GamesBeat

The unique, oddly sexualized culture of China’s game industry in pictures (photo gallery)

Above: Being a booth babe is grueling work at ChinaJoy, and show girls catch naps anywhere they can.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

The organizers of ChinaJoy paid my way to Shanghai. Our coverage remains objective.

SHANGHAI — China’s rise as a gaming nation was best captured at ChinaJoy, the huge expo that drew more than 250,000 attendees to more than 100,000 square meters of exhibit space in Shanghai. The event was a huge spectacle, but it bore little resemblance to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big game-business showcase that drew 48,000 people to Los Angeles in June.

Rather, ChinaJoy was a beast of another kind. The obvious difference is that ChinaJoy caters to consumers rather than game-industry people.

Nearly every booth had stages — and not for showing off games. They were for the show girls, or booth babes, in skimpy costumes. In the back of the booths or off to the side, you could find demos of the games. But the mostly male audience was there to take pictures of the women and to get free swag.

The blatant sexual display was unusual for China, which has strict laws on sexual freedoms (like a ban on pornography, for instance). The organizer of the show tried to explain to GamesBeat somewhat sheepishly why there were so many booth babes, some who were even present in the booths of American game companies Electronic Arts and Microsoft. The girls weren’t necessarily always dressed as cosplayers (costume play) like in Japan. In fact, their attire didn’t seem to have much to do with the games. ChinaJoy appears to take its cues from South Korea’s G-Star show.

Shawn Luan of Howell International Trade Fair

Above: Shawn Luan of Howell International Trade Fair

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

“It’s due to the special circumstances of the Chinese market,” said Shawn Luan, senior vice general manager at Howell International Trade Fair (the organizer of ChinaJoy), in an interview with GamesBeat. “I see a lot of that at E3 and Tokyo Game Show as well, but the numbers — we have too many in China.”

He added, “So you don’t see the same methods of promotion as in packaged games. The exhibitors want to increase the attention paid to their products, but the product itself isn’t as attractive, whether through its story background or its gameplay. They want to emphasize the social-networking elements, and they have to figure out a way to attract players that doesn’t have to do with content. So it’s either presents, giveaways, or girls. ChinaJoy has to meet the demands of both players and companies. That’s why you see a big difference between this show and E3. The way they do promotion here is different.”

The girls were limited to 25 per booth this year, in contrast to hundreds in the past. That was enough for a spectacle but not so many that it completely obfuscated the games.

I could conclude that this is a sexist culture, but that’s the view of an outsider looking in. Video game marketing always has, and probably always will, focus on sex in a way that would offend mature adults. I fully expect this to change as China’s publishers and developers become more confident about their own games and try to succeed on a global stage. For now, ChinaJoy has the same sort of sex-appeal marketing as a lot of big fan-oriented shows.

Regardless, Westerners can’t ignore the culture of ChinaJoy because it may one day be the culture of the dominant country in video games. China’s PC online game business is expected to be $14 billion in 2014, and the mobile game sector is expected to increase 93 percent to $2.9 billion in revenues this year, according to market researcher Niko Partners. This year is also interesting because it’s the first time the Chinese government has authorized sales of video game consoles since banning such machines in 2000. China’s a huge market, and it’s only getting bigger.

I’d be exaggerating and stereotyping to say that the hundreds of thousands of booth babes and ogling dudes of ChinaJoy were the totality of gamers in the country, which has 1.35 billion people. But the chances that the Chinese will become the biggest players on the global stage are good. That’s why it pays to understand its market, and I’ve tried to convey that visually in the photo gallery below.

 

 

 

 

 

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19 comments
Brian Akaka
Brian Akaka

Constantly posting this article because of the image? Unfollow

Jim Wolfson
Jim Wolfson

Where do the Chinese find enough booth bunnies?

Isn't this the brutal, totalitarian communist country that encourages the murder of its newborn girl babies with its murderous one-child policies?

frank sato
frank sato

This is ridiculous… -_- Why are the girls even there? This is rhetorical; no one need bother to answer.

Adam Reed
Adam Reed

How to appeal to desperate teenagers and manboys who have not been near a vagina since birth.

Jérémie Loveskorea
Jérémie Loveskorea

Oh yeah, let's put our journalist hat on and inspect this more closely...

Gary Liao
Gary Liao

You forgot to mention that a good amount of these girls have price tags and can be "bought" at night when the show is over. Pictures can be found with a bit of googling.

Rick Smith
Rick Smith

Having lived in China for much of the past quarter century, I can vouch for the traditional mindset of most Chinese women, which remains stronger than most of the rest of East and Southeast Asia. However, prostitution is rampant as a desperate means of breaking out of grinding poverty, KTV bars abound, and rich Chinese men have returned to the tradition of keeping mistresses, especially high government officials. While Chinese women often enjoy more socio-economic leverage than other Asian women, they remain in some respects second class citizens. I found them generally to be stronger in mind and spirit in urban areas than most men, and often more enterprising, as well as physically stronger than many men in rural areas. However, rural women in China (nearly half of the female population) have the highest suicide rate in the world.

John Sampson
John Sampson

man I'm going next year beats the shows here in the US

Gary B
Gary B

Looking at the photo gallery I don't see any thing "sexualized" compared to gaming conventions elsewhere.

Lisa Mayumi Reyes
Lisa Mayumi Reyes

marketing is not about exposing your self, you have to know what your marketing for

Michael-Andreas Kuttner
Michael-Andreas Kuttner

Because gaming industry trade shows in North America have never sexed it up in order to sell... :-/

Misty Misty
Misty Misty

Great articles Venture Beat - a little "Vice" with the social commentary and a little of Forbes & the Economist. Keep the format and you'll win more readership :) *thumbs up

Badi Azad
Badi Azad

Trenton Richmond have you had a chance to read this article? Reminds me of our conversation last summer in Beijing!

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