Blizzard Wins the Overwatch Copyright Lawsuit in China

Blizzard wins the Overwatch copyright lawsuit in China, surprising everyone in the MMOGames office. China doesn’t exactly have the best history when it comes to copyright lawsuits and western game companies. This time though NetEase was also involved and they are the publishers of Overwatch in China.

Overwatch BCRF Charity Event - Pink Mercy

The lawsuit was against publisher 4399 Network who they originally sued in 2017 over their MOBA Heroes of Warfare. However, the article from Shanghai publication Shine states that the majority of NetEase and Blizzard’s compensation was for Clash of Fighters, which is quite likely the same game. In all 4 million yuan ($569,000) was awarded. 500,000 of that 4 million yuan was for Gunplay Battlefield, a game that has been offline since 2017. In fact, that is why a lesser amount was agreed upon.

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture for a moment. Blizzard and NetEase’s win doesn’t signal a shift in copyright enforcement in China when foreign creators are involved. What this shows is how important it is to have a local publisher when operating in China. That is most likely why this lawsuit was successful when so many in the past haven’t been.

 

Source: Shine via Games Industry

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WoW Wednesday: Blitzchung and the Grandmaster’s Debacle

While we have covered some of the emerging news around this week’s topic here on MMOGames, this particular issue is one that requires some further discussion. To call the fallout from Blitzchung’s ban, “intense,” might be a relatively mild understatement. After the removal of the Hearthstone Grandmaster over his political statement during the tournament, the internet erupted (as it does) into a fire of righteous fury and rage. While perhaps outside the scope of what this column could, or should, cover I would be remiss to avoid talking about Blizzard’s latest sociopolitical misstep. This week, let’s discuss Hong Kong, Blitzchung, Hearthstone, Blizzard, and the idea of ‘freedom,’ when it comes to the ‘free market.’

If, much like me, you exist solely on the internet memespace without understanding, “how the world works,” you may have missed an ongoing issue in the eastern world. For the last several months, the pseudo-nation-city of Hong Kong has been in a large-scale uproar. To understand the entirety of this situation and the severity of everyone’s actions we first need to understand the Hong King protests.

To make a VERY long and complicated political story short, Hong Kong is what is referred to as a, ‘special administrative region,’ of the People’s Republic of China. After being ceded to the British Empire during the First Opium War in 1842, the island-city-state has been largely self-governing.  Even after its return to Chinese rule in 1997 it has largely remained under its own political control simply due to its distance from the mainland. In a manner somewhat similar to Canada or America before their cession from Great Britain, they operate under a “one country, two systems,” policy. Ideally, in a perfect scenario, while Hong Kong economically and nationally supports the Chinese Government, it manages its own affairs.


This is not, however, simply due to sheer distance. A large part of this independence is due to it’s two, ‘parent,’ nations. After previously (and quite famously if you’ve ever watched a modern martial arts movie) suffering in many aspects under British Rule, Hong Kong has notoriously stood independently. Featuring one of the firsts modern universities in the territory, a major airport ten years later, avoiding economic depression and generally becoming a neutral zone and political safe-haven, Hong Kong still stands. It stands far and alone above its peers even in Mainland China.

Some of that, many would argue, is for the best. With the Chinese Government’s increasingly authoritarian moves over the last decade, Hong Kong has become that safe haven once again. After the dissolution of presidential terms by now Chinese-President-For-Life Xi Jingping, the Chinese government began to turn its gaze onto other matters of securing it’s hold on the Eastern World. Some of that involves President Xi’s ambitious Silk-Road-esque project to remap world trade routes through China, others involve enforcing some of the nation’s firm rules and introducing new ones such as the Social Credit System. Performing poorly in society (such as homelessness, poor behavior, poor social intercourse) can tank your Chinese ‘Social Credit Score’ and restrict you from several high-end lifestyle services such as High-Speed Internet. There are even concerns that the Chinese Government has interfered in the succession of the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader of the Tibetan Religion.

