Last week China Joy took place in Shanghai. Lisa Hanson and Xiaofeng Zeng represented Niko Partners at the exhibition and conference. Overall we got a sense that client-based MMOGs are here to stay, that mobile games are what everyone wants to talk about, that Chinese game developers are taking a much closer look at international markets particularly Southeast Asia, Russia, and North America, and that webgames have risen in share of PC online gaming but may have matured in terms of growth rates in mainland China.
There was a B2C part of the conference, which is where the huge company booths were with booth babes and demos and the loudest decibel of sound on planet Earth. In the B2C halls, several US companies had a good showing, including EA with its huge Plants vs Zombies display and Activision Blizzard with a throng of avid Star Craft 2 fans waiting to check out that game. China Joy also has a B2B room where the noise is slightly lower and people supposedly are able to hear each other during business meetings. Some companies opted only for booths in the B2B hall, recognizing that the B2C halls are sheer madness and nothing like E3. However, the government “encourages” game companies to take a booth at the show in one way or another, and the large operators typically are placed in one of the first B2C halls with enormous booths that cover the most square footage, therefore costing the most to erect. Meanwhile there also were conferences including the China Games Business Conference, the China Games Developer Conference, and the China Mobile Games Conference (or similar titles, meaning the same thing as these). Each had several tracks of domestic and international speakers. Some tracks are well attended, others not, but again the “vibe” is not like the conference sessions at GDC in San Francisco where listeners queue at the door to secure a good seat in the room.
One of the most interesting meetings we had during the week actually took place away from China Joy. It was at publicly traded BesTV (Shanghai Stock Exchange). BesTV’s booming business seems to have spawned from demand within a highly regulated digital entertainment and TV industry. The company is the sole owner of an IPTV license and one of nine companies that have an OTT license for online programming via smart TV. It already offers “console alternative” games via smart TVs, including a “skype-like” chat service, controller and more. It is developing a games console too, which leads me to the interesting part: perhaps the rumor of a possible overturn on the current ban on consoles within the future Shanghai Free Trade Zone will lead to legalization of a console by a Shanghai-based company, ie BesTV. Perhaps this console will differ from the global console companies’ products in such a way that it can be approved but they cannot. I have no insight into this, but I left the meeting at BesTV with a hunch that maybe, just maybe, this company will be a winner if the ban is overturned, and that it already seems to be doing great business anyway.