Sometimes, it is nice to pause and reflect on events that you have attended, and perhaps think more deeply about the impact certain innovations (in this case) within the game industry, might be having on us all. Yet, there was none of that in Shanghai, infact reliving the event leaves me with only one mental state; that of being smashed over the head with a virtual sledgehammer, like a scene from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’
In all my years of attending conferences, I have rarely seen the kind of consumer fervour witnessed at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC). The facility itself covers some 300,000 square meters of indoor and outdoor exhibition space, which is spread across 17 exhibition halls. It actually took me two hours to walk from one end of the show to the other. But believe me, it’s worth the wander!
‘ChinaJoy‘ is short-form for the China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference and it showcases online and mobile games, hardware products (related to entertainment) and is effectively ‘split’ between consumers and trade visitors.
Each hall opened up a vast treasure trove of giant gaming brand names and their respective crazy character live shows — that focused the mind on the plain fact that the Chinese game companies have a truly massive scale, the likes of which some Western markets might find it hard to comprehend. The China ‘stands’ themselves which dominated the landscape, arose more like mini villages, but were often (not surprisingly) way bigger than their Western counterparts.
This year, according to Official Data just released, the number of ChinaJoy visitors reached 325,452, which exceeds the levels recorded in 2015 (272,900 attendees) an increase of nearly 20 percent! During the exhibition, game companies aggressively showcased more than 400 game products, in which over 50 games were ‘first release’, and importantly, half of those were VR games. On the biggest day, in terms of consumers, Saturday (30th July) hit an incredible 108,000 visitors including nearly 80,000 members of the general (fee paying) public.
As I walked, somewhat agog, through the packed crowds, hall after hall of entertainment unfolded – many bedecked with TV and movie stars, plus hosts of local celebrities – as well as immense multi-screened theatre stages, along with specially constructed e-sports arenas, all of which wonderfully assaulted the senses. Indeed NikoPartners (a provider of market intelligence covering the games industry in Asia) wryly commented: “Chinese gamer’s are enamored with live game platforms to watch eSports online. Some of the larger platforms took part in ChinaJoy, including Longzhu, Douyu, ACFUN, and Bilibili. There were lines of more than 300 people waiting 2 hours, just for the chance to meet a famous online anchor or commentator. Douyu reported that they had 200,000 visitors to their booth, which had 300 anchors & commentators for consumers to meet in person.”
At one point, the relative tranquility of a Minecraft ‘walk through’ on the Xbox stand that featured pagoda’s, ornate waterways, Chinese decorations and even fluttering butterflies; almost made time stand still. Just as, on the other end of the spectrum, I was left squarely transfixed by the Minecraft zombie troupe that managed to knock-out a juddering dance routine to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Whilst Virtual Reality was everywhere and certainly the main source of excitement for the consumers trying out different hardware, the launch of two mobile games revealed at ChinaJoy also generated some media hype; in particular the Legend of Mir, MMORPG mobile (using the new Unreal Engine 4). Plus Final Fantasy Type-0 which is a MMORPG for mobile devices, and will be released in China first later this year.
It is fair to say, that the Chinese game fan goes ‘all in’ on this one, and the number of character costumes for Cosplay is quite an entertaining sight all by itself. Something wryly noted in this Asiasmack blog when a female Cosplay character turned out to be a convincing male model! At ChinaJoy, ordinary folk can become instant camera magnets for the media (who themselves are there by the thousands each day looking for stories). But no matter, the Cosplayers stride around the auditorium simply pretending to be ‘virtually’ famous.
Attaching your mobile device to a particular VR-worthy headset may well seem overly clunky at this moment in time; but short of installing a massive 360-degree rotating rig in your house, it’s the easiest way for today’s game-playing generation to get thrust into virtual reality, and the appetite was definitely there for all to see in what was, a scorching hot Shanghai.