Hong Kong famously, and not just recently, has been an object of resistance in the face of the Chinese Government for years. After a mass emigration of Hong Kong’s residents when the British Empire relinquished its control, fearing the dissolution of civil rights and their quality of life, China has continued to try and enforce regulation. From unsuccessfully attempting to enact their National Security Bill of 2003 to circumvent Hong Kong laws and maintenance on many things including treason, property rights, prosecution time limits and trials by jury (just to name a few), things have only gotten worse.

Recently, Hong Kong attempted to put forward an Extradition Bill in regards to the case of Chan Tong-Kai. After killing his girlfriend in Taiwan in early 2018, he returned to his Hong Kong address and informed the police of his crime. However, as no extradition programs were in place between Hong Kong and China, he could not be returned to the mainland to face for his crimes, nor be charged. Thus it was proposed that a, ‘mechanism,’ could be established on a case-by-case basis to transfer such criminals to any jurisdiction that Hong Kong didn’t possess one with. While this sounds like an excellent solution, there was one large problem.


In the creation, facilitation, and implementation of this law in Hong Kong’s government, Beijing and the Chinese Government had a very heavy hand in creating it.

Understandably, given Hong Kong’s and China’s warring history of enforcement and civil liberty, the heavy-handed influence of Xi Jinping’s did not fly well with the city’s inhabitants. Starting as early March of 2019, the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protests began with turnouts as large 500’000 people. While these protests were largely peaceful, vandalism began to occur during early July and violence erupted between local criminal triads and protesters as the month continued. On October 1st, after most of the protests had died with the collapse of the bill, a student protester was shot by police during a demonstration after reportedly attempting to strike the officer with an improvised weapon. Things have only since intensified, with improvised explosive devices being discharged near police stations and children being shot by police forces.

Throughout this situation, the Chinese government have attempted to paint the protesters, who’s groups have risen to the multi-millions during active events, as a small grass-roots movement. In an effort to paint the situation in a better light, the government of the People’s Republic of China has painted the effort as homegrown terrorism and riots driven by separatists. In an effort to curb the western world’s reporting and politics on the matter, the Chinese Government has cut off several personal and public personas from broadcasting in the country. Most famously, China stopped broadcasting National Basketball Association matches following a pro-Hong Kong tweet by one of the team’s managers. Later, they banned the irreverent adult comedy South Park from broadcasting after the release of their episode, “Band in China.” According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms would later investigate and ban several pro-China ads which had ties to Chinese Governmental offices. These ads painted images and coverage of the protests as, “conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests.”

With all of that in mind, let’s now finally discuss Blitzchung and Blizzard.


This year, during the Asia-Pacific branch of the Hearthstone Grandmaster’s league tournament, pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai came out on top. Taking the tournament win, he later appeared on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream for a traditional post-game interview. Unlike past winners, however, he appeared on camera wearing a gas mask. Lifting it upward, he shouted in Chinese, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” – a familiar rallying cry to the protesters in Hong Kong. While the interview did continue afterward, it did not go unnoticed by Activision-Blizzard, who facilitates and funds the worldwide tournaments.

As of Tuesday, October 8th, Blizzard decided to ban Blitzchung for this moment in his interview. Citing the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules, specifically page 12 and section 6.1:

“Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard(s) image will result in removal from the Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.”

Pursuant to this rule, Blitzchung had his prize money taken away and was given a full year suspension from the league. After looking through the Official Competition Rules, I can personally attest that this rule isn’t an anomaly; other rules can have players banned for FAR less.

This is where the main crux of the issue began. While section 6.1 cites issues that an action which, “brings [a competitor] into public disrepute,” the entire rule is incredibly flexible. As with any major sports star (aside from OJ, Kobe, etc.), Activision-Blizzard ideally wants their winners to be as non-controversial as possible. This happens with a number of free-market companies and e-sports competitors and has emerged to a sociopolitical high point over the years. Some proponents of rules such as this point to cancel culture and the impact of public backlash, others hint towards some current cases such as Gearbox’s CEO Randy Pitchford as the ideal situation to avoid.


