Gaming Trends in China

ID-10027396 By zirconicusso joystick
Free image courtesy of zirconicusso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In September China finally lifted a 13-year ban on video game consoles and in doing so opened up a new chapter in the country’s gaming history. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft will now be clamouring to tap into a huge potential market that has been manufacturing the big three’s consoles but not using them. Consoles were originally banned in 2000 because authorities were concerned about their effect on mental health of young Chinese, but online gaming on PCs and mobile gaming have filled the gap in years since. So what makes up the current and past gaming trends in China?

Online Gaming

The landscape of China’s online gaming has gradually shifted in recent years. According to a report by Niko Partners on the Asian games market, MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) and free, casual, browser-based games used to make up the overwhelming majority of the online action. But now “we have MMOGs, and within ‘browser-based games’ we have 1) casual games played on casual portals sometimes for free, 2) webgames that are not very casual in nature, generate fees in the virtual economy, and compete against MMOGs, and 3) social games distributed via social networking sites. In addition we have games from each of those segments played on mobile devices as well as on PCs.” Developers of new games will have to make sure to incorporate this move towards more social gaming and navigate the treacherous terrain of monetizing their products in a market where free-to-play games are so popular.

Mobile Gaming

In 2013, 288 million people played mobile games in mainland China. It was the fastest-growing segment of the Chinese market in 2012 and netted the economy around $750 million in revenue. It is estimated to grow to $1.2 million this year according to Bloomberg. The market has seen a dramatic shift from the stereotype of male-dominated internet cafes full of MMOG to a more balanced market where people of all ages and backgrounds are embracing a variety of games. The country seems to be turning away from cafes to office and mobile gaming, a trend that is likely to continue as the middle class continues to grow.

Gambling

Gambling is one trend that can only grow from strength to strength in the future. Currently mainland China outlaws gambling and the former Portuguese colony of Macau, the “Monte Carlo of the Orient”, is the only Chinese territory where gambling is legal. Needless to say, it can’t keep up demand, meaning more and more of the surrounding countries are becoming gambling havens. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers report on global gambling, the Asia-Pacific casino gaming market will be worth $80 billion ($34 billion in 2010) and Asia-Pacific will bypass the U.S. as the world’s largest regional casino gaming market in 2013. In Macau, the tourists outnumber residents by 54 to 1. If China doesn’t want to risk losing a great chunk of revenue to neighbouring nations, they’ll have to consider lifting the mainland ban. At the moment, online casino gambling is also illegal.

Console Gaming

Given that the Chinese market has been without consoles for the last 13 years, it could be that consumers pounce on new hardware as soon as it’s released; or, conversely, they’re suspicious of it and sales flop. The most successful business model in the Chinese video game market is somewhat paradoxically free games – EA and Sony Online have generated millions of dollars in revenue from free-to-play titles. As Edward Williams of BMO Capital Markets has commented: “The Chinese consumer is not geared to the habit of ‘I go to the store, spend X dollars to acquire this game, then go home and play it all night long.’ That creates some challenges for [publishers].” Given the size of the economy and the relative skillsets of the population, the question remains whether China will begin to dominate the global console market and resist U.S. imports if the Chinese appetite for consoles takes off.

  

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App of the Week: Curiosity

Developer:
22Cans

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS or up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod touch 3rd gen or up

iPad

Android Devices

Requires:
iOS 4.3

Android 2.3.3

Price:

Free

Available here (for iOS) and here (for android)

Peter Molineaux has made his career off of hyping his titles to impossible degrees. From promising you the ability to play God with all that entails, to his infamous claim in “Fable” that you could plant a seed, and live to watch it grow into a tree, he’s defined by promising lemonade and delivering lemons.

Well, maybe that is a bit harsh as his titles are always interesting, even if they are never quite what you though they would be. He’s without a doubt one of gaming’s most unique minds, and he’s just released an app that might just be his most ambitious title yet. It’s called “Curiosity” and if you haven’t heard of it in your everyday life yet, you can expect that to change soon, as it is slowly taking the mobile gaming market by storm.

