Big news in gaming this week – Sony has partnered with Shanghai Oriental Pearl to manufacture and sell its PlayStation consoles in China, giving Sony access to millions of gamers.
The Chinese government’s decision in January to allow international brands to sell consoles was a game changer and console manufacturers from around the world want to profit from the previously impenetrable video-game industry in China, which PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts will generate £6bn in sales next year. And it’s game on, because Microsoft also announced that its Xbox One will go on sale in China this summer too.
Traditionally a nation of PC-gamers, it should be interesting to see how these big players fare in this new market over the next 12 months.
Are you a gamer?
It is estimated that there is a vast number of gamers in China, but I wonder how many of those people actually consider themselves “gamers”.
Traditionally, the term “gamers” is associated with a fairly negative stereotype, one that gaming companies have worked very hard to tackle. A recent survey from Pixwoo found that the average console gamer is a 35 years old with a job and a family, as opposed to a 14-year old surly teenager, playing games all night, alone in a dark room.
However, the negative stereotype has proved hard to shift – and this might have something to do with why so many people who spend hours playing games on their mobile phones still don’t consider themselves to be “gamers”.
There’s no doubt that mobile gaming is growing at a phenomenal rate. For traditional gaming publishers that invest millions in production over several years to launch blockbuster games like Grand Theft Auto and Halo, the disruptive Free-to-Play (F2P) mobile games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds, have presented a tricky conundrum. The publishers have taken a while to catch up but it’s safe to say they’re definitely forging a place for themselves on our smartphones (EA’s Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a personal favourite!). Activision’s response back in 2011 was to open The Blast Furnace– a team of experts ready to start churning out world-beating mobile games. Despite these high hopes however, earlier this month, the company announced that it was closing the studio despite several relatively successful game launches. Either Call of Duty on mobile wasn’t quite as fruitful as they’d hoped or they decided that mobile wouldn’t be part of their business strategy anymore.
Mobile gaming has also presented a challenge to the gaming media too. For decades they’ve been writing for console/PC fans – but today, the vast majority of gaming comes via the tablet and smartphone. More gamers can only be a good thing but the only problem is that those who play mobile games don’t tend to consider themselves gamers and therefore don’t read gaming magazines or websites. How then are gaming titles supposed to reach this new audience?
Smartphones are the most popular gaming device for Britons and mobile gaming is changing the “gamer” demographic. So it’s time to accept that if you play games on your smartphone, then you are in fact a gamer. Welcome to the club!
Closing the gaming gap
Before discussing the topic I’d like to start off by stating (loud and proud) that I’m gamer – I love gaming, my only regret is that I rarely have enough time to sit back, relax and enjoy a good game!
The stereotypical perception that gamers are socially awkward and geeky has continued to follow us around, leading to people avoiding the topic of gaming altogether – removing any reference to gaming from their CVs and social media platforms. So where does this social stigma stem from and is it getting any better?
This stigma is generational with gaming slowly becoming more socially acceptable as the multi-million dollar industry continues to boom with companies churning out one impressive game after another. Over the last few years we’ve also seen a shift in marketing with companies such as Nintendo marketing its popular Wii console as a ‘family friendly’, social gaming experience. The Wii targets people of ages – from children to grandparents – who can now participate in an activity that was once perceived as an individual one. That being said, with the virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, coming our way very soon, all this work to promote social gaming could take a 360 turn as the headset could throw gaming back into this outdated concept that gaming is an individual activity. We’ll just have to wait and see how the gaming community will adapt this great technology to make it more inclusive.
Either way this is an exciting, gaming-changing development and I’ll be the first in line to buy one the second it launches!
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