People play computer games at an internet cafe in Fuyang, China’s Anhui province.
Lu Qijian | Visual China Group | fake images
LONDON – After decades in which the United States and Japan dominate the gaming space, China’s influence is growing as its tech giants take over gaming studios around the world.
Now, some experts think that video games could look a little different in the coming years as a result.
Questions are being raised about whether Chinese owners of American and European studios will try to influence the games they make, or whether they will use them to promote Chinese values. It remains to be seen, but subtle changes could occur in the coming years, according to some experts.
“Some of these values may be different from what many expect,” British-Chinese writer Lu-Hai Liang told CNBC. “For example, Chinese female gamers are a huge market (500 million) and there have been many games and game studios focused on women who delight in this sector.”
Thomas David, a semiconductor engineer from the US, told CNBC that he thinks gamers could start to see more titles where the “good boy” is Chinese and the “bad boy” is from the West, for example.
China’s own gaming market is heavily regulated. It does not allow games containing certain political opinions, gambling, gore, nudity and many other things to be published and sold in its local market. The film industry is just as strict, with American movies have to be adapted before they can be released in China.
Exporting Chinese culture
“This area, how China could use games to export its culture, is incredibly important and is greatly missed,” Abishur Prakash, co-founder of the Center for Innovating the Future, told CNBC.
“China has various ways of bringing its ideals to the world through games and building a new kind of global power,” Prakash said. “One way is to prohibit certain issues from being discussed, like Taiwan or human rights,” he said.
China could also establish “new centers within the games that help show the power of China,” or use the games to develop its financial and commercial power, he said. “Upcoming Chinese games may only allow users to buy items in digital yuan,” Prakash said. “Or, Chinese games could have Chinese platforms, like TikTok, built in.”
Others doubt that Chinese owners of Western game studios will try to change the games sold in the West.
“I’d be very skeptical if something like this happened,” Louise Shorthouse, senior gaming analyst at Ampere Analysis, told CNBC.
Steven Bailey, a principal analyst at Omida, told CNBC that “Chinese companies have been involved in various Western game and content companies for quite some time, and they understand that the successful creation of games for the West will not be supported by such changes.”
He added: “Conversely, anyone who releases a game in China will have to adapt it for that market.”
“Tencent continues to buy the number one game in all the niches in North America and Europe,” wrote technology investor Rodolfo Rosini on Twitter in February. “This is important because games have cultural influence. And controlling the present and how reality is portrayed is very powerful.”
“If Tencent bought a stake in each of the major newspapers and television companies, people would be up in arms, there would be political audiences, etc.,” he added. “Instead, they are playing long-term and buying the properties of the next generation media without competition.”
For years, Hollywood has spread American values around the world and defended the country’s military might. Now it could be China’s turn to try to do the same, but through video games. Yet while Hollywood is often critical of the United States and Washington DC’s actions, China’s tech giants couldn’t say a bad word against Beijing, which exercises great control over all of its domestic companies.
China has more players than any other country, making it a very lucrative market for those who can enter. One of the reasons American and European gaming firms accept investment from Chinese companies is that they are legally required to partner with a Chinese company. before your game can be released in the country.
UK-based Sumo became the latest game firm to sell to a Chinese tech giant on Monday, announcing a $ 1.26 billion deal with Tencent, which is the world’s largest video game publisher.
No company immediately responded when CNBC asked how, or indeed, if Tencent will influence the games Sumo works on.
But Tencent has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to its investments and acquisitions, according to Daniel Ahmad, a senior analyst at Niko Partners.
“The company could also be an invaluable partner for Tencent as it seeks to enter the AAA gaming space with its own projects,” said Ahmad.
“The deal would also help Sumo use Tencent’s expertise regarding game development and publishing in China,” he added.
“Chinese game studios are looking to grow overseas and while organic growth is an option, the acquisition allows these companies to build a presence much faster and with local talent,” said Ahmad.
Tencent also invested $ 150 million in Reddit in 2019, pissing off some Reddit users in the process who were concerned that the platform could experience more censorship. However, this does not appear to have happened in a significant way.