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05年的论文Strategies to Improve the Competitiveness of Chinese Online games  

2007-06-04 12:51:18|  分类: 游戏开发 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Strategies to Improve the Competitiveness of Chinese Online games

 

 

Introduction

 

At present, the global online games industry has become one of the most important industries, paralleled with film, TV and music. Its sales have already exceeded the annual income of Hollywood. Although online games have just started in China, their rapid developing pace, huge profits and attraction to game consumers caught the attention of government, corporations and other parts of the society.

 

This paper introduces the background of online games and analyzes Chinese online games market and the competitiveness of online games. The main part of the article focuses on the strategies to improve the competitiveness of online games. How to improve the online games? How to prolong the lifecycle of the product? How to improve the services of game companies? Each of the above questions is to be examined in the following parts. At last, the author analyzes the case of The Sims Online, one of the most successful online games in US, and provides a summary of factors that lead to success.  

 

I. The Competitiveness of Online Games

 

1.1 The Definition of Online Games

 

Online games are games that are played via the Internet. They are distinct from video and computer games in that they are normally platform independent, relying solely on client-side technologies (normally called 'plugins'). Normally users only need a web browser and an appropriate plugin provided by the plugin maker’s website.

 

1.2 The Chinese Online Games Market

 

The history of Chinese online games is quite short. However, the development is quite rapid. Online gaming is becoming big business in China and Chinese online games market is forecasted to be the biggest one in the world by 2007, according to USA’s Dallas-based analysts Diffusion Group.The Online Game Research Report by Shanghai iResearch Co., Ltd pointed out that online gaming revenue was only RMB370 million in 2001 and will reach RMB665 million in 2005.USA’s research house International Data Corporation (IDC) indicated that the market will increase at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 39 percent from 2003 to 2008.Besides, the value brought by China online games industry to other industries is 5 times of that produced by the online games industry itself.

 

1.3  The Competitiveness of Online Games

 

Compared to the other entertainment ways, online games have some unique attractions. Thanks to the rapid development of the Internet, more and more people choose to play online games for relaxation instead of hanging out or calling people to hold a regular party. The amazing history content, the beautiful characters of the game and the community formed around the game are the main components of online games’ competitiveness. To put it simply, the experience to create a completely new life at player’s will in the virtual world drives people to the game.

 

II. Strategies to Improve the Competitiveness of Online Games

 

2.1  Expanding Customers

 

Exclusiveness is one essential characteristic of online games. You can not expect gamers play two or more games at the same time. Therefore, the major problem is how to attract target gamers, which we classify into hard-core gamers and moderate gamers.

 


2.1.1 Hard-core Gamers

 

This group of people is the key target for online games publishers. They have wide open pockets for a game they want to try or keep on enjoying. It is said that this group of people has represented most of the available revenue of the online games market.

 

Most of these people tend to try each new product the market offers, yet they may quit after they find there are nothing interesting or difference compared to other online games. They prefer more complicated, challenging games. It is the hard-core game players who have been actually brought about the success of products like Everquest (EQ), Diablo II and Counter Strike.

 

2.1.2 Moderate Gamers

 

This group of people spends quite a bit of money on video and computer games and tends to on a weekly basis. The difference is that many of them are actually afraid of getting as involved as their hard-core counterparts; they know what a time and money drain hard-core online gaming can be. Some are constrained by the financial aspects, afraid of spending more money than they think they should. Some are similarly concerned about spending more time than they (or their parents, spouses, or others) think is psychologically healthy and/or generally prudent on a game.

 

They prefer playing games that are easy to learn and short in duration. If they do not receive enough guidance and human contact, they will most often quit. New players who receive effective help within the first hour or play have a 90% chance of staying for two or three months. If a new player receives human guidance quickly, chances are very good that he or she will become “hooked” and become a hard core player of the game.

 

2.2  Exploring New Markets

 

The latest statistics of Chinese Online Games Research Report by iResearch Inc. confirms that the Chinese online games market is dominated by games developed in South Korea (52%), while games developed in China account for a very small market share (27%).How to obtain the share of South Korea in the Chinese online games industry is the imperative task ahead of domestic online games companies.

 

In current Chinese online games market, US and European game publishers only share 4% and Japanese 3%. Japanese and US game publishers are eager to enter Chinese market with their mature products. For example, Sony’s PS2 and Microsoft’s Xbox appeal to the world game market, yet, no domestic game companies have ever cooperated with them currently.

