Sponsored By

Kliuless #53: The China Cultural Clash

Each week I compile a gaming industry insights newsletter that I publish broadly. Opinions are mine.

Kenneth Liu, Blogger

October 9, 2019

6 Min Read

Kliuless? Gaming Industry Insights #53

Hi, my name is Kenny Liu, and each week I compile a gaming industry insights newsletter that I publish broadly. Opinions are mine.

See more or subscribe at: https://tinyletter.com/kliuless

The China Cultural Clash

  • Yesterday, Blizzard dismissed a Hearthstone player for supporting Hong Kong protests

  • From a financial perspective, this comes as no surprise given both Activision's & Blizzard's intimate ties with Chinese companies Tencent & NetEase, respectively

    • Call of Duty: Mobile, developed by Tencent, has rocketed to become the fastest ever mobile game to 100 million downloads, an especially impressive feat considering the game is not even available in the biggest mobile gaming market, China

    • Blizzard, as new president J. Allen Brack reveals, has been working with NetEase on Diablo: Immortal for years already

  • However, a similar incident occurred with the NBA this week, and their response was the exact opposite:

    • "Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game [...]

    • It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences. However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way"

  • Stratechery's Ben Thompson elaborates more in his recent post, The China Cultural Clash:

    • "I am increasingly convinced this is the point every company dealing with China will reach: what matters more, money or values?

    • I am not particularly excited to write this article. My instinct is towards free trade, my affinity for Asia generally and Greater China specifically, my welfare enhanced by staying off China’s radar. And yet, for all that the idea of being a global citizen is an alluring concept and largely my lived experience, I find in situations like this that I am undoubtedly a child of the West. I do believe in the individual, in free speech, and in democracy, no matter how poorly practiced in the United States or elsewhere. And, in situations like this weekend, when values meet money, I worry just how many companies are capable of choosing the former?

    • The NBA, to its immense credit, appears to have done just that. Will technology companies be so brave? [...]

    • The biggest, shift, though, is a mindset one. First, the Internet is an amoral force that reduces friction, not an inevitable force for good. Second, sometimes different cultures simply have fundamentally different values. Third, if values are going to be preserved, they must be a leading factor in economic entanglement, not a trailing one. This is the point that [Bill] Clinton got the most wrong: money, like tech, is amoral. If we insist it matters most our own morals will inevitably disappear"

  • What if we were to ask ourselves, "Will gaming companies be so brave?"

    • Unfortunately, for many, the answer to that will of course be no

    • Activision Blizzard, Epic, Riot, and countless others are already deep in the pockets of the Chinese, having taken their capital during Tencent & NetEase's decade-long "shopping spree," which especially accelerated these past several years

    • However, I hope future game developers though will at the very least pause to reflect about the potential moral implications of accepting censorship capital when seeking investment and/or partnerships

  • Related:

    • Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened

    • Wait But Why: The Mute Button

      • [KL: In case you aren't following his new series, author Tim Urban is sharing in weekly installments his longest post to date. After nearly three years and two million words, he is tackling the difficult task of explaining the nature of our current society — by going all the way back to the beginning of time and the cellular level. This particular post focuses on censorship, but I highly recommend reading this highly educational and entertaining series in its entirety]


  • Mark Brown: Clockwork Games and Time Loops

    • Related: Jam Sesh: How a Popular Online Contest Sparks Design Innovation

  • How BetaDwarf is trying to tackle the loneliness epidemic

    • "Currently dubbed Project Haven, the game is targeting players older than 35 years, which is supposedly around the age the second-highest loneliness spike manifests"

  • Raph Koster raises $2.7m in seed funding for new MMO studio with 'different mindset' on engagement

    • "I think a lot of the folks making games-as-a-service now kind of took some of the wrong lessons [from old MMOs]," Koster says. "They looked at things and said, 'It's about engagement.' But engagement, the sense of wanting to check back regularly, should be driven by the player's interest. Engagement is there in order to lead you to retention. When we were designing those games back then, we weren't thinking in terms of, 'How do we get people to come back daily in order to increase our [day 2] or [day 7] return rate,' which is sort of the metrics-driven way of thinking of things. We didn't approach it that way. We were always thinking, 'We need this person to come back next month'

    • "And that drives a different mindset. It puts you in the mindset that we're building long-term relationships here. We're not trying to drive necessarily constant activity. We want to drive something where a relationship of trust is built with the player. We don't need them to log in every day. What we want them to do is to feel attached and care about our fictional universe and want to come back all the time"

PC / Console

  • PlayStation 5 set for holiday 2020

  • With a price cut and new commitment to high-profile games, PlayStation Now makes its case to customers

  • How Sega became one of the biggest names in PC gaming


  • Former ArenaNet game developers raise $3.3 million for Tenacious Entertainment

    • Related: ArenaNet co-founder leaves to start different studio

  • CVC Funds acquires $400m minority stake in IronSource

  • Medal.tv acquires Megacool to expand into mobile game clip sharing

  • Opinion: Acquisition and conversion costs threaten a mobile bust


  • McKinsey: China digital consumer trends in 2019

  • Report: Vietnam leads the world in fastest-growing app markets

Tech / Entertainment


  • Discord confirms layoffs

  • How Warframe Broke The Rules

  • Epic Games faces class action lawsuit in Canada over "Fortnite addiction"

  • Utopos Games raises $1 million to make AI-based robot battle game Raivo

  • How a 14-Year-Old Designer Became Part of Apple's Splashy New Gaming Service  

  • WP: Gamers paved the road for a streaming future. Twitch wants to add more lanes

  • Report: 73% of Americans play video games, up 6% over year prior

See more or subscribe at: https://tinyletter.com/kliuless

LinkedIn: @kliuless

Read more about:

Featured Blogs

About the Author(s)

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like