IP-adapted game industry 'needs ingenuity'

Dara Wang

IP-adapted game industry 'needs ingenuity'

Content creators and game companies on the Chinese mainland must work harder for quality upgrade and innovations in the intellectual property adaptation business, industry insiders urged on Thursday.

At a forum at the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable, themed “Maximising Benefits of Cross-media Collaboration”, they said creators and companies should not be concerned only about how much money they can make.

Members of the audience had voiced disappointment over the poor quality of many IP-adapted games in China which, the panelists warned, would risk ruining the reputation of IPs.

“To sustain profit growth, content creators need at least three to five years to develop a mature, well-made IP, and game publishers should not push them too hard,” said Xie Guangcai, executive vice-president of ChineseAll Digital Publishing Group — the first Chinese digital publisher to list on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2015.

However, in China, many game companies are chasing after popular IPs for quick profit returns. The IP creators, on the other hand, are eager to sell the authorization right of their IPs once their IPs reach a viewership of more than 10 million, according to Leon Gao Shouzhi, president and founder of EntGroup — a research company specializing in the Chinese entertainment industry.

The games produced in such a rush do manage to attract millions of users, many of whom are fans of the original IPs, in the early stages of the launch, but fail to sustain them due to the game’s poor quality. Unfavorable comments on such games can often be seen in the social media.

Statistics from EntGroup show that in China, only 20 percent of IP fans are satisfied with the game adaptations, while the satisfaction rate with films and teleplays is between 50 and 70 percent, Gao said.

He pointed out that views should not be the sole standard when considering adapting an IP into a game, since not all subjects of IPs are fit for games adaptation.

He cited the game adaptation of the movie Aftershock, which was directed by Feng Xiaogang and based on the massive 1976 Tangshan earthquake that killed 240,000 people. Though the movie raked in US$78.47 million at the box office in China, the disaster and tragedy theme should not be entertained, Gao said.

Sophia Xie Fei, chief executive officer and director of Shanda Game — the early market leader in the PC-based games era — said while selecting IP for adaptation, the theme must convey positive values if a classic is to be forged.

As a company with a near 20-year history, Shanda commands a group of loyal players of its classic titles, such as The World of Legend, Dragon Nest (CN) and The Legend of Mir. “A game’s spiritual core, such as the brotherhood and the determination to protect the world’s peace, can keep users for more than 10 years,” Xie said.

Touching stories

Cartoon creators at the forum echoed Xie’s views, emphasizing that touching stories and positive images are crucial to their popularity.

Leo Huang Weiming — the creator of two super IPs, Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf and Happy Heroes, and general manager of Creative Power Entertaining — said cartoons need to cater to audiences of all ages, and a positive story can be better promoted by word of mouth.

“The leading role of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf was not the ‘pleasant goat’, but the ‘lazy goat’ at the beginning,” Huang said. “We decided to let the former be the star as no parent would want their children to be lazy, while a pleasant, brave figure can be a good model,” he said.

Xu Han, creator of “Ali the Fox” and founder of Dream Castle Culture, said IP authors should be responsible in the cultural cultivation.

He urged IP creators to look for inspiration from the Chinese culture to “make the story and the figures more attractive and help increase our own cultural impact on future generations”.

Since March this year, mainland authorities have stopped approving licenses for new games. Game companies could still launch their games, but for beta tests only, at no charge. A beta test is the second phase of software testing in which a sampling of the intended audience tries out the product.

A report by research firm CNG showed that the Chinese game industry experienced the slowest first-half-year growth compared with the past five years. CNG was assigned by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television to compile a report on the country’s game industry.

Many game companies are seeing huge losses because, on one hand, they could not produce new games and, on the other, their old games have lost customers. These may force them out of the market, warned Xie Guangcai.

In his view, companies should give thought to how to keep customers longer rather than relying on just taking advantage of trendy topics.

Sound performance

Xie estimated that “the shutoff is temporal and license approvals will resume, but the quota will be limited”.

Despite the stagnation in the game industry, China Mobile Games and Entertainment Group (CMGE) — the largest mobile game publisher in China — put up a sound financial performance in the first half of this year. The company’s net profit surged 66 percent to 162.7 million yuan (US$23.7 billion), according to Bloomberg. In September, the company applied for a listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

CMGE has launched 61 games, 10 of which have managed to stay in the market for more than three years.

Hendrick Sin, co-founder and vice-chairman of CMGE, told the forum the company is dedicated to developing original IPs of good quality. It is a major strategy switch for the company, whose entire revenue came from game publishing a year ago.

CMGE said it will publish 50 new games by the end of next year. The themes will include Chinese fantasy, wuxia or martial arts, and adventures.

Looking to the future, the panelists said there will be more possibilities in the form of game adaptations. With the aid of technologies that are pushing the boundary, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, game adaptations will bring more immersive experience to users and will be integrated closely with other kinds of spin-off products of IPs, Xie Fei said.

No matter how far the advanced technology will take us, we mustn’t forget our cultural roots are where the core competitiveness lies, panelists concluded.

The forum was co-organized by China Daily Asia Pacific and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council as part of the Business of IP Asia Forum held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.