 

To explore the new area of online games also means that game developers should have a clear definition of its target customers in mind. Currently, most developers focus on massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), and the profit returns have been narrowed down. Companies should specify the market and beat their opponents through specialization. For example, most white-collar ladies prefer small table games which require less time and are easy to access.    

 

2.3  Improving the Product

 

Since the current top 5 online games, which are all MMORPGs, have a share of 48% in the Chinese online games market as illustrated in figure 1, a competitive game product is strongly recommended.

Figure 1: Market Share of Chinese Online games in 2003

Game publishers should take the following strategies into account while they launch a new product.

 

2.3.1 Transplanting PC Games into Online games

 

Famous PC games have strong appeal to game publishers who want to control the budget on game design. Therefore, it has become the successful business model of game development to bring PC game online.

 

For example, Blizzard Entertainment’s Starcraft, released in 1998, was sold as a single campaign-based strategy game in which participants built up an army in any one of three races and fought against enemy forces. It became popular ever since the appearance. The developers adapted the game for online playing and allowed players to wage a campaign against one another through the Battle.net service. The free Battle.net service included in the game allows players to engage each other rather than compete against the computer. The multiplayer option in Starcraft makes the game extremely entertaining and with much more dynamic opponents, as players never experience the same battle twice.

 

2.3.2 Independent Research and Development 

 

Most of the game companies in China do not have their own products. They used to be agencies of foreign game publishers, mostly Korean multiplayer online game publishers.

 

Despite the copyright royalty, the agency has to share about 30% of the profit with the game publisher. In 2003, Korean game publishers got totally KRW72 billion from the Chinese market. If domestic game companies want to compete with foreign ones, the major problem they face is to develop and design game products of their own.

 

 

 

2.3.2.1 Government Support

 

In October 2004, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) carried out a project of publishing China’s national online games. In the coming 5 years, one to two billion yuan will be invested to help China’s enterprises produce 100 online games. Meanwhile, the implementation of this policy clearly shows the government’s attitude to online games. Its concrete measures will promote the development of domestic online games. From October 5 to 7, 2004, the Second Chinajoy Exhibition was held in Shanghai New International Expo Centre. The scale of the exhibition was larger than the last one, including both domestic and foreign game companies. Officials from the Ministry of Finance attended the exhibition, which showed the government’s strong support for the development of domestic online games industry. The year of 2004 became a year in which the government provided strongest support and took most measures to foster domestic online games.

 

2.3.2.2 The Advantage of Independent Design

 

First, independent design offers new opportunity for domestic game companies. In current Chinese online games market, the main stream is MMORPGs introduced mainly from Korean. To some degree, domestic gamers have become bored with the current gameplays. They ask for new elements of the online games.

 

As for domestic game companies, they have advantages in the field of game design. A well-developed story of the game is the key point to keep the players stay with the game; the current gameplays of most MMORPGs are examples. Players are willing to try the game with Chinese characteristics instead of the current outlandish fantasy. For example, China’s biggest online games providers Shanda has introduced hundreds of Korean games into China during the last few years, yet most of them disappear in one year. Meanwhile, the Chinese Odyssey Onlineby NetEase is still thriving in the Chinese online games market after it entered the market three years ago. And more and more Chinese culture-based online games achieve success in the market, such as Blade Online by Sina.com and so on.

 

Secondly, independent design means the independent scalability of the game. As we have mentioned above, the agency has to pay the copyright royalty to foreign game publishers and share about 30% of the profit with them. Further more, the agency has no right to change the gameplay to appeal the domestic players, even they know some gameplays of the game are not satisfied. The elimination of game bugs also needs the help of the game provider, which takes long time. Given that the company has designed its own online games, the situation may be totally different. The game provider can set up an efficient feedback system to improve its game regularly. Therefore, the lifecycle of the game can be prolonged. NetEase keeps adjust and improve its Chinese Odyssey Onlineevery Thursday morning, which wins great reputation among its players and attracts more new gamers.  

