Game localization in China

Marcus Toftedahl spent one month in China to further build sustainable relationships between Scandinavian and Chinese organizations as well as to collect data for his PhD project, which focuses on game localization. The game researcher spent three weeks in Shanghai and one week in Beijing and was left with a lot of new knowledge, impressions, and collaboration possibilities.

By Game Researcher Marcus Toftedahl from the University of Skövde

During my Shanghai visit, I had the pleasure to get a working space at the Shinezone office in the New Pudong area of Shanghai.

Shinezone is a privately funded company focusing on developing mobile games to be released to a western audience. The office, close to the Shanghai Exhibition Center and the beautiful China Art Museum, covers two floors of one of the many office buildings in the area. Some 150 developers are working on a multitude of projects in different stages, ranging from early prototype versions to soon-to-be-released games.

Game localization in China

China Art Museum – a landmark of the New Pudong Area in Shanghai

One of the games, Flower Town, is due to be released soon and frequent testing sessions were arranged during the finalization of the project.

I got the opportunity to be a part of some of the sessions and give feedback to the developers regarding the game design and content. An “early access” version is already released on Google Play under the name Flower Town Lite as a part of the development of the full version, simply to gather player metrics to form the final version as close to the likings of the target audience as possible.

Game localization in China

Flower Town Lite, available on Google Play

Shinezone have prior to their focus on mobile games had a number of web games released on big web game platforms such as Kongregate and Armor Games.

Shinezone have a strategy where they use an incubator-like model to get new projects and game ideas into production. Teams get to pitch games to the management and if successful the team gets a period of development time to make a prototype to prove their idea is working. If the prototype is successful, the project can be assigned more resources for further development and a subsequent release.

To be a part of a thriving game development office such as the one at Shinezone has been invaluable for me and my research project.

One of the research questions I am exploring is to get an understanding of how games are developed in different regions, and to be able to get direct access to the teams at Shinezone gave me knowledge about the eastern view of the western game market and also deeper insights into the Chinese game development culture.

Next stop: indienova in Beijing

The three weeks at Shinezone flew by and was followed by a week in Beijing where I had the pleasure of once again meet and discuss games with the passionate people at indienova.

During the Game Hub Scandinavia project, we have had some interesting exchanges with indienova such as the game jam held last summer in Denmark. This was something we would like to do again as well as further the concept in different ways.

Also, the broad contact network of indienova have led to interesting opportunities not only in the entertainment sector of games but also within the serious games field.

Since serious games is an area where the University of Skövde has been specializing in for some time now it is very positive to see interest of using games for other purposes than entertainment in China as well.

The gaming scene has grown big in China, and in just a year you can see the differences.

The smartphone penetration has really made an impact on many levels, where actors such as Tencent and Alibaba have a stronghold with their Wechat and Alipay services.

One observation I made was that during last year’s trip it was totally fine to rely on cash for payment everywhere but this year the mobile payment services are everywhere. I was asked on several occasions if I had Wechat Pay or Alipay when trying to pay with cash.

The presence of games in shopping malls and other public places is also apparent with VR experiences in open areas of the shopping centers. On the top floor of one of the big Shanghai malls, I found an e-sport arena next door to the big cinema complex, seating some hundred spectators.

Game localization in China

The So Real VR experience in Beijing offered custom made rooms for multiplayer virtual reality games

Games will continue to grow and China as a market will be more and more interesting and important even for western developers.

The next Game Hub Scandinavia trip to China is planned to take place in May, and I will have more opportunities to meet people and observe game-China from my game development researcher perspective.

There are excellent opportunities to make interesting things happen between China and Scandinavia within the games domain but to meet on a personal level is a must and this is something we will continue doing even if the future is virtual.