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ChinaJoy – China’s Penultimate Gaming Convention

(Cue Mötley Crüe’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”) Chinajoy, the penultimate gaming convention for China, concluded this past Sunday in Shanghai, China.  This was mobiSights’ first time to the convention, and it was definitely an experience.  It’s tough to tell whether it’s a gaming convention with a showgirl theme, or a showgirl convention with a gaming theme.  Regardless, if you like games and girls, then this is the expo for you.

But you didn’t come here to look at pictures of scantily clad Chinese models, you came because you wanted to read about the latest and greatest in Asia’s gaming news, right?!?!  *Cough*  Well, I’ll throw in some pictures at the end of the article, but for now lets talk games.  We’ll have specific articles up soon covering the action that went on in the non-public forums and demos held in the hotel next to the expo center, but for now lets do a quick run through of the public expo itself.

The Biggest Show In Town

Everyone who is anyone in the Chinese gaming market was there – console, PC, internet, or mobile.  With more than 70 million online gamers in China, and a market recently valued at 9.48 billion yuan, and a 23.9% increase year on year, that comes at no real surprise.

The talk on the street at ChinaJoy this year was about casual gaming.  Pan Enlin, chief executive of Hangzhou-based commented, “The gaming industry is going through a revolution.”

Traditional games on consoles like the Xbox and massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) will continue to hold a central role in the gaming industry.  However, as the consumption habits of users change to center around mobile phones and handheld devices like the iPad, developers are finding that gamers are spending more time on these casual games that can be finished within five minutes.  For example, the popular casual games like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are ideal for commuters traveling on the subway or waiting for a bus.

Red 5 Studios was there showing off Firefall, with all booth props and demo machines flown in from the US.  Firefall is a third person shooter/MMO type game – the emphasis being on the team based campaign that takes place in a vast cel-shaded world.  It definitely looks promising.  I got some hands on time with it and it was actually pretty fun. We’ll have to wait and see how the final product turns out.  Since Red 5 isn’t focusing on player vs. player (it still has PvP elements built in),  it’ll be interesting to see how the community accepts it.

EA had several of their sports line games like FIFA Online 2 showcased at ChinaJoy this year, though their booth was just non-interactive demos unless I missed something, so unfortunately, it nothing too exciting.  Another big name, and MMORPG giant, Blizzard Entertainment, was also on site to show off their latest expansion of its massive cashcow game, World of Warcraft.  Blizzard has been plagued with troubles regarding World of Warcraft: Cataclysm here in China, but they seem to have finally worked out all the bugs and complications.  Recently, Blizzard gave paying members a free weekend of play as a gesture of gratitude toward those who stuck with the game through its tribulations.

Fitting to the buzz that’s been surrounding the latest Transformers 3 movie, NetDragon erected a towering Bumblebee on display to promote its latest Transformers Universe MMO based on Hasbros’ Transformers franchise.  The game has been green lit by Hasbro but will only be available in Asia due licensing of the English version going to Jagex (Transformers Universe).  At a glance the game actually looks pretty fun, but the environments I saw were a little bland.  Just like Firefall though, we’ll have to see how this one turns out.

Mobile gaming was at ChinaJoy in force this year. iResearch reported a Q2 7.2% market decline  this year in online web game advertising to $173 million, and a shift to mobile games, which iResearch values the market to be 980 million yuan, and a 66.1% year on year growth. Recognizing this growing market, this was the first time that China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom set up game booths to attract attendees.

Moreover, Rovio, maker of the popular Angry Bird’s series, announced that it would be teaming up with MadHouse, China’s leading mobile ad network.  Rovio also said it would be creating games specifically targeted at China, which has become the second biggest consumer market for Rovio’s products.  The first of these would be a new Angry Birds episode called “Moon Festival” which will be released in September later this year.

The road ahead is still rough for the mobile game market in China, though. Developers are c6ntinuing to find that Chinese customers have yet to adapt to the mentality of paying for games. However, given the potential size of the market, mobile gaming is definitely here to stay as the new “third wheel” in the gaming platform war which previously was waged between PCs and consoles – but then again, what war game doesn’t have that weird third faction.

We can definitely expect to see more and more capital poured into trying to figure out what the “magic formula” is that will make Chinese consumers pay to play in the mobile arena.

The Eye Candy – The Real Reason For The Crowds

As promised, here are some shots of the show girls who drew the crowds at ChinaJoy 2011.

More pictures at:
– Shanghaiist
– Kotaku

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