Along with the promotion for the new system, Microsoft also created a Chinese Xbox site.( Xbox Official). While the site is promoting services of the online interaction system Xbox Live (the interaction between PC, tablets and Windows phone for the Chinese market). Microsoft’s ambition to re-introduce the gaming console Xbox can be easily noticed.

Both the seller and the customers are anticipating the yet-to-come gaming console while it is still illegal in China to produce them. How would Microsoft dodge that bullet? Here are my thoughts on that:

It might be achieved by playing a “positioning trick”

The law regarding gaming consoles is not welcomed by the gamers in China, the enforcement of the law is also powerful. However,the enforcers of the law don’t care much about the game industry enough to figure out what gaming consoles have become these years. Furthermore, given the existing entertainment devices we have on the market, It seems that the law enforcers took the law literally. Take Nintendo for example. Nintendo introduced it’s device iQue player, a product of the joint production between Nintendo and Chinese company.

iQue Player

If you have never seen an iQue Player before, there you have it. How is this not a gaming console you asked? Well, Nintendo and its’ Chinese partner tricked the Chinese government by implementing the notion of ” playing video games contributes to the mental development of children”, therefore instead of being positioned as a gaming console, the iQue Player is actually a “mental ability developing device” and whoever is in charge of the “gaming consoles control” is OK with it.

If Microsoft choose to go down the same road in order to re-introduce Xbox, Instead of a gaming console, an “interactive family entertainment device/system with motion capturing technology (thanks to Kinect)” could be Xbox’s new position in China. However, this strategy also has its’ shortcomings. As a dedicated gaming console, Xbox was perceived as a device for video games since the its’ very first appearance on the market. If the reputation was too well-established, the idea of “interactive family entertainment device/system” might not be as convincing as expected.

Thus, while we’re all anticipating Xbox in China, let’s also hope that the console is not that famous in the eyes of the law enforcers.

CloudUnion: a new hope for the gaming industry in China?

How Cloud Technology works

For a lot of Chinese gamers, playing the newest videogames is hard due to hardware limitation (outdated graphic card, little memories left .etc. ). Now CloudUnion claims that this won’t be a problem for Chinese gamers anymore: the cloud technology allows the latest games to become accessible for gamers who have below-requirement devices.  All gamers need to do is to subscribe the service and then download a terminal from the website.

This sounds like a brilliant idea to get gamers to pay for the games they want to play, but here are two concerns about CloudUnion.

1.Where and how did CloudUnion get the resources?

Let’s take a look at CloudUnion’s content providers. Besides Ubisoft, the rest of the providers are Chinese organizations, so where and how did CloudUnion get foreign games which are not produced by Ubisoft? Was copyright involved in the service?  How much does CloudUnion have to pay the providers in order to get the contents?

The questions above reveals opportunities and concerns following these opportunities: CloudUnion can reach out to foreign companies so that it can get its content legally, but the subscription rate will definitely go up. Besides, with so many popular M rated videogames on the market, if they are provided through CloudUnion, how would they pass the censoring processes conducted by the Ministry of Culture in China?

 2.The seemingly strict requirement for DTR

Let’s assume that all the questions in the last bullet were solved. We can pay to play whatever games we want to and we are OK with the subscription rates. In other words, we are happy with the service, but will we also be happy with the experience we paid for? Given the Internet service provided in China, I’m afraid not.

Based on my understanding of CloudUnion’s technology, it transforms your interaction with the game into video in the server and plays it back to you. In other words, CloudUnion enables you to watch videos of yourself playing games online. If you are a frequent Youtube (or any other online video sites) visitor, you know that video with higher definition takes longer to load. Now try to think of what you are trying to do at CloudUnion as a process of playing and making a very high definition video online at the same time. I haven’t tried it in the States yet, but let me tell you. It will be a nightmare filled with freezes if I were to use it back home in China.

In China, most Internet users subscribed to service speed of 1Mb/s or 2Mb/s, which are far from fulfilling the DTR requirements  for  using CloudUnion.