 

2.3.3 Prolonging the Lifecycle

 

Given that the lifecycle of online games is about 18 months, we suggest publishers keep adding new elements to the issued game. Take NetEase for example, it takes its game studio consisted of 600 workers 5 years to develop its own online games If the games quit the market quickly, it may be a huge waste. To prolong the lifecycle of the game means the publisher could take into account the following methods:

 

2.3.3.1 Regulation Improvement

 

The essential difference between online games and single PC games is that the regulation of the former can be adjusted and improved by game developers. Take Chinese Odyssey Onlinefor example, player killing (PK) is one of the popular events among players. However, unrestricted PK can be very discouraging to new players, who can be easily slaughtered by more advanced characters played by experienced players. In the MMOPRG virtual world, advanced players kill beginners for fun and you can imaging the results: lost customers, bad word of mouth and millions of dollars left on the table.

 

After realizing the effect PK brings, game designers quickly adjust the PK system. Under the new regulations, advanced players can not kill new players, and they have to buy kill incense, a particular tool, at a high price in order to attain the right to kill other people for one time. Killers will be sent to virtual prison after killing somebody on purpose. Meanwhile, they held regular friendly matches for PK enthusiasts. The immediate adjustment of the rules help NetEase win back its players.

 

2.3.3.2 Preventing Waigua and Private Servers

 

Waigua

 

Waigua is a type of software designed to automatically conduct activities for players within the gaming environment in order to quickly increase their level even when they are not actually at their computer.

 

In China online games market, Waigua is the main field of contention between online consumers and game providers. Savvy online game players tend to take advantage of even the slightest design weakness in a virtual world environment to help them gain advantage in the gaming environment and ultimately obtain financial gains. Most online games players in China cheat, especially advanced players. The existing of Waigua enlarges the unfairness between advanced players and elementary players, which causes the loss of consumers.

 

The essential factor caused the failure of Legend I is the abuse of Waigua. Players of Legend I advance by killing monsters and earning their living in the virtual world by looting the defeated monster. However, due to the game bug of Legend I, some players program a Waigua which can help them steal other players’ battle trophies including the character experience and loot from the monster. Although the game provider has taken further steps to prevent the abuse of this kind of Waigua, programmers seem at the advantage at the battle. Therefore, Players have to say goodbye to the game for the unfair treatment in the game.

 

To solve the Waigua problem, we can consider the following methods: First, game developers must make sure the Beta Test is long enough for them to eliminate potential bugs. Secondly, game masters should keep an eye on the gamers and award the exposure of cheaters. Thirdly, the game provider should set up a monitor system to inspect its players and punish cheaters.

 

Private Servers

 

Private servers are an even bigger potential problem for game providers than Waigua. Due to the lack of confidentiality in Internet, the server source codes of online games are easy to be stolen, hacked, or otherwise leaked. As a result, some people set up their own game servers using the leaked source code and charge users for playing on their own servers. Not only do those people who run such illegal private servers not pay any licensing fee to the game developers, they typically charge players lower fees, which results in sharing the market with official game servers.

 

Private servers are generally acknowledged as a serious problem in today’s online games market. To solve the problem, game providers would better work with the government and law enforcement authorities to crack down upon the usage and spread of private servers in China, and improve the security of their server source codes.

 

2.4 Improving the Service

 

The products and services are both important in the running of online games. At the very beginning, providers attract their customers through its free Beta Test. However, the company needs to get its investment return and win profit by charging the gamers. How many players stay with the game sometimes depend on what services are provided.

 

2.4.1 Communication

 

Players want game providers to deal with them honestly and with integrity. They want them to have two-way in-game communication, by telephone and the web, so that they can get responses immediately.

 

All the present online games in China’s market are paid games. Most players have suffered a sudden death in the game for more than one time, for their balance of the prepaid card has run out. To offer players an easy way to buy prepaid card is called for. To solve this problem, NetEase sets a good example for its counterparts. Players can buy Yi Ka Tong (Easy Entrance Prepaid Card) offered by NetEase from all press booths or super markets available. Meanwhile, NetEase, cooperated with China Telecom and the main Banks of China, created an e-sales system enables them to sell virtual pre-paid game cards, which simplifies logistics by eliminating the need for, and the cost of, physical game cards.

 

2.4.2. Reliability

 

Recently, more and more netizens consider online games a new way to relax, most of who devote their leisure time to the character in the virtual world. They create and experience a completely new life in the game, which they have longed for. In this sense, the reliability of the system is strongly recommended.

 

When we talk about reliability, we focus on two points: the security of player’s personal data in the game and the guarantee of transmission speed. Game providers should make sure the data of the players are safely saved and protected. All the data should be backed up in the sole server which has been locked day and night.   