In a bubble, this decision makes sense in pursuant to the rules. What did not make sense was immediately firing the two casters who interviewed Blitzchung. “Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months,” the official statement reported, adding additionally that, “[Blizzard] will also immediately cease working with both casters,” who interviewed Blitzchung during his interview. This raised the concern over the interfering influence of the Chinese Government and Free Market with 5% of the company being owned by Chinese super-conglomerate Tencent. This fear was later backed up and stoked by Blizzard’s Official China presence.

Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website, is one of the largest social media platforms in China. As such, it makes sense for companies such as Activision-Blizzard to use the website to make official statements in the region, using their partner Netease to manage it. Lined up with their announcement of Blitzchung’s ban, the Weibo page eviscerated his conduct in a vicious tone previously used on the NBA’s Weibo apology. Originally reported by Rod Breslau on Twitter, “We are very angered and disappointed at what happened at the event and do not condone it in any way,” the page read. “We also highly object the spreading of personal political beliefs in this manner. Effective immediately we’ve banned the contestant from events and terminated work with the broadcasters. We will always respect and defend the pride of our country.”

Almost immediately the internet burst into flame. Rallying around the social media hashtag, ‘#BoycottBlizzard,’ fans and critics alike put the company’s feet to the fire. Just a cursory glance of the hashtag’s users show players unsubscribing from Blizzard Games en-masse including Mark Kern, one of World of Warcraft’s original game designers. Fellow Grandmasters players such as Brian Kibler stood out in solidarity with Blitzchung, quitting the league and cutting ties from the company to show their support. Blizzard employees staged mass-walkouts from work throughout last week, covering up several sites and company locations in protest. One of the more famous images features a group of Blizzard employees gathered at the famous statue out front. Holding umbrellas, the symbol of the protests in Hong Kong, the employees stand around a taped off portion of the Warcraft statue. Covered by a piece of lined paper, this section used to describe several of the company’s core values including, “Think Globally,” and “Every Voice Matters.”

Most entertainingly, or horrifically depending on if your profession is involved in marketing art, #BoycottBlizzard activists turned their gaze on Blizzard’s one Chinese character. Taking Overwatch’s Chinese climate-scientist, Mei, they’ve begun to create a legion of artwork of and about her. Citing her desire to make the world a better place for everyone, they’ve begun to draw and illustrate her as a symbol of resistance and defiance for the Hong Kong protests. Clearly, the motivation has been to have the character, if not the entire game, banned in China with artists claiming such in their work. Some, such as what we’ve featured below previously on the website, is far more tame than others on the internet.


Things reached a vital fever pitch during the Collegiate Hearthstone Championship. American University’s team during a telecasted match held up a rather familiar sign. Emblazoned with the words, “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard,” the clip was only on screen for little more than six seconds before Activision-Blizzard cut away from the footage. In a contrary decision to Blitzchung’s ban (though the rules for the collegiate tournament were not available for confirmation), the AU team was not penalized for the move and had their next match scheduled for the season. Choosing to stand with the protests, and to highlight the inequality of the rule-system, AU forfeited their match and departed the season, citing Blizzard’s hypocrisy over the issue.

Boycotts and protests continued throughout the week, even as Activision-Blizzard stated that they were assessing the ongoing situation. It is at this point I have to comment my own opinion. Whether or not you may share my pro-freedom opinion on the protests in Hong Kong, Blitzchung’s ban does fall within the rules. I share Brian Kibler’s notion that he overstepped his platform in the post-win interview, and that while the ban was justified the firing of the two casters was not. This decision, whether or not it was a mistake or an oversight, solidified it as one made by influences outside of the rule books. That is what spiraled this political dissonance with the event’s rules to a greater issue wholesale and is not condonable.

However, returning to the facts of the matter, Activision-Blizzard finally made a statement on the company’s website last Saturday. In the article, President J. Allen Brack discussed the company’s perspective on their ban, citing that their, “relationships in China had no influence on [their] decision.” The company, “now believe(s) [Blitzchung] should receive his prizing,” and re-awarded the $500’000 in cash rewards to the pro-player. However, the article was so rushed and poorly written that it failed to answer several vital questions; it took a Blizzard employee’s discord presence to confirm that Blitzchung was NOT removed from the Grandmaster’s league and would have the option to compete in the 2020 season.


