Get them ready for the facehugger at WonderCon


If you were wondering why this blog hasn't been updated for a while its because I have been travelling in the US for work for almost a month. Its great to come back to China after being away for such a long time and seeing the masses of people everywhere on every corner almost 24 hours. Coming back to the US after 2 years feels like you've been away for only 2 months. However, coming back to China after 1 month feels like you've been away for 1 year. In the next few weeks as I adjust to reverse culture shock, I am getting ready to return to the US for another 3 weeks after the May holidays.

 So what did I learn on this last trip from attending Wondercon and the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco? I learned that interest in the China Game market is quite hot. In the US, the Casual Game space is heating up as well with the Nintendo DS, Wii and Xbox Live Arcade opening up whole new markets and revenue sources for independent and casual game developers. When you combine casual games and China in a discussion, people tend to perk up and listen. Everyone knows about World of Warcraft and China but the real excitement for everyone is the casual game industry of China and Korea which seem to be pioneering whole new genres of advanced casual games and business models. not yet seen or tried in North America.

 Wheras consoles dominate the games industry in the US, PC based MMORPGS and Casual Games dominate the Chinese game industry since all the major television connected consoles are still illegal in China. The Casual Game audience in the US seems to be driven to some degree by middle age soccer moms and older in retirees...recreational gamers who play online versions of traditional card and board games. In China, the casual game audience is largely under 25 with a higher proportion of women. The model for monetizing casual games in China invoves buying virtual items for your avatars or to micropurchase access to advanced levels and upgrade from the free basic casual games. Standard game genres in China such as kart racing, dancing and music games still remain an esoteric offering in the US. Since these games appeal to a mainstream and large consumer audience, the dollar or Yuan signs should be ringing in now.

As I paraphrase Nintendo's Shigeraru Miyomoto keynote speech at GDC, "our mission as game developers is to create games where we can share the joy and experience of our world with those of our non-gaming friends."  He didn't say so but it also implies "do it right and it will make you rich too."

Like in many other industries from the US, many game companies and studios want to come to China but remain terrified of the startup and/or joint venture cost and invesment that it will require. Most of all they have no idea who they can trust to help them navigate the seemingly fickle regulatory environment for games and online entertainment. The current and future size and revenue coming from the Chinese gaming industry proves too irresistable to ignore for some and many people from both big and small companies would come up to me during the conference to ask me about China and what we as MS  are doing with Casual Games in China. I really couldn't answer them except in the most abstract way but my usual reply was..."a lot."


-Frank Yu