The latest edition of Gamasutra's regular 'The China Angle' column
from Pacific Epoch's Shang Koo looks at government plans to fight online fatigue by lowering experience points the longer a gamer plays, and rivalries between online game companies getting physical.
"Chinese General Administration of Press and Publications is preparing to launch an online game fatigue system in 2007 to protect minors from online game addiction. The fatigue system will require players to register with their ID names and numbers, and the system will check the validity of the ID information through police security databases.
Minors will receive half experience points after playing for three hours each day, and will gain nothing after five hours. According to China Communist Youth League (CCYL) research arm China Youth & Children Research Center (CYCRC), 17.1 percent of Chinese between the ages 13 and 17 are addicted to the Internet.
According to GAPP digital publication vice director Kou Xiaowei, online game operators will develop the fatigue system for their games over the next two months, and the system will be fully implemented in April or May, after a month of testing. GAPP first announced the fatigue system in August 2005 and at the time planned to implement the system by the end of 2005.
However, at that time GAPP planned to enforce the system for all gamers, regardless of age. Trials began in October 2005, but as the games had both regular server groups as well as server groups enforcing the fatigue system, server groups enforcing the fatigue system saw a mass exodus of users to other servers. In January 2006, GAPP backed down and announced that the revised fatigue system will only apply to minors.
2006 China Online Game Industry Statistics
Along with announcing the schedule for implementation of the fatigue system, GAPP also released official 2006 statistics for China's online game industry, as previously reported
here on Gamasutra. Total revenues in 2006 were 6.54 billion Yuan (8 Yuan = US$1), up 73.5 percent year-on-year. According to Kou, domestically developed online games generated 4.24 billion Yuan, accounting for 64.8 percent of total revenues. Casual online games generated 1.23 billion Yuan, accounting for 18.8 percent of the total revenues. China currently has 90 online game development companies, including 25 in Beijing and 20 in Shanghai. Only eight new online game companies set up in 2006, compared to 24 in 2005.
According to statistics released by the Internet Society of China (ISC), China's online game industry recorded a total of 5.96 billion Yuan in revenue in 2006, up 61.9 percent year-on-year. ISC estimated nearly 100 million online gamers in China in 2006. Both GAPP and ISC revenue estimates are conservative, as the three Nasdaq listed online game operators alone generated 4.5 billion Yuan in revenues in 2006.
Protecting Game Industry Professionals
GAPP's fatigue system may help in protecting Chinese minors from violent and addictive Chinese MMOs, but someone may need to protect Chinese game industry employees from each other, as online game companies Kingsoft and Zhengtu Network are embroiled in a pitched battle that reads more like an account from Sun Tze than modern Chinese business.
A Kingsoft promoter reportedly ripped off heads on Zhengtu's posters in Chengdu, which triggered a fist fight between sales people at the two companies, according to a China Business News report. According to Zhengtu's Sichuan director Wen Ji, Kingsoft had two of its staff infiltrate Zhengtu previously. The would-be-spies did not last long according to Wen. Zhengtu discovered the two traitors and fired them.
Back in October 2006, an employee at Shanghai based game company Gamigo claimed that he was beaten up by his boss, a vice president at the company. Gamigo claimed that the employee revealed trade secrets and was fired. Pictures of a bloody head wound circulated throughout the Internet, leading the vice president to send out a response to the press. According to the vice president, the pictures were fake, as she was incapable of overpowering and assaulting the strong and healthy male employee.
The9 Taps Popular Director To Make SUN Movie
Chinese game operator The9 announced on January 8 that Chinese movie director Ning Hao will direct a short film based on The9's licensed 3D MMORPG Soul of Ultimate Nation
(SUN). Ning Hao is the director of the black comedy Crazy Stone, one of the most popular movies in China in 2006. Ning plans to invite Li Yuchun, the 2005 winner of China's American Idol knock-off Super Voice Girl, to act in the film. The9 opened application for closed beta testing accounts for SUN
on January 16. SUN
closed beta accounts are now available on China's main C2C auction site Taobao for as much as 1000 Yuan."
[Shang Koo is an editor at Shanghai-based Pacific Epoch, and oversees research and daily news content on China's new media industries, with a concentration in online games. Pacific Epoch itself provides investment and trade news and publishes a number of subscription products regarding the Chinese technology market. Readers wanting to contact him can e-mail [email protected].]