This is one of those situations where both newspaper editorial pictures and internet memes seem to collide in a strange unification. While normally diametrically opposed, just about every single person hated everything about this politically charged situation. It exposes a large-scale issue with, even if Chinese money had no hand in the situation, the perception that it does. With several political discourses from the eastern world leaking into our own news systems, it is becoming very abundantly clear that the Economic and Political West DOES NOT want China’s involvement in their content. Problems arise however when we look at the world stage.

China since the early 2000’s has been making increased efforts to control the world’s political and entertainment stage. Possessing one of the largest populations world-wide, they are a major political and economic force. Political concerns have arisen during the Trump, Trudeau and May administrations in America, Canada and the UK respectively, where western diplomats are often being outnumbered in the dozens by politicians from Beijing. Continuing their entertainment subsidies from the turn of the century, China prioritizes homegrown Video Game, Art, and Movie companies for its economy. These government grants award land, buildings, infrastructure and money to native entertainment startups such as the infamously abusive Chengdu Ai-Shan Technology (which later rebranded as Blue Sky in 2014, SakuraGame in 2015, Paradise Project after a wave of public backlash in 2018, and has now returned to SakuraGame in 2019). Other foreign companies receive similar grants for their business and work in the country, which many are eager to jump on.

Highlighted recently by YouTube philosophy channel Wisecrack in their video entitled, “South Park on Freedom,” the ‘free market’ is not so free. China’s influence creates massive waves of change throughout the world’s economy, creating situations we are not aware of specifically to appease the foreign power. While jokingly referred to as the ‘Chinese Expansion,’ during its Mists of Pandaria era, World of Warcraft has begun to lean FAR more heavily into those markets with in-game stores, mobile-phone styled mini-games and increased random-number-generation rewards. Potentially, this change has been spurred on by Tencent’s ownership and Netease’s partnership, but such examples can be far more readily found in the works of Disney’s foreign films such as Iron Man 3. In this movie, an entire scene was concocted that cannot be found in any non-Chinese version of the film, where Tony Stark instead travels to China to have the arc-reactor magnet removed from his heart.


In an effort to appease the market, inevitably we will be either continuing to delude ourselves and them or suffer the consequences. Such is the problem with free speech in a free market. While notoriously more of an American concept, freedom of speech has been a hotly debated issue around the current political mine-field. As my neighbors to the south can tell you, the freedom to say WHAT you want to say, HOW you want to say it (provided it doesn’t infringe upon another’s rights) is a bedrock of democracy. It is not, however, a bedrock of economy. As we continue to see time and time again, we cannot say what we want to say (or what SHOULD be said) if we want to make money. While this has reached a fever-pitch in sociopolitical phenomena like cancel culture, China will and has taken firm-line stances on it. Weaponizing their impressive population to great effect, they effectively tanked the NBA’s earnings by refusing to air certain shows. Cutting off a demographic of that size can and will invariably damage company profits and forces the ‘free market’ to not-so-freely toe the line.

Inevitably, this situation became political revolving around China. However, like Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it is up to you if Activision-Blizzard is truly to blame in this case. Much like South Park’s non-apology, perhaps their Chinese influences too make them think that, “We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”

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Blizzcon Protest Now Being Organized

On Friday, after 5 when most news writers, including MMOGames had packed up and gone home for the day Blizzard made a statement that backpeddled their heavy handed ban of professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung. Now a Blizzcon protest is being organized by the non-profit organization Fight for the Future and the Protest Blizzcon subreddit. Yes, there’s now a subreddit.

The Protest Blizzcon subreddit has a GoFundMe campaign running at the moment with the plan of getting hundreds of Hong Kong flags for protesters at Blizzcon. They’ve already raised $3,285 though they were only asking for $3,000. The campaign is still running so there is still time to donate if you’re interested.

“This is not going away,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, “Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated.”

