Staying ahead of the game

Updated: 2014-01-08 09:12

By By CHEN JIA in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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In a move to reach out to potential US players, Beijing-headquartered mobile card game developer Locojoy plans to open an overseas office in Silicon Valley in February.

"We plan to aggressively pursue our North American marketing in 2014," Xing Shanhu, the company's founder and CEO, told China Daily. "Because the US market is so large, it simply can't be ignored."

He is busy looking for office space in Silicon Valley, where, he said, everything happens in this industry.

"It is home to Apple, Google and Facebook, not to mention countless gaming and related services companies," he said.

"It's also where the talent is. If you want to be a global player you have to go where the action is," he said.

Locojoy's US team will be run by an American and support the parent company in local expertise, marketing and product planning.

"Eventually the goal is to develop business relationships with local American studios and publishing houses," Xing said.

In 2014, Locojoy plans to hire a US marketing director, a business development director and related lower-level staff, all with a gaming or Internet background.

Xing founded Locojoy in 2011, personally investing 200,000 yuan, and, with friends kicking in, brought the startup fund up to 3 million yuan.

"At that time I was thinking, if I can't get angel investment or investment from friends, I will sell my house," he said.

Fortunately, it was not necessary. Xing recruited his team and did the initial work out of that house.

He started with fewer than 10 employees and now has nearly 300.

In 2012, the company was struggling to find a hit just as card games on mobile phones were starting to take off.

Xing thought a mobile game would be relatively simple and low cost to make. "But the real inspiration that changed things for us was picking up the I am MT IP license," he said.

"We recognized that the cartoon and its style would lend itself perfectly to a card game that could be played on a mobile device. The cartoon also has a plethora of characters we could put into the game."

The card game is based on a popular cartoon series in China, featuring a group of heroes in the World of Warcraft, a humorous take-off on a best-selling PC game.

"With the advent of app stores on the Internet, any game studio can instantly compete with the major players globally. The barrier to entry is relatively low in mobile games," he said.

Chinese companies should absolutely keep an eye on worldwide trends when they are considering products to make, he said.

Many Chinese developers make the mistake of only focusing on China because they feel that's what they know, but the wider market is so much larger, he said.

Having the Japanese gaming market as a benchmark and comparison tool is helpful to new Chinese start-ups.

"The two markets are becoming increasingly similar, so what is popular and does well in Japan, can usually be successfully imported over to China, or used as inspiration for new games here in China," he said.

When it comes to mobile gaming, there are some limitations on how much detail and depth you can put into a game, he said.

However, with the ever improving phone design and quality of screens and battery life, the mobile gaming industry is always moving forward and breaking new ground.

For today's Locojoy, the biggest opportunity is to become a local leader in a massive and growing market.