 

2.5 Bringing the Game to Reality

 

Home players are looking for a good solo experience, while online players are looking for opportunities to have a good time competing or cooperating with others as well as socializing. They are more willing to attach to an in-game micro-community, which generally becomes part of the meta-functions of the game, such as a story plus, a team event and so forth.

 

Politic game runners know how to make full use of players’ desire to socialize.

 

Shanda provides Wireless Value-Added Service for its customers. It has entered into arrangements with China Mobile and China Unicom, the primary mobile telecommunications operators in China, to offer in-game and out-of-game short messaging services (SMS). The in-game SMS enables its online games users to communicate with mobile phone users from their game screens by sending and receiving short messages. The out-of-game SMS enables users of some of its casual games to acquire certain in-game equipment and other features by sending short messages from their mobile phones.

 

The NetEase Game Studio sets its own community channel for each of its online games and brings the community to its web site. It encourages players to establish their own communities both in and out of the game. Meanwhile, it holds regular activities such as experience exchanging meetings, cosplay shows and live competing matches on holidays.

 

III. Sims Online --- A Case Study

 

Online gaming is still an evolving genre, with new features and enhancements emerging with each new title. Many of the most popular games, both old and new, provide a wealth of different online features and gameplay adaptations.

 

The case of Sims Online will provide a bird view of the factors that lead to success.

 

 

3.1 An Overview

 

The Sims Online

 

Developer: Maxis

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Platform: Windows Available

Category: Simulation 

Features: Simple interface based on The Sims game

Real-time interaction

Players can join or create their own property.

Players learn skills to earn money.

Money is used to improve a player’s residence.

Players can establish relationships.

Simple and effective chat

Working with others helps to increase skill and money.

Friendship Web is used to track others.

 

3.2 An Analysis of Successful Features

 

3.2.1 Transplanting PC Games into Online Games

 

To transplant PC games into online games has become one successful business model of game development among which Sims Online is one of the successful cases.

 

Sims Online is an online adaptation of the popular The Sims Life Simulation and many changes have been made to better acclimatize the game for online play. In the single PC game The Sims, players are placed in a supervising position where they had to observe and effect their characters environment and lifestyle choices. The online version places focus on developing an individual in a social setting. In the game, players are given the ability to live a virtual life and interact with others through an online system of social interaction. The in-game characters are no longer affected by choices made, but rather controllable and much more representative of the individual players

 

3.2.2 Unique Gameplay

 

To play The Sims Online, players must first create a character and screen name. The characters created can become very personalized, as players can express their race, dress, hair color, or facial features (and change them later in the game if they like). When first entering the game players can choose the region they wish to live in, and are given a thousand dollars in currency to spend. Each player starts with the same statistics and abilities. While players are not required to complete any single or immediate objectives within the environment, they are confronted with the need to earn money and establish alliances with others. Players in The Sims Online can spend time learning skills to enhance their job levels and earn money. By reading books, playing chess, or even carving lawns, players learn skills and earn money that can be used to enhance the house they are living in and their individual character’s attributes. Players whose houses have objects from which others can learn skills will get a small portion of money as players increase their abilities while using these items. Players can spend the money however they want: buy property, build a residence, or find other individuals to become roommates with. Of course, decisions required of the players depending on whether they own a home or lease a room as they must decide how to help their property generate revenue as well as attract and keep roommates happy.

 

3.2.3 Meeting the Need of Communication

 

Communication is a noticeably large part of what makes The Sims Online succeed. Players meet with others on a constant basis, and the game relies on making connections with those people. With that in mind, chatting with other players is as easy as simply typing on the keyboard. Socializing with other players makes the online world much more fascinating, as each dynamic character an individual encounters contributes to the experience of playing the game. A major feature, which helps players meet and communicate with new people, is the friendship web. The friendship web, which is optional, let’s players add people they meet online to a visual web so they can track them when they move and keep tied to one another. This feature provides players with a method by which they can meet new acquaintances, via degrees of separation through a common friend.

 

3.2.4 Favorable Regulations

 

By adapting The Sims for online play its developers have initiated new ways for players to interact and perform tasks similar to the original, while enhancing them with online features. Rather than developing the game as a life simulator, The Sims Online has changed into a social experience with less focus on the individual characters needs and lifestyle. The world in The Sims Online is continuously growing with new players joining the system every day, and updates to the items you can buy and learn skills from. With a large community of players, and the randomness of people connecting to the system, it seems as if you are meeting and interacting with new players constantly.