Dayton Young, Product Director at Fight for the Future, added, “Gamers deserve to know which companies are willing to engage in censorship on behalf of authoritarian regimes and which companies will defend basic freedom of expression. Blizzard has engaged in blatant censorship and should immediately reverse its decision to ban Ng Wai Chung, restore his tournament winnings, and repair its relationships with the livestream casters. No gamers should be punished for expressing their views on politics and human rights. And no game company should ever ban or penalize players for advocating for their own political freedom. We call on all game developers and publishers to make a public commitment to support the rights of their customers, employees, and fans to freely express their beliefs in America, in Hong Kong, in China, and around the globe.”

In case you missed it, on Friday Blizzard made a statement saying that Blitzchung would be receiving his tournament prizes and that his ban, along with the ban on the two casters has been reduced to six months. They also said that Blizzard’s decision to punish them had nothing to do with their business in China. But, Blizzard fans and gamers were unconvinced by this statement, especially as a social media post from Blizzard on Weibo was translated and it vows to protect the national dignity of China was being shared on Reddit, Twitter, and other English focused social media sites.

 

It’s unclear right now how many people will be attending the Blizzcon Protest but we will continue to follow the news as it comes.

 

Source: Fight for the Future, Protest Blizzcon Subreddit

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Blizzard Boycott Making Waves Online with Hashtag #BoycottBlizzard

Whichever social media platform it is you like you use you’re sure to find #BoycottBlizzard getting a lot of attention at the moment. Posts using the hashtag show players unsubscribing from Blizzard games and uninstalling them as well as sharing memes that are both anti-Blizzard and anti-China.

The boycott comes after Blizzard banned pro Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai and taking away all of his tournament money from this season after he showed support for the Hong Kong protests during an interview. They also fired the two casters who were interviewing him at the time.

A picture from Blizzard Headquarters shows part of the statue outside is covered, specifically the parts with the company’s core values that say “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters.” Later a group of Blizzard employees gathered at the statue carrying umbrellas, a symbol of the protests in Hong Kong.

One of the teams during the Collegiate Championship held up a sign supporting the Hong Kong protests and calling for a boycott of Blizzard. This little protest has been removed from Blizzard’s archives and so far there haven’t been any repercussions for their actions.

Now, Brian Kibler, a long-time pro caster has quit the Grandmasters in protest of Blizzard’s ban. In a statement made on BMKGaming, he said, “The heavy-handedness of it feels like someone insisted that Blizzard make an example of Blitzchung, not only to discourage others from similar acts in the future but also to appease those upset by the outburst itself. That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with. When I learned about the ruling, I reached out to Blizzard and informed them that I no longer feel comfortable casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon. I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision. Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward.”

In response to Blizzard’s actions, Twitter has been turning Overwatch character Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong protesters with images like the one seen below.

So far Blizzard hasn’t made any official statements about the boycott but this is unlikely to be the end of the story.

 

Source: Twitter, Rock Paper Shotgun, BMKGaming via Polygon

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Was a Pokemon Go China Release Hinted?

Was a Pokemon Go China release hinted at in a recent generation 5 poster? This is the question that is on everyone’s mind right now after someone on Reddit pointed out that the poster has the view of Exit B of the Grand Theatre Metro Station in Shenzen, China.

The Redditor, poiuytzxcvb included a map and images that compare the view from that spot with the poster which you can see below.

China is one of the few countries left in the world where Pokemon Go isn’t playable. This is because of its use of Google Maps which the Chinese government doesn’t allow to be used in the country. However, Tencent has been working with the Pokemon Company to get Pokemon games released in China, so it is very possible that Pokemon Go will be coming as well.

There’s only one problem with that idea.

Tencent owns Let’s Hunt Monsters, the China-only game that is just like Pokemon Go but without the massive IP behind it. Let’s Hunt Monsters just recently crossed the $50 million revenue mark and is Pokemon Go’s biggest competition in the world. Though at the moment they aren’t in competition with one another. It seems unlikely that Tencent would release someone else’s game that would be in direct competition with their own success. That’s not to say that Pokemon Go won’t be released in China, it just seems very unlikely that Tencent will be the ones doing it.

It’s also possible that the Niantic artist who created the poster just picked a random skyline that has a few eye-catching buildings and all this speculation is for nothing. But, that actually seems unlikely. We will continue to keep our eyes open and if a Chinese release of Pokemon Go is announced we’ll share that news as soon as we see it.