If you are experiencing lagging and freezing while playing a game you installed on your device, you can always go to a store to get your graphic card or other hardware replaced/upgraded. For your internet speed however, is another story: due to the high cost of providing Internet and server building in China (approx. 3 times higher than it is in the States), getting high speed Internet service is very expensive, so expensive that the majority of users in China choose to only subscribe to the 1Mb/s or the 2Mb/s packages.

Wait, It gets worse. Not only we subscribed to the already poor packages, we are also not getting what we paid for. With the worse than expected Internet speed, how are we going to enjoy CloudUnion?

The Reaction of CloudUnion + Slow Internet Speed

CloudUnion brought a very interesting and somewhat promising model for the gaming industry in China in regards of distribution. But It needs to be tied more into the actual situation and needs to make several huge adjustments to its service in order to function.

The positioning of ChinaJoy: a promotional gaming conference or a “perverted bazaar?”

If you are covering a story of  Chinese gaming conference ChinaJoy and you didn’t take any pictures while you were there, search for “ChinaJoy” on Google Image and this is what you will get:

Image

Google Image Search Results for “ChinaJoy”

You type one keyword in the search engine, showgirls/cosers are all you get for images and the first non-showgirl/coser image can be found after 4 or 5 pages of browsing. by the way, showgirls like these might be ok for us, but it is considered “perverted” by many of our parent’s generation in China, who as I mentioned before, are actually paying for the games.

Now let’s take a look at E3 and see what the search results are:

Image

Google Image Search Results for “E3”

The differences between the two search attempts are obvious: you will get the conference when you search for e3 and you will get showgirls when you search for ChinaJoy. Ironically enough, these are all gaming conferences and when you get onto the ChinaJoy’s official landing page, it looks as professional as one can expect for a conference (it looks a bit boring though).

How could ChinaJoy, a professional conference, gets search results that’s hardly related to it? Who let this happen?

1.Companies that participate in the conference

Sex sell, sex sell and sex sell. Yeah we understand that you want to draw people’s attention to your booth, but having way too many hot girls around your booth is just outrageous. Who would pay attention to your games and your business when surrounded by cleavages and short skirts? More importantly, are you trying to tell us that the reason why you brought this many showgirls to the conference to attract people is because your games suck? Probably not, so why go that way? I dare some of you to emphasize just the games you developed, which is the reason you should be in a gaming conferences and see if anyone stops by, I’m sure you will be surprised, in a good way (I will explain in the next bullet).

2.Gamers who visit the conference

“I’m about to check out some hot girls at ChinaJoy, you in?” “No I can’t, but by all means take  hot pictures of them.” While I understand the ongoing trend of the self-deprecating humor : “being a  perverted loser” as a Chinese in his twenties, this is bad for both the gamers and the industry if such practice of self-deprecating humor keeps going on since the original goal of the participating companies is not to present the showgirls and I believe the visitor’s intent was not to actually be the “perverted losers”. They just liked the feelings of being a part of the self-deprecating pop culture, If there were nice games presented to them they will be attracted.Yet no company was presenting the games and  what we have based on the past several ChinaJoy conferences, were a perverted bazaar filled with fake perverts.

3.Reporters who covers the conference

All the “perverted bazaar” and the fake perverts were covered by the media, and of course, given the search results of ChinaJoy shown above, the event was covered from “perverted” angles. If you go to a any of the Chinese gaming site and look for coverage on ChinaJoy, you’ll end up at pieces like “hot babes at this year’s ChinaJoy” and almost nothing to do with games.  The reporters are usually the ones who have more influences in the Gaming industry and this is what they give to the public when there is a gaming event like this. Like the purpose of the participating companies, covering showgirls would get your pieces popular, but will it be more professional and ethical for you guys to write something about the actual conference while taking pictures of the showgirls?

With “perverted” presentation, “perverted” visitors in the conferences and all of that being covered from a “perverted” angle. there must be no better way to position gaming conferences to the public. With the influence of ChinaJoy on the public, the coverage of ChinaJoy and the public perceptions that come along. I can’t imagine how proud you would be when you tell others that you’re a gamer.

See you at the next ChinaJoy “perverts”.