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sexta-feira, 27 de fevereiro de 2009

China Gaming State

Artigo extremamente superficial dirigido a noobs, a necessitar de muito editing e com alguma info tirada da cartola (50 billion!). Still, mais que sufeciente pra me pagar novas actions figs da Kasumi e companhia...


One might think, viewing from the outside, that games (and I mean videogames, not gambling games, even though there are gambling videogames as well), and the Game Industry itself, would be considerably distant from China and chinese society, and would be clearly away from most people's priorities in China. One might think that indeed....but that would be a big mistake, as big as the country itself.

According to a new report from Interfax China, sales from online game operators totaled RMB 10.57 billion ($1.55 billion) in 2007 and are expected to reach RMB 12.67 billion in 2008. That's a lot of money, but most surprisingly, that's just the tip of the iceberg of what is today already the biggest entertainment industry in the world, grasping around $50 billion worldwide in 2008. So, but what is the role of China in this booming industry? Actually, it's a very active one. Also, a quite different one compared to that of the other major gaming markets (USA, Europe, Japan), but lets see why...

If you've been in China for some time, or even for some days, you have certainly already noticed that almost everywhere you go, you'll see chinese people doing one thing (beside eating melon seeds), playing games! Whether it is a 7-Eleven clerk playing some random online game on his, or the stores computer, the guy selling sneakers at the mall playing in some handled device seated on the darkest corner of his store, or just the 20 something year old girl playing a colourful chinese reinvented version of Pac-man on her mobile while waiting to get home on the subway. Games, and people playing them, are everywhere in China. But even though the gaming scene is so big in China, the market itself is radically different from the one operating in the previously mentioned biggest gaming markets. And the one main aspect that turns the chinese market so different (its not a chinese-only characteristic, but lets stick with our beloved socialist country for this article), is that in China, virtually no one buys games, legal physical boxed standard games, like we see elsewhere that is.
And really, that doesn't come as a surprise. Not if we at least consider that a new boxed game for any recent gaming platform would cost somewhere between 250 and 550 RMB! That is just inconceivable for the people of a developing country like China. And that's why online gaming, and online gaming distribution reign supreme in the region.

That's not to say that consoles such as the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PSP, Nintend Wii and DS (from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo respectively) are non-existent. Quite the opposite actually. There are entire neighborhoods filled with stores selling this machines...just not their games. Games are acquired in other less fashionable ways, that are all so typically chinese, if you know what I mean (ok, yes I mean pirated copies). And the problem is that even for the consoles manufacturers, games are the crucial element to turn a profit, and if a country wont give you money buying your games, then it becomes a very dumb investment to start selling your consoles in the first place, which is why most consoles never get an official release in China, and the ones that are sold in the territory are imported by the retailers themselves from other countries, like Korea and Japan.

But as I was saying, the real gaming scene in China, the one where the real money rolls and where so many companies try to crack and make a buck, is the online, the internet. Having the biggest internet-connected population in the world whom can not afford to buy new original games will do that!
Chinese people, from practically all ages and social incomes love their games, as I mentioned in the beginning. If they're not playing at their work places, they're doing it on the go - through mobiles and/or other handled devices -, or they're playing at home, or, perhaps the most popular choice, they are playing at the nearest wang ba, one among who knows how many thousands opened all around the country.Wan Ba - 网吧 - can best be described as a very hardcore cybercafe, being more of a cyber place, packed with online connected computers, who just happen to, on occasion, having drinks and snacks for sale, just to sustain and make sure to keep alive all of the so many clients who stay there for way too many hours on a row. In this wang ba, people are usually spotted doing one thing, and almost one thing only: playing MMO's. What are these MMO's you ask? Well they are Massively Multiplayer Online games, and they are the top national product of China, in what the gaming industry is concerned anyways. Dozens of MMO's are produced in China every year, by chinese, to chinese. And even though the biggest and most popular MMO in China, and the world - World of Warcraft - is american made, chinese MMO's represent a very big piece of that even larger pie that is the online gaming market in China.
And then there is the more light casual gaming market, where thousands of simpler games are produced in the country and distributed online to several different terminals, from mobile phones, to your every day notebook. This games are often regarded as a less "glorified" part of the gaming industry by the hardcore community in the West and Japan, where standard, big budget games with high production levels, are still the big dogs who bring most of the money for developers and publishers. But in China, they constitute the core of the industry, and they are the big little dogs who bring more rabbits home at the end of the day.

However, we should not think that western and japanese developers have no interest in the chinese market. Although it is true that most development hubs are, again, concentrated in North-America, Europe and Japan, it is no less true that China is quickly becoming a big hot-spot for game development by foreigner companies, particularly from the west. Big, renowned and respected companies have already settled and established studios in China, where Shanghai is presumably the biggest base for them at the moment. Huge companies such as Electronic Arts, Epic Studios, Take 2, Ubisoft, and many others, are already working in China for quite some time, mostly developing games and tools orientated to the big western market, but some are also starting to create chinese-exclusive products, and either they will ever be able to break even with the chinese developers in China, only time will tell. But they would be foul no to try, as there is so much potential to explore.

So, to conclude. Is China a big market for games?
Well, yeah! Of course it is. But it represents a new model, a model that the worldwide community is still struggling to take on its profits and embrace. It will actually be very interesting to see how this will all turn out in the future: will the bigger worldwide gaming industry some how merge and embrace the chinese market or will there be two separate market models operating simultaneously with some sharing in the middle? Maybe the present situation in China is just a transitioning period. A reflex of a market (and now I mean chinese market in general) that as yet to fully mature in order to being able to carry its own classical gaming industry model. Or maybe it's really just an early glance of a market model that will continue to grow and perhaps even, overcome the all world gaming industry.
Who knows? I surely don't, and if there's something that I have learned from watching this industry grow during all my life, is that it has too many unpredictable twists in its history, and it will probably carry on that tradition. So honestly, I think any guess would be a wild one. The one thing that we can be sure of though, is that the gaming industry is extremely healthy at the moment, proving to be recession proof, and showing no signs of slowing down!

-Pic, why?
-Why not?

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