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It’s the biggest game in town!
By Zhu Shenshen

GAMES, gadgets and glamour. ChinaJoy, Asia’s biggest game fair, opens this week in Shanghai.

The China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference 2014, known in shorthand as ChinaJoy 2014, will feature a larger-than-ever exhibition area and a record number of exhibitors, companies and investors from around the world.

“ChinaJoy has grown into Asia’s largest and the world’s leading game event since its inception in 2003,” said Han Zhihai, secretary-general of the organizing committee. “It will offer enhanced professionalism, stronger compatibility among game firms and greater entertainment than ever before.”

ChinaJoy will be held in the Shanghai New International Expo Center from July 31 through August 3. Some 500 companies from over 30 countries and regions are expected to participate. They include NetEase, Shanda, Kingsoft, Youzu, Tencent, Perfect World, Giant Interactive, Yinhan and Suzhou Snail Games.

Event organizers said more than 700 game products will be exhibited across 100,000 square meters. About a quarter of a million visitors are expected through the turnstiles.

The scope of this event befits the size of the market.

Client-end online game revenue in China last year topped 54.9 billion yuan (US$9 billion). Three China-based companies — Tencent, NetEase and Shanda — took the top three market rankings, according to Analysys International, a Beijing-based research firm.

There is so much to see and do at the event that some visitors may find it all a bit overwhelming.

NetEase and US-based Blizzard Entertainment will be offering hands-on playing opportunities for the Blizzard-developed Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft, which debuted with new patches in Chinese servers operated by NetEase.

Apart from familiar faces such as EA, Blizzard Entertainment, Ubisoft, Intel, Nvidia, Crytek, Alienware and Logitech, newcomers will be joining the event, thanks to the opportunities afforded by the new China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone. Among them, Microsoft will present its Xbox One console, and Sony will show its PS4 console. Each of the technology giants has leased about 1,000 square meters of exhibition space.

Meanwhile, domestic console and video game producers like The9 and TCL will also be demonstrating their latest products.

Mobile game platform providers, distributors and content providers will also be on hand, reinforcing the important role they play as mobile games emerge as the fastest-growing segment in the Chinese game industry.

The usual array of showgirls will be adding sex appeal to booths. And ChinaJoy will also feature a grand Cosplay carnival show comprising an online feast and a national contest. The ChinaJoy Cosplay online feast was officially launched on February 12, combining the online contests of ChinaJoy Cosplay Cover Coser and ChinaJoy Cosplay DV. The national final contest of Cosplay Carnival will be held at ChinaJoy, gathering finalists from 29 Chinese cities.

In 2014, the game industry has started to penetrate traditional industries, including film, television and new media. It is also playing an important role in national economic growth. Game firms are expanding into new areas, including finance and education. Therefore, ChinaJoy will not only be an event for game players, but also a festival for anyone interested in a myriad of related applications.

For example, Guangzhou-based Yinhan Games, a mobile game firm with investment from film giant Huayi Brothers, will be attending ChinaJoy 2014. Shanghai-based Shanda Entertainment will showcase a new film based on popular game Dragon Nest.

Company executives and investors can head to the ChinaJoy BTB space, which will be separate from the main halls for consumers. The business-to-business area will showcase brands, products, technologies and capital opportunities related to building comprehensive business services platform.

The special area is designed to encourage communication and cooperation between domestic and international game companies and highlights the significant role ChinaJoy plays in shaping, driving and developing the industry.

Besides domestic firms like Baidu and 360, 115 overseas companies from over 20 countries and regions, including the United States, Korea, Scotland, Poland and Taiwan, will be on hand at ChinaJoy BTB as exhibitors.

Highlights of ChinaJoy 2014

New home entertainment devices and services, mobile game development and cross-industry integration dominate the trends at ChinaJoy 2014.

Home entertainment

Game consoles, including Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox 360, are expected to shine in their ChinaJoy debuts, after the government allowed overseas firms registered in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone to sell game consoles in the Chinese mainland.

Sales of foreign game consoles have been banned in China for 13 years. The two firms, which both have joint ventures with local partners in the zone, have set up large booth areas to display star devices and game products during ChinaJoy. It will be the first time for players can access hands-on experience on the top consoles, with localized interface and contents.

“The Free Trade Zone is helping the Chinese market align itself with the global home entertainment and devices market,” said Takehito Soeda, vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

Revenue in the home entertainment market globally was estimated at up to US$40 billion last year, accounting for almost half of the total game market, analysts said.

Sony’s PlayStation 4, the world’s most popular game console, will enter the mainland via joint ventures with Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group. Sony hasn’t unveiled a detailed timetable yet.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is expected to begin mainland sales in September.

Sales of Sony’s PlayStation4 have topped 7 million units globally, followed by Microsoft XBox One with sales of 5 million units.

Mobile games and industry integration

Mobile games have a larger user base than games on personal computers. In order to appeal to untapped audiences, like women, mobile game companies and handset makers will be displaying various products designed to appeal to traditional non-players.

As of June, China had 368 million mobile game users, accounting for 58.2 percent of total mobile users. That proportion rose from 54.7 percent at the end of 2013, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Qihoo 360, CocoaChina, China Mobile Games (CMGE), iDreamSky, UC, Kunlun Games, China Unicom, China Mobile, China Telecom, Baidu and Alibaba will occupy large booth space during ChinaJoy 2014.

China Mobile Games and CocoaChina, the country’s top 2 mobile game firms, plan media conferences at ChinaJoy to promote their products. Traditional game titans like Giant Interactive will be unveiling new mobile game products during the show.

Coolpad, the No. 2 China brand in the domestic market, will attend ChinaJoy for the first time, exhibiting game and entertainment platforms alongside phone models. Game-related products help boost sales of handsets, especially 4G smart phones with bigger screens and high-speed Internet connections, said the Shenzhen-based firm.

Shopping, travel booking and games are most popular mobile applications in China, according to the network information center.

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