Category Archives: Shanghai

Ebox – A Console for China

Lots of news these days about Lenovo’s announcement of the “Ebox” – a game console built in and for China (as well as the rest of Asia). It’s not the first time a Chinese console has been attempted – Shanda’s own homegrown console (EZ Station) of years past had similar aspirations towards the Chinese console market. Where Shanda stumbled hard on a variety of marketing, hardware and software issues – one hopes Lenovo’s experience in device manufacturing can see them through to a retail product.

But the real challenge isn’t going to be the hardware, games or interface (though those things need to be right) – it’s going to be penetrating a market which is already saturated in terms of digital content portals. China is, by in large, an online country. Games, TV, music, movies, shopping, eating – everything is faster and easier online. How do you supplant (or just supplement) an existing digital pipeline that’s functioning well enough to turn companies like Tencent into “juggernauts“?

Here are couple of things I think they’ll have to get right if they’re going to have a chance:

1. Make it online only.
2. Build an iTunes-like store interface (easy to navigate, uncluttered).
3. Enforce platform-wide interface and quality guidelines.
4. Enable quick, easy payments for purchases (link into existing payment 5. channels used in Internet Cafes).
6. Cross market titles on and off platform (with Tencent, for example).
7. Sell it for a loss and make the profits in software.
8. Don’t make it “too Chinese” (Chinese consumers love foreign brands).
9. Attract license content which already does well in China (Transformers, World of Warcraft, Hello Kitty).
10. Partner with big brands looking to fund advertainment (Coke, Nike, Audi, etc).

Further (and probably most importantly), successfully attracting an initial market will require killer apps. Without developers to create highly creative and attractive game offerings, the platform will go nowhere. And if China’s lacking one thing – it’s a large number of developers experienced in the creation of AAA console content. Never mind the global lack of experience in creating content for motion control enabled systems like Kinect – we’re all trying to find our footing there.

Personally, I wish them all the luck in the world. It’d be great to see the miraculous growth of the Chinese gaming market bolstered by a quality console offering with the requisite offering of great games. If we’re lucky, the entry of a Chinese made contender will eventually serve to open the market to an influx of foreign made consoles and games.

A few notes in the margins… There’s a lot of confusion in Western press about restrictions on gaming and gaming consoles in China. For a primer filled with useful facts, I highly recommend reading through China gaming legal expert Greg Pilarowski’s China Video Game Industry Legal Primer (July 2010)

An excerpt from the primer reads:

In many jurisdictions, including the United States and Europe, the video game market is dominated by console games. In mainland China, however, game consoles are prohibited. In addition, video game software for use with game consoles or PCs are subject to very high piracy rates. As a result, China’s video game market is primarily an online game market, with revenues from this segment not only constituting nearly all of video game revenues, but also representing a leading internet application in the market by revenue. In June 2000, the State Council issued the Notice on Launching a Campaign against Video Arcades, which prohibits the manufacture and sale of both coin operated arcade game machines and television console game machines.

Although the stated purpose of the notice was to strike against video arcades in order to protect the youth and ensure public order, the notice was drafted broadly and is now the primary legal barrier to the importation, manufacture or sale of game consoles such as the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii.

Notwithstanding the prohibition on game consoles, there is a substantial black market for their sale in China.

And finally – many industry articles seem to take pleasure in labeling the Ebox a “copy” of the Kinect while neglecting to mention (as they once did) that Move and Kinect are themselves reactionary moves (copies) of the successful paradigm shift initiated by the Wii.

“Peasant Da Vincis” at Shanghai Rockbund

Chinese Farmer Sub

Chinese Farmer Built Submarine

From ArtObserved:

On May 4, the exhibition titled “Peasant da Vincis” curated by the renowned American-Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang opened in Shanghai. “Peasant da Vincis,” featuring a combination of inventions by Chinese peasants and works by the artist that explore the subject of human creativity. It is also the inaugural show for Rockbund Art Museum, the first contemporary art museum in the historic riverfront area of Shanghai, known as the Bund.

Read the full article on ArtObserved.

Over the weekend I visited the new Rockbund Museum to see “Peasant Da Vincis” – a exhibit featuring an array of awesome hand-made inventions created by peasant/farmers from around China. I’d previously read with great interest of home-built inventions like the walking, talking rickshaw-pulling robot, fully functional submarine, homemade airplane and helicopter – but I never thought I’d get a chance to see them up close… much less RIDE ON THEM!