 

Players can have roommates, whom they must work with to improve their home and generate income. Players can collaborate to buy objects and build additions to their home in hopes of increasing the number of visitors. The only feature in the game that immediately requires collaboration to take place between players is a job object. These objects generate money at a high rate, and by working together, players can earn more income than working alone. Job objects require a number of players, each with different skill levels in different areas to participate in the task they present.

 

3.2.5 Optional Game Channels

 

In Sims Online, players can participate in one of many smaller games, which pit them against one another. Each of these games allows two or more players to play one of a few different games for profit or fun. The games range from chess to a crocket style game where players must guide a ball into a specific location. These games are optional, and are not required to progress in the world. Each game, in effect, provides an additional method of interacting and communicating with other players.

 

Conclusion

 

GAPP has carried out a project of publishing China’s national online games, recognizing the positive rippling effect that games could have as an exciting, profitable and exportable cultural media product. How to weaken and get rid of the control of foreign games companies in the China online games industry is the imperative task ahead of domestic online games companies.

 

Based on the analysis, the author of this article concludes that, in competing with foreign games companies, domestic online games companies could win through learning from their foreign counterparts and improving their products and service.


Notes:

 

  “Internet Game”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_game

  Chen, Margaret, “China Online Gaming Report: An Analysis of the Chinese Network Games Market”,

http://tdgsecure.secure-shops5.com/product.asp?itemid=27&catid=31

  上海爱瑞市场咨询有限公司, 《中国网络游戏行业研究报告》, 2004, p.9

  Ren, Qun and Yang, Xiaosong, “Analysis of the Development of Chinese Online Game Industry”, p.1

http://www.mindtrek.org/liitetiedostot/materiaalit_editori/142.pdf

  丁伟, “中国网络游戏为何被‘863’相中?”, 2004,

http://game.163.com/game2002/editor/040628/040628/040628_216727.html

  上海爱瑞市场咨询有限公司, 《中国网络游戏行业研究报告》, 2004, p.11.

  Ibid.

  Ibid.

  丁伟, “中国网络游戏为何被‘863’相中?”, 2004,

http://game.163.com/game2002/editor/040628/040628/040628_216727.html

  新闻出版总署, “关于实施 中国民族网络游戏出版工程的通知”, 2004, http://gameweb.163.com/cgpa/article/new13.html

  强大实力依托,支撑网易冲击百万”,

http://xy2.567game.com/bbs_show.asp?id=72  

MacInnes, Ian and Hu, Lili, “Business Models for Online Communities: The Case of the Virtual Worlds Industry in China”, 2005, p.5.

  MacInnes, Ian. “The Implications of Property Rights in Virtual Worlds”, p.4.

http://e-business.fhbb.ch/.../b1013216f68a694ac1256f100027a530/$FILE/SIGEBZ05-1668.pdf

 


References:

 

Chang, Jiewen. 2005. Market Analysis of Chinese Online Games. In China Publishing 24,4:19-22

CNNIC. 2004. “14th Statistics Survey Report on the Internet Development”, http://www.cnnic.net.cn/download/2004/2004072003.pdf

IGDA Online games Committee. 2002. “IGDA Online games White Paper”.

Laird, John. 2004. “Principles of Game Design”, http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/soar/Classes/494/talks/Game-Design-principles.pdf

Mulligan, Jessica and Patrovsky, Bridgette. 2003. Developing Online games: An Insider's Guide.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1592730000/102-5277632-9904917?v=glance

“Products and Services”,

   http://www.snda.com/en/products/service.htm

Ren, Qun and Yang, Xiaosong. “Analysis of the Development of Chinese Online games Industry”

http://www.mindtrek.org/liitetiedostot/materiaalit_editori/142.pdf

“The Sims Online”,

http://pc.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r18483.htm

Ye, Yuan. 2004. “What Have Online games Done to Us”, http://www.chinatoday.com.cn/English/e2004/e200406/p54.htm

“2004中国网络游戏产业发展研究报告

http://www.chinalabs.com/cache/doc/04/07/19/1703.shtml

国产网络游戏运营未来的深度思考

http://www.chinadv.com/hygc/mtgc/200503/2225.html

上海爱瑞市场咨询有限公司, 2004,《中国网络游戏行业研究报告》.

 

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