Thursday, October 7, 2010

News Filter: Are Chinese MMO Gamers Burning Out?

  • In a news story run by and picked up by Massively, Chinese games market analyst firm Niko Partners reports that Chinese gamers are starting to turn away from MMOs as they focus more on social gaming. I haven't seen any chatter about this story in the blogging community, but something about the report struck me.

  • China (along with many East Asian countries) has suffered under the stereotype as grind loving no-lifers with no taste in games who would just as soon die as turn off their computers. Niko Partners' report seems to refute the notion by showing gamers turning away from the cookie-cutter MMOs in favor of their local Farmvilles and Mafia Wars.

  • And we, the hardcore gamers of the West, scoff at the grindfests they keep churning out. But a quick look at Ten Ton Hammer lists 412 games available. (That number is inflated due to separate entries for expansions and other oddities, but you get the point.) Is it any wonder that we no longer hear about the next WoW killer? Sure, people are still chasing the MMO dollar, but it's not the wild west anymore. Only the big boys can afford play here. Anyone looking to ride the gravy train has gone to seek their fortunes on Facebook before that crashes.

  • Times are changing. If we're lucky, there is still enough money to be made that MMOs will continue to be a vibrant field where innovation and tenacity will thrive. If not, MMOs may got the way of the wargame and text adventure.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. I'm by no means an expert on this, but from what I've seen in the many years I lived in China, the gamers will go where the accessibility is. MMOs need a computer and a decent internet connection (which I've always found unstable over there, even if the speeds are all right) and a lot of gamers will play them at public areas like internet cafes or gaming hubs because they may not own a PC at home. Most everyone has a phone though, and those local social games may be readily available on them or accessible on any computer anywhere, even at work LOL. It's just a very different dynamic at work over there, many cultural and socio-economic differences that may explain the numbers at work.

  2. I didn't read the article, so yeah, thats never a good way to begin a comment...

    but it seems just like sensationalism to me. someone sees big social numbers in china and obviously there can't be playing both or people who don't normally game playing social games. obviously.

  3. @ GeeCee - That does sound like what I've read about the gaming culture in China. I think you're right that accessibility is contributing to the shift. Obviously the rise of social gaming in the west is not occuring because hardcore gamers are rushing to Facebook; it's bringing a different group of people into gaming. Is something similar happening in China?

    @ Hunter - I have to agree with you. Since the article is really just talking about shifting revenue percentages between gaming styles.

    At the same time, the reason I pointed the story out is because of the gut reaction I had to it. On some basic level, it feels like there is a broader statement to be made about the state of MMOs, even if I can't back it up with numbers.

  4. Largely unfounded speculation to follow...

    I think the MMO market is still growing here in the west. Certainly the FtP market is thriving. Wizard 101 and DDO continue to expand at a steady clip (a good sign that they are bringing in a lot of revenue), the population on my LoTRO server has more than doubled, and SOE is switching PtBS over to FtP and has hinted that they may also do it for Vanguard (both good signs that EQ2X has panned out well for them).

    I'd also say a that sub based MMOs seem to be on the way out... save that WoW just hit 12 million subs. I'll be amazed if the game doesn't go even higher in early December.

    I also think it's been a pretty slow few months from MMOs. There has been a major lull in new big releases. The only major recent one is FFXIV, which looks like it's going to flop.

  5. @ Yeebo - By unfounded, but definitely interesting. I can cop to the fact that I might me confusing my malaise regarding MMOs with any larger trends. F2P has breathed new life into the industry. I just hope it will bring in new players rather than keep the old guard interested longer.