 

Source: The Silph Road Subreddit

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Weekly Business Report: Nexon’s Internal Restructuring, Ninja’s Leaving Twitch, and More

MMOGames Business Weekly Report is back to take a look at mobile gamer preferences for free to play games in China, the latest news from Nexon, Ninja leaving Twitch, and a few other topics relevant to the business side of making online games.

 

Automaton Games Shuts Down

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

Automaton Games, the folks who were behind the unreleased 1,000 man Battle Royale Mavericks: Proving Grounds, has shut down and in the process the game has died. In the announcement on their website, they cited a lack of funding as the reason for their sudden closure. Thankfully Improbable, the makers of SpatialOS, have said they will be trying to find places for Automaton employees in their company. Mavericks: Proving Grounds is actually the second SpatialOS game to meet its end in recent months leaving some to speculate that SpatialOS falling out with Unity earlier this year may have played a role. If that’s true, this might only be the beginning of SpatialOS related sunsets. MMOGames staff will be watching and will continue to bring updates in our weekly business report.

 

Source: MMOGames

 

Chinese Consumer Preferences

According to recently released research, over half of Chinese consumers prefer free to play or ad monetized games over premium titles. In fact, the research found that 61% of people prefer non-premium games. 85% reported they spend money on mobile games with 3% spending more than $50 (¥330) a month. In contrast, the average spending is just $5.80 a month. Those interviewed between the ages of 26 and 30 had the highest average spending at $10 a month.

The research also showed there is a high level of brand loyalty. 92% of respondents said they stick with a game for more than a week and 87% say they’ve played fewer than 5 different games in the previous month.

One challenge that developers face is how well divided the market’s stores are. In China, 30% of the market is using the App Store, 29% are using Tencent’s MyApp, and 26% use the Huawei app store. In the West we really only have Google Play or the App Store for mobile games.

It would be really interesting to see this same research completed in a few different Western countries to see how our views differ. I would personally much prefer to pay for a game or even pay a subscription for a game over being nickel and dimed to death by an in-game shop.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

Nexon Internal Merger Incoming

The last few months have been a wild ride for Nexon. First, their founder and CEO was putting the family’s stake in the business up for sale, worth between 9 to 11 billion dollars. After months of speculation that everyone from Disney to EA were interested in buying, it seems Kim Jung-ju may have simply decided not to sell. Of course, I’m sure a decision like that wasn’t made lightly. Following the release of this rumor, Nexon’s stock dropped resulting in a loss of up to 5%. Now we know that Nexon is reorganizing and merging their two core business units. No jobs are going to be lost in this internal restructuring, but the company is looking at getting rid of projects with low commercial value. They also hope that the restructuring will improve the company’s operating profits and increase its stock value. News of this restructuring started out as a rumor but was quickly confirmed by Nexon. It is set to take place sometime in August.

 

Source: MMOCulture

 

Ninja Leaves Twitch for Mixer

Ninja Fortnite

Ninja has announced that he will no longer be streaming on Twitch and is instead switching over to Microsoft’s Mixer platform. The specifics on this particular deal haven’t been released but last year he was making $500,000 a month streaming Fortnite on Twitch and a paid promotion deal with EA for Apex Legends got him $1 million, so it is safe to assume he got a pretty sweet deal. This marks a major shift for Twitch which has been seeing its growth slow over the last year.

Mixer has always been playing third fiddle to Twitch and Youtube but has also seen consistent growth. Last quarter it saw 119 million hours watched, an increase of 37% year on year. Ninja’s move to Mixer might be exactly the sort of push the platform needs to catch up to its two bigger competitors. However, Fortnite’s popularity, especially in streaming, has been on the decline. It is also possible that many of Ninja’s fans wont follow him to this different platform because they prefer Twitch. We can see an example of this in the industry already looking at people who refuse to play a game that hasn’t been released on Steam. Only time will tell how this transition actually goes.

