It's game on for mobile phone users

Updated: 2013-05-10 07:12

By Yang Yang (China Daily)

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 It's game on for mobile phone users

A staff member of Tianjin Pictograph Technology Co displays the company's mobile phone games. Jia Lei / China Daily

Tianjin developer gets head start on even playing field for gaming on the move

On a crowded train in Beijing's subway, a young woman is leaning against the wall and playing Temple Run on her smartphone. A man beside her is blasting zombies on his tablet computer, while nearby another's thumbs are frantically negotiating an avatar through a digital assault course.

Indeed, it seems the half of the carriage is engrossed in their mobile devices. On their daily commute, many young Chinese play video games to kill time - and with the rapid advancement of technology, there will be more.

No surprise then that leading developers of online computer games such as Tencent, Sohu and Kingsoft have started to produce mobile games this year.

In 2012, China's mobile game users numbered more than 200 million, surpassing the 180 million desktop computer gamers.

"We are expecting a big market for mobile games this year," says Angel Liu, general manager of Tianjin Pictograph Technology Co Ltd, a fast growing mobile game producers in China.

The market value of online games, which include client games, Web games and social games, was 60.2 billion yuan ($9.7 billion; 7.5 billion euros) last year, and the share for mobile games was only 4 billion yuan.

"It is estimated that this year, the share for mobile games can reach 10 billion yuan," Liu says.

Founded in August 2010, Tianjin Pictograph Technology specializes in developing large-scale cross-platform online simulation games. Liu says she expects the revenue to reach between 60 million yuan and 70 million yuan this year.

Last October, the company launched its first online simulation game, City of Splendor, targeted at smartphone and tablet users aged from 15 to 30. It soon became popular in the Chinese mainland.

In China, games are usually designed to meet users' wishes to compete with each other and to show off individual abilities in the virtual world, but in the West, people prefer to play games for relaxation in a more social context, Liu says.

"So we have weakened the competition theme and strengthened the social function," she says.

The global mobile game market value in 2012 was $17 billion, with the US' 100 million users accounting for 30 percent. China has 220 million phone users and its market share is growing fast.

In the area of computer online games, China lags far behind Japan and the US, but on the smartphone platform, Europe, the US and Japan, like China, have all just started.

For single-player mobile games, the most important thing is its protected creative content, like that of Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies and Temple Run. But, in China, if a good game is developed, it will soon be copied. This is why Tianjin Pictograph Technology has decided to focus on online games.

"We cannot make money if we do single-player games," Liu says.

For the past 12 years, Chinese game players have become accustomed to paying for online games.

"For City of Splendor, in terms of artistic design, story-telling and programming, I think we are on the same level as US companies because we are one of the first companies to develop games on smart platforms," Liu says. "We have some innovations in this game, including the ways to fight, besides technological advantages."

The company has developed a "multiple-platform 3D engine" that can write codes for the games.

Yuan Zhanyang, vice-general manager of the company, says the engine can develop games for both Android and iOS systems at the same time, which will cut costs and save time.

In China, there are less than 10 companies that have their own development platform. Most have to seek cooperation with a third party to develop the games.

The second cross-platform 3D simulation game, with a Star Wars setting, will be finished at the end of April, and is also targeted at the international market.

(China Daily 05/10/2013 page12)