The exhibit allows direct interaction with some of the devices – you can actually ride the robot rickshaw. Other inventions like submarines and airplanes are on display inside an open-air atrium filled with birds. The ingenuity and creativity exhibited in the design, construction and function of these devices is truly inspiring.

If you’re interested in checking it out visit the Rockbund Museum website for more details.


Wind Power to Blow Strongly

From Shanghai Daily: Wind power to blow strongly

CHINA is expected to increase its total offshore wind-power capacity from 5,000 megawatts in 2015 to 30,000MW by 2020, a senior official at a hydropower institute said.

“Shanghai as well as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong and Fujian provinces have already submitted their offshore wind-power blueprints. Their combined off-shore wind power capacity could reach 22,800 megawatts by 2020,” said Wang Minghao, vice president of Hydropower Planning Research Institute, who spoke at the Offshore Wind China Conference yesterday.

Read more on Shanghai Daily.

Every time I read a story like this about energy in China it gives me a little bit of hope. While the world reels from oil-related catastrophes (see Gulf of Mexico, Nigeria, Singapore) China continues to push aggressively towards meaningful renewable energy goals:

China is aggressively expanding its renewable energy consumption to reduce reliance on polluting fuels like coal and oil, and plans to increase the proportion of renewable energy to 15 percent of the country’s overall energy mix.

That, combined with Chinese consumer/manufacture awareness of energy efficiency and resource scarcity, means China could become a beacon for sustainability – that is if they aren’t pushed to consume the world first.

Off the Map in China

Off The Map in China

Off the Map in China

Gamasutra has posted an interview by Christian Nutt with your truly. It begins with…

Famous for his work with id Software and on EA-published cult classic Alice, American McGee set up shop in Shanghai, China, in 2007 with his new studio, Spicy Horse. Though the company’s first game, Grimm, for the GameTap digital service didn’t make a big splash, McGee maintains that developing the game was instrumental in setting up a tightly-run and efficient organization in China, one which has helped him reexamine the very process of developing games.

In fact, McGee suggests that most of what developers know about working in China is wrong. He suggests that process can lead to a crunch-free environment and great quality games — his team is currently working on a sequel to Alice for EA, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

Says McGee, “EA has talked about trying to figure out how it is we’re doing what we’re doing, because clearly they’re looking at what we’re doing and they’re seeing us hit all the milestones and come in ahead of time, and come in high quality, and everything that they could ask for from a development team. [But] I don’t know if you could export it.”

Christian and I go on to talk about life and work in China, cultural and development impacts on starting and running a studio in Shanghai, and more. You can read the full article here.

Also, if you’re interested in some of the thinking that originally inspired me to move to China, I suggest you check out “Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic” The book examines how American culture has become obsessed with consumption – and how it’s destroying people’s ability to be happy with themselves and what they have.

When China Rules the World

Hangzhou Temple Art

Ancient Chinese Beauty

I really enjoyed this article over on LA Times regarding Chinese vs. Western views of the world.

The issue here is much deeper than Western-style democracy, a free media or human rights. China is simply not like the West and never will be. There has been an underlying assumption that the process of modernization would inevitably lead to Westernization; yet modernization is not just shaped by markets, competition and technology but by history and culture. And Chinese history and culture are very different from that of any Western nation-state.

After being in China for 5+ years (part of that admittedly spent in “China-lite” AKA Hong Kong) I can attest to the huge gulf that exists between the cultures – something that can be bridged in places (art, music, films, games), but that I think will always (and probably *should* always) remain of two worlds. One aspect I particularly like is the relationship between state and people (at least when it works), as mentioned in the article:

The Chinese state enjoys a very different kind of relationship with society compared with the Western state. It enjoys much greater natural authority, legitimacy and respect, even though not a single vote is cast for the government. The reason is that the state is seen by the Chinese as the guardian, custodian and embodiment of their civilization. The duty of the state is to protect its unity. The legitimacy of the state therefore lies deep in Chinese history. This is utterly different from how the state is seen in Western societies.

All this comes from the author of a thought provoking book called “When China Rules the World” by Martin Jacques. Check out his website HERE.

Adrenaline Vault Interview

PRC Flag

PRC Flag

I’m featured in a podcast interview over at Adrenaline Vault – some details provided over at their site:

Episode 56’s guest is American McGee from Spicy Horse. American dropped what he was doing in China to chat about his history in the industry, and provided some interesting insight into where he’s been and where he sees both himself and games going in the future. He also revealed what he could about Alice 2, and addressed the infamous trailer.

Head over to listen to the podcast.