 

Source: Games Industry

 

 

Zynga Eyes China

At one point in time just a few years ago Zynga was dominating the games industry. They were all we ever talked about it seemed like. Of course the days of Facebook games are long gone now, but that doesn’t mean Zynga is gone or that they’ve even slowed down. Zynga has been transitioning to a mobile game developer and having great success with it. They recently released Empires and Puzzles in Japan and Korea, the beginning of their strategy for expansion into the Asian market. Now they’re eyeing China.

In a call with GamesIndustry.biz Zynga COO Matt Bromberg said, “We are beginning to look at China for Empires & Puzzles as well, and as our portfolio continues to develop we have both Star Wars and the Harry Potter game on our slate for the future. When there are big global pieces of IP like that, which we think will resonate across Asia, we’re hopeful that will also help us expand there. We’re trying to take a measured approach to it, and learn as we go and make sure we have the right match of game and personnel on the ground and marketing strategy. When you get those lined up it can be terrific, but it is a complicated market and we’re still in learning mode.”

A complicated market is putting it lightly. Still, if they are successful in their push into China, they’ll be tapping into a mobile games industry with an estimated 586 million gamers.

 

Source: Games Industry

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Improbable, Epic Games, and Umi Co. Ltd. Team up to Make New MMO Code: Odyssey

Improbable, the makers of SpatialOS, Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite, and Umi Co. Ltd., the makers of…well, actually they’re pretty much an unknown Chinese developer…the three of them are teaming up to create an MMO 2.0 game currently called Code: Odyssey.

The game will be created using Unreal Engine 4 and this won’t be Umi’s first. They already have a mobile MMORPG using Unreal Engine 4 that was released in China and another one, besides Code: Odyssey in development.

From the sound of it Code: Odyssey might actually be a title we see get a global release. It’s being called a “super large scale sandbox open-world MMO 2.0” with an aim to create a global cultural IP derived from China. It is just one of many games that have been announced recently that uses Chinese myths and legends with a steampunk theme.

So far that’s all we know about Code: Odyssey. But, it caught our eye because SpatialOS has a lot of potential but doesn’t get used nearly often enough.

Dragon Raja

Also, in China, the game previously known as Project: SU which is in the works between Epic and Loong Entertainment was finally given a name. It’s being called Dragon Raja and it will be another Unreal Engine 4 MMORPG. And yes, this one is a mobile game too, that’s the world we live in now. The game will feature, amongst other things PvP battles that support up to 100 players. It’s based on the Chinese novel Dragon Raja, not the Korean one with the same name. Tencent will be publishing the game in China.

 

Source: MMOCulture, MMOCulture

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New Online Games Announced at Tencent Up 2019

Over the weekend Chinese gamers weren’t looking to GDC to find out about the latest and greatest games, they were watching Tencent Up 2019 where new online games were announced along with some familiar Western games being released in China.

Brawl Stars and Stardew Valley were just two of the titles we’ve been playing for a while now that China will finally have access to. At the end of 2017, it was reported that Stardew Valley had sold 3.7 million copies, this was just a couple of months after the game released on Nintendo Switch. Since then it has released on PS Vita, iOS, and Android. Now the game will be available to the biggest gaming market in the world.

While it is awesome that Tencent is taking more Western games to China, the real appeal of Tencent Up is when they announce new titles. There were four titles announced and we’re going to break them down below.

 

Codename LN, Land Next

It looks as though Tencent is getting in on the Battle Royale action with their very own game, LN. It is a PC game that brings together two things you don’t often see together; Steampunk and Ancient China. According to local media, movement looks similar to Apex Legends. It’s being made by Tianmei Studio, an internal Tencent team who worked on one of the PUBG mobile games as well as Call of Duty Mobile. There is no timescale or release date for this game yet and no word on if it will be released in the West. But, based simply on the setting, we don’t hold out a lot of hope for a Western release.

 

Codename SOC

Codename SOC is a mobile zombie survival game that has been in development for two years now. Lightspeed & Quantum Studios are the minds behind the game. Previously they’ve made a PUBG Mobile game and worked on more than a dozen titles since 2008. The game is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and boasts a seamless open world. Also, the trailer looks kind of badass so be sure to check it out. No word on a release date for this game or a Western release. But, we’re pretty hopeful about this one. Sure, zombie survival games have been done to death, but this game looks amazing and the fact that its open world leaves us wondering what we don’t know about the game.

