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.

Gaming history in China 101, Pt. 3: What keeps us from buying the games? (Continued).

If you can recall from one of my past posts. I gave a brief explanation of why Chinese gamers won’t pay for the copyrighted video games.

Today I seeks to find out more factors that keeps Chinese gamers from buying the games and here they are:

1. Uncertainty about the game quality

You have the will to do this but you can’t afford to do so.

You’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen the promo ads and you’ve seen the celebrities endorsing the games. Now, imagine that you buy the game and you realize that it sucks or not your thing by the first 10 minutes of playing. in the meantime, you realized that the $59.99 (or the equivalent value in Chinese currency) you just spent is in vain. Will you be having second thoughts when you see another new game being promoted?

2. Uncertainty about the games’ hardware requirements

Enough said

Given the situation in China, most gamers play video games on their PCs, therefore their gaming experiences are solely depending on their computers’ performances. Now Imagine this, you brought a game, you installed it, and what’s ahead of you is the numerous time of lagging and freezing due to your outdated hardware. Or even worth, your computer won’t even let you finish the installing process, now you don’t even have an opportunity to find out whether the game you bought sucks or not.

3. No demos

the gesture which Chinese gamers would definitely appreciate turned out to be “a waste of time and money”

If a demo version of the games were provided (like they used to, ages ago), gamers would have the opportunity to find out if the games match their tastes or if their computers are capable of running the game, without paying the seemingly high prices. However, game developers/distributors/retailers decided that releasing demo versions for the gamers is a waste of both their time and money. Then what happened? Please refer back to the last two bullets.

4. Geographical restrictions

Sorry, we don’t sell that to your country.

This one might have been one of the chicken and egg dilemma. Which started first? The piracy or the restrictions? All I know is that big companies like EA and Activition Blizzard are not considering China as their market segments when it comes to PC games, which in a sense encouraged piracy of gaming in China: with the power if Internet, Chinese gamers are also being updated about new games, they want to play the games as well but there is no place to buy the games in China, thus it seems like there is no better alternatives for them to download the games illegally.

5.  Pirated games are free for most of the time

Need I say more?

Instead of trying out the demo for a limited time, pirated games allows Chinese gamers to play the whole games without paying. Again, who doesn’t like free stuff? Moreover, there is a trending mentality among Chinese gamers that, big gaming companies couldn’t care less about the so called “loss” caused by pirated games in China because they are just filthy rich. Well, this might be true to the big names, but in the meantime, small studio suffers, due to the cost of developing the games and the lacking of generated revenue.

 

Those are the major reasons that I concluded with my friends (Thank you!). If there is anything that’s left out, let me know in the comment.

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”.