“Curiosity” is a game that starts with nothing more than a black cube. Zoom into the cube and you will see that it is comprised of millions of smaller cubes which can be removed with the touch of a finger. The goal couldn’t be more simple, as you are tasked with removing every single one of those cubes on one layer by taping them, in order to do the same on the next layer, earning coins for in game purchases that will let you dig faster.

That’s it. That’s the entire point to the game. Why would anyone want to do this? Well there are two reasons really, as it’s not just you chipping away at the seemingly infinite sized cube but rather thousands all working on a cube on each server, making this a pretty significant multiplayer title. The other is the vague promise that at the center of the cube is a life changing, mind blowing secret, which will only ever be revealed to one person, and that’s whoever removes the last cube first.

The whole “world changing” secret bit reeks of classic Molineaux, and will no doubt be a resounding dud. However, “Curiosity” is slightly different than the typical Molineaux hype job, as instead of promising the journey of a life time, he’s only promising the destination of a lifetime, and leaving the journey to those who wish to discover it.

It’s a key difference that is already paying dividends in the entertainment factor of the app, as the thousands that have played so far have already started creating sayings and photos of all kinds en route to the center of the cube. The sheer size of the structure makes it easy for a large number of hidden images and messages to be found, as every angle usually yields some new surprise, even if it is just a dirty word or two. Of course, they already go along with the hidden visuals the developers have put into each layer.

Much more than the contents of the cube then, it is the community aspect that drives what is better described as a global social experiment than a game. Since the only real gameplay consists of removing a seemingly infinite amount of blocks one at a time (even if there are coin and combo incentives), the real joy comes in gaining a new layer, and exploring what players have done with the layer you are on. Every would-be-monotonous step is now instead one step closer and filled with wonder, and of course pure curiosity.

“Curiousity” is also very controversial, as many are saying it is a joke to call it a game, and consider it to be more of an elaborate prank than a form of entertainment. There’s also the issue of how many people are trying to join at once causing massive server issues, and preventing many from joining at will.

Faults aside though, “Curiosity” may represent a small step toward the future of mobile gaming, as it brings the whole world together for one common goal and lets the define how they get there. Whether you are in it for the hunt for the center, or just want to see what creative works others before you have done, I recommend trying “Curiosity” out while it’s busy setting the world on fire as it is, if nothing else, a memorable experience that may turn into something much more.

We don’t know when “Curiosity” will end, what will come of it, are what stories will be crafted along the way. For whatever the answers to those questions eventually be, it’s important to get onboard with “Curiosity” sooner than later if you want to find out, which is all the more reason for it  to be my app of the week.

  

Captain Morgan gets into social gaming with “Captain’s Conquest”

The makers of Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum are setting sail on a brand new adventure, and this time, it involves a mobile device instead of a shot glass. The first of its kind for a spirits brand, “Captain’s Conquest” is a mobile social game that rewards players for real-life exploration, adventure and social influence by transforming cities into the open seas and encouraging players to navigate Captain Henry Morgan’s world.

The goal of the game is to rise through the ranks – from a Stowaway to the Captain of your own powerful fleet – ruling the high seas and reaping rewards through skilled digital gameplay and adventurous behavior in the real world. Players will earn points and gain status by mastering the in-game battle mode, conquering territory by checking in at real world locations and using the scope to scan Captain Morgan bottles.

At the onset of the game, players are given command of a ship, the initial size of which is determined by their influence on social platforms such as Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter. In the Captain’s world, size matters, as the magnitude of a player’s ship and the adornments acquired during their adventures influence their success in battle, and ultimately their rank. Using GPS and location-based technologies, the game populates the map screen with visual representations of other players’ ships in the area. Players have the option to interact with those around them by challenging enemy ships to battle.

The game is available for free in both Android Market and the Apple App Store.

  

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