 

Ace Force

Ace Force is an Anime style team shooter similar to Overwatch, except that it’s a mobile game. The game has a large variety of characters, each with their own unique abilities. There are several game modes and maps to play on. One interesting thing it also features is the ability to switch characters during play. While this game has seen a few small test phases in the past it is going into a larger beta phase next month in China. It’s possible that this game will see a Western release in the future, but it’s equally possible that we will never see the game. Our personal opinion here in the office is that it will largely depend on how well the game performs in China.

 

The Outcast Mobile

The Outcast is a Tencent IP that started its life as part of the Tencent comics platform. Thanks to its popularity it got a 2 season anime called Hitori no Shita: The Outcast which aired in 2016 and 2018. Now, it is being turned into a mobile game. The game has 4 clans which 2 unique characters in each who are dealing with the supernatural using their powers. What does that mean exactly? Who knows. There is no release schedule for this game yet. As for a Western release…it’s our opinion that it’s never going to happen.

 

Source: MMOCulture

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NetEase Introducing Mobile Game Curfew in China

According to a report from China, Daily NetEase is introducing a mobile game curfew in China for younger players of their games. The curfew will be in effect for children and teenagers and will prevent them from logging in to select mobile titles. From 9:30 PM to 8:30 AM anyone underage will have access to games restricted in an effort to curb game addiction.

The new system will also restrict how long those under 18 can play each day. For children under 12, they will be allowed to play for one hour each day Monday to Friday and 2 hours on the weekends. 13 to 18-year-olds will be able to play for 2 hours during the week and 3 on weekends.

Knives Out

Players won’t be able to get around this by not registering either. All unregistered users will only be given 2 hours of gametime period. They will also be prevented from making in-app purchases. Parents of gamers will be given the ability to monitor how much time their child plays and their spending habits on a new platform called NetEase Parenting Care.

This will all be rolled out starting this month with 15 of NetEase’s most popular titles including Fantasy Westward Journey, Knives Out, and Onmyoji.

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this be put in place in China. Tencent started doing something similar in 2017 and even took it a step further by using police databases to get underage players who try to work around the rules. So the age-old idea of just pretending you’re 18 so you can have an adult Neopets account won’t work. Not that anyone in the MMOGames office EVER did that!

It is very likely that we will continue to see this sort of thing happening with mobile game companies that operate in China. The real question is if we will ever see this happen in the West. It seems very unlikely, but only time will tell.

 

Source: ChinaDaily via Gamasutra

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TJ Sports to Handle League of Legends in China

Tencent and Riot have come together form TJ Sports (short for Tengjing Sports), a new company based in China that will oversee and expand League of Legends esports in China. Both companies have invested in this new company equally and the management will also be made up of top executives from both companies. So far, $78 million USD in capital has been made available for this new company.

TJ Sports has laid out three main goals for 2019. First, finalize major rules such as esports rules, wage rules, and business cooperation rules. Secondly, Optimize their business model. Lastly, improve new player development plans.

At the same time, the announcement of this new company was made the partnership list for the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) for 2019 was released. The head partner for this year is Mercedes-Benz. Other partners include KFC, Alienware, Doritos, and L’Oreal Men Expert just to name a few. The equipment partner will be with DxRacer. Media rights partners include Huya, Douya, Panda TV, Bilibili, Tencent Sports, and Weibo.

All of this is important to note because last year LPL broke the 15 billion viewers record. So there’s certainly a lot of money to be had. It makes perfect sense that with those kinds of numbers you see a new company being formed just to deal with it. In the future, it looks like we can expect more news about sponsors as they’re looking for title sponsors. Nike is also currently in negotiations for a sponsorship deal. Though according to sources this would be exclusively under the condition that LPL teams don’t seek out other sponsorships. It will be interesting to see if the Nike deal goes ahead or not as that is quite a hefty restriction to put on teams.

TJ Sports is also going to be involved in charity and social work, though there is no further information on that yet.

 

Source: Esports Observer, MMOCulture

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