ChinaJoy, one of the largest video game conventions and exhibitions in the world, celebrated its 20th anniversary between July 28 – 31 2023 in Shanghai. Niko Partners has participated in ChinaJoy for all 20 years, beginning with the inaugural event in January 2004 in Beijing (which was postponed from summer 2003 due to an airborne virus), and has witnessed the growth of the event since. Despite the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022, ChinaJoy resumed in-person this year and had 338,000 person-entries over the four days. This compares favorably to the peak year of 2019, prior to the pandemic, when 364,000 person-entries were recorded. Pre-pandemic there were about 30-40% westerners in the Kerry Center for business meetings, while in 2021 there were zero, and in 2023 there were about 20% – signs that the environment for overseas companies is gradually returning to normal.

Niko Partners Vice President Xiaofeng Zeng attended ChinaJoy 2023 and spoke with gamers, exhibitors, and executives about the market and the conference itself. Contact us to set a meeting with Xiaofeng, either in person or over video.

Visitors Flock to ChinaJoy 2023 booths

A summer of Chinese games industry events to remember

Before diving into ChinaJoy itself, it’s worth talking about how the lifting of pandemic restrictions at the end of 2022, the launch of new titles in 2023, and increasing gamer enthusiasm has led to a series of in person events taking place in Shanghai this July. Valorant finally launched in China at the beginning of the month and the finals of the Valorant Champions Tour 2023 (China Qualifier) were held in Shanghai on July 16. EDward Gaming, Bilibili Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix qualified for the Valorant Champions 2023 esports tournament coming up in LA this month (August 2023).

Other notable events in Shanghai during July included the China International Comics and Games Expo (CCG Expo), held between July 13 – 16 with 176,000 total entries. Chinese games company miHoYo also held its Honkai Impact 3rd offline carnival at the same time in the Jiading district with events for fans to participate in. Bilibili World 2023, an event focusing on ACGN content and gaming, was also held between July 21-23 at the National Convention & Exhibition Center. All of this culminated with ChinaJoy at the end of the month, which had the highest attendance of them all.

On the exhibition floor at ChinaJoy

Following a challenging 2022 when China’s domestic video game revenue dipped slightly, Niko Partners’ interactions with industry leaders at ChinaJoy left us cautiously optimistic about the second half of 2023 and into 2024. Heavyweights in the industry such as Tencent, NetEase and Perfect World had a notable presence at the event, while Sony took the opportunity to hold a press conference where they announced new titles for the third phase of their China Hero Project.

There were first-timers at ChinaJoy, such as Shiyue Game, the developer of Chang’an Fantasy, as well as returning firms like Century Network that had not exhibited for some years. However, we did see the absence of some established names, notably Blizzard Entertainment, given it had ended its partnership with NetEase at the beginning of the year and shut down its games in the country.

Cosplays at ChinaJoy 2023

A particularly fascinating trend this year at ChinaJoy was the heavy focus on non-gaming companies and gaming adjacent companies. Automobile firms such as GAC had a large presence at the event, while China Mobile, Meituan and TCL had the largest booths at the events, surpassing Tencent’s booth size. We also found that some companies, such as TapTap (XD Network) had only chosen to exhibit in the B2B area, foregoing a consumer presence.

Lining up to enter the venue of ChinaJoy 2023

The evolving focus of ChinaJoy

It’s clear to us that the traditional concept of gaming conventions is in flux and undergoing a shift in focus, not too dissimilar to Western conventions such as E3. Conversations with exhibitors and executives revealed that while they were expecting the industry to recover from the second half of the year, many had engaged in cost reduction and efficiency increases during the first half of the year. This was evidenced by the lack of advertisements for video games at the Huamu Road and Longyang Road subway stations, the closest stations for ChinaJoy, which are normally covered in promotions for the latest games.

We also heard from companies that they are focusing on showcasing products and games across multiple events of all sizes, rather than just at ChinaJoy, and are also looking at direct to consumer approaches. Companies are also focusing on newly launched games or upcoming game launches where they already have a license (ISBN) to reduce overall marketing costs. This was evident for miHoYo, who did not have a general booth at ChinaJoy for all their games, but instead focused on a booth dedicated to their recently released title Honkai: Star Rail.

The “Huamu Road” subway station on July 27, without signs of the ongoing ChinaJoy

Dominant trends at ChinaJoy

Niko Partners witnessed three dominant trends at the exhibition this year:

  1. Generative AI was mentioned during many speeches and showcased at booths. Huawei used the event to announce a partnership between seven games industry companies to build AI solutions for the games industry.
  2. Going overseas was mentioned in more than half of the speeches, referring to Chinese companies exporting their games to the rest of the world. According to Niko Partners China Games Market reports, games developed or published by Chinese companies accounted for 47% of mobile games revenue and 39% of PC games revenue worldwide (Including revenue generated domestically).
  3. Government support and the ongoing recovery of the games industry were both emphasized. Earlier in the month, the Shenzhen government announced new measures over a three-year period to support the development of an esports city. At ChinaJoy, the Shanghai Pudong government announced a $1.4 billion investment in the games industry to promote high-quality development of the cultural and creative sector.

In Conclusion

ChinaJoy 2023 represented the evolving and expanding landscape of game companies and game technologies and was a welcome indicator that China’s market is well on the way to recovery and growth. Get actionable insights to tap into the world’s single largest video games market on our China PC, mobile, and console games reports.