Bridging East and West at Game Developers' Conference China

I’m writing this at Shanghai Oriental Riverside Hotel, where the first ever Game Developers’ Conference China has just ended. By all accounts the event was a success: there were over 2000 visitors at the exhibition and some 800 attendees at the conference. The exhibition part was largely about outsourcing, recruitment and training, but also showcased neat Asian titles like the phenomenally popular online dancing game Audition. All the big Chinee MMO companies were present, as well as EA, Ubisoft, CCP and others.

For me GDC China was particularly interesting because of the emphasis on online gaming typical of China. I was able to contrast the more theoretical musings of State of Play V last week with practical insights from game developers. For example, there were discussions on how to make Chinese titles palatable to the Western audience and vice versa; World of Warcraft’s big success here shows that it’s possible. This is a practical approach to “bridging the East and West” that SoP V called for but didn’t yet deliver so much.

My own talk was about real-money trade of virtual assets and the value drivers behind it. As games and community services are increasingly moving towards virtual asset sales as a revenue model, they need to think about what makes assets desirable in a given context. I also talked about “virtual asset business ecosystems” a bit, suggesting that developers not be jealous of other people making money off their platform, if at the same time it increases the total value of the system (e.g. Tencent QQ, IRC-Galleria and Second Life). The audience was great and I got some valuable feedback as well.

MMO folks also talked about security, which is becoming more and more important as game operators turn into virtual banks. “Account Protection Green Alliance” is some sort of Chinese industry group that promotes standards in MMO security technology.

Mobile gaming was another emphasis area, with a large presence from Nokia and a talk by Petri Talala of Futuremark about future mobile 3D, among others.

In the outsourcing track, Fang Zhou of Niko Partners told us that junior testers in China earn about 2000 RMB per month (about 200€) and artists 4000 RMB per month (400€). Professionals with six or more years of experience can make 12000-14000 RMB per month (1200-1400€). This is one East-West gap that the Chinese are working hard to bridge.


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