If PC developers need any more evidence that they can’t ignore the Chinese market, they should look at what’s happened with Guild Wars 2.
The massively multiplayer online role-playing game debuted in China on May 15, and it has already gone on to reach 3.8 million copies in sales in China alone. That doubles Guild Wars 2’s sales in the rest of world, where developer NCSoft confirmed the game had sold 3.5 million copies as of August. This success reveals the massive audience in China for online PC games in a market that generated $13 billion in 2013, and it also shows that the audience in that Asian nation is willing to pay an upfront price, not just microtransactions in a free-to-play game.
While some MMORPGs like World of Warcraft have a monthly fee and others are free-to-play, Guild Wars 2 charges customers at the time of download. The NCSoft release does not have a monthly fee.
With more of China’s massive population coming online, it is establishing itself as one of the most-important markets for gaming. It is especially huge for PC developers, as the country has had a ban on traditional gaming consoles until recently. Even as the country is adopting more smartphones and tablets, it still prefers to do most of its gaming on the PC.
The Chinese gaming market’s 2013 revenue number is up from $9.8 billion in 2012, and it could grow to around $18 billion or more this year. Smartphones only made up around $1.8 billion of this. The vast majority of the spending, nearly 65 percent, came from PC games. Players spent $8.7 billion on titles like League of Legends and Crossfire.
That last game, Crossfire, is a free-to-play online shooter that is popular in China. It is so popular, in fact, that it generated nearly $1 billion on its own. League of Legends brought in $624 million worldwide, and a lot of that money comes from its huge Chinese audience.
The call of China has big developers looking for ways to serve their traditional Western audiences while also appealing to the online PC games that people in China (as well as in Russia and Brazil) really like. Even someone like Gears of War director Cliff Bleszinski, who left his job at developer Epic Games, is working with publisher Nexon to release a new free-to-play shooter. Nexon has lots of experience running games in China, and it’s likely that Bleszinski’s new game, Blue Streak, will attempt to appeal to a global audience.