Content originally written in 2019, at the time of China Joy of that year. Sharing it here now as it is still valid and pertinent. Daniel Camilo is an business developer for Chinese game publisher APPTUTTi, in Shenzhen - China.
Every year most gaming media (and some mainstream) will set their sights on some of the biggest gaming conventions around the world, like E3, Tokyo Game Show, Paris Gaming Week, PAX, Gamescom, and a few others. These are where industry insiders, developers, media and general public gather to announce, discuss and experience everything new about the biggest entertainment industry in the world. And yet, while the gaming industry has grown to gargantuan dimensions and China plays a huge role in it, the Chinese gaming market still remains shrouded in thick mist and mystery, as far as western media is concerned.
ChinaJoy is the biggest gaming convention in Asia, and the biggest in the world by some metrics, and yet, it gets virtually no coverage at all from western media. Check articles from the likes of Kotaku, IGN, GameSpot and others, and it’s almost as if China Joy doesn’t exist. Why?
There are many reasons why international journalists don’t flock to China Joy the same way they do to E3 in Los Angeles or even TGS in Tokyo. Setting aside all the traveling visa related issues (which can, and usually are, a considerable burden for journalists trying to travel to China for work), the main issue is how the Chinese market is, for the most part, extremely China-centric. Both in terms of content consumed by Chinese gamers, but also when developing new games and exporting. China doesn’t export many games, and most of the content that keeps the money flowing in the country is for the most part Made in China and aimed at China. Heck, even the recent RTS game Total War: Three Kingdoms, which is totally themed around Chinese History and folklore and was a sales success in many western markets, remains barely unnoticed or mentioned in China. There’s definitely a wall separating the Chinese gaming market and the overall global one.
This leads directly to the other reason why so little attention is focused towards the Chinese market by western media: economics. As Wedbush Securities videogame market analyst Michael Pachter told me when questioned about this issue, “...few of the U.S. companies (except for Activision/Blizzard) generate any meaningful revenue there (in China)”. And why is this the case? Well, that would generate another entirely new and extensive dissertation, but lets just say that protectionist measures from Beijing to allow a disproportionate competitive edge to domestic companies in its territory when compared to foreign entities is just one of the many obvious reasons (not to mention content-regulation “issues”).
So, again, why is China so overlooked by western gaming media? It’s almost a “chicken & egg” kind of situation. In one hand, there’s not enough apparent interest generated and exported by China to push outsiders to “come” and check what’s happening (besides the occasional weird case study or the latest huge financial deal - more often than not with Tencent involved). On the other hand, outside media doesn’t even know where to start or where to look at to begin with when trying to understand the Chinese scene or if there’s anything worth reporting about (there definitely is!). Essentially, there’s not enough interaction (yes..ah ah, interactive medium, the irony).
I do believe there is a huge information gap to be filled. A hole even. I’m also convinced it is the duty of gaming journalists to lean in and pay more attention to what’s happening in China. Either we’re aware of it or not, what is happening today in the Chinese market is shaping up the future of the industry in more ways than one. That is the main reason why more attention MUST be put into the country. That is why major media outlets are doing a disservice by ignoring China and willingly remaining oblivious to developments and trends in the country. And what a better venue to start exploring than China Joy? This is the front window to the Chinese gaming industry. The media can’t just keep on pretending like it’s not happening. But to be fair, most simply are unaware of it. Blame must be placed on the Chinese side as well (developers, publishers, and local marketing in particular), for not showing much interest in “exposing” itself to the outside world. That’s why the initiative falls back into the hands of journalists, the media. It is their professional duty to report. To be a gaming journalist and to ignore the biggest gaming market in the world represents a gross lack of commitment to your professional duty. Time to change.