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My China Joy

Shanghai’s China Joy games conference is an insane experience.

Setting aside typhoon Jongdari which hit Shanghai and temporarily reduced the temperature to around 30 degrees, and ignoring being served soup containing a closed-eyed, open-beaked pigeon, the conference itself is a spectacle…

Eardrum-shattering anime music combines with glossy stages full of showgirls strobed by hundreds of mobile flashes, vast screens of streamed gameplay and game trailers loom large above great swathes of hyped-up humanity.

For the more than 300,000 gamers who flock to the 18 hangar-sized halls, it’s clearly intoxicating. Many are ‘Cosplayers’ who transform themselves into in-game characters for the event. There are over 4,000 games represented from more than 30 markets, and unlike other gaming events around the world, around 80% of China Joy is mobile rather than console/PC games. 

Over in the B2B conference area, and the neighbouring business suites of the Kerry Hotel, there’s potential in the conditioned air. Back to back daytime meeting schedules flow seamlessly into dinner meetings followed by glamorous industry parties on rooftops clustered around the iconic Bund area of the city.

So what’s emerged from all the chat (and WeChat)?

Industry belief in the capacity and capability of mobile hardware has now reached the point that no console or PC game is beyond the reach of mobile games developers and publishers eager to bring the same experience to mobile. Given so many more people around the world have smartphones, this year is the first in which mobile gaming revenues at $70.3bn (+25% yr on yr) have eclipsed those from PCs and consoles at $67.5bn (+1.6% yr on yr according to Newzoo). We’ll see more and more blockbuster conversions hitting the app stores as time goes by – Call of Duty from Activision and Tencent is in the pipeline for release in China in the coming months for example, and we know of plenty others in development from our various conversations.

In an unconventional move, one blockbuster PC to mobile conversion NOT to hit ALL the app stores is Fortnite from Epic Games. This runaway success has snubbed Google Play and will instead make its Android version available to download directly from its own website. A pretty ballsy move by all accounts and one which allows Epic to sidestep the 30% margin Google take from in-app purchases via Play. This is controversial since Android users will be forced to ‘side-load’ the app outside of the secure environment of the app store. Where there are vast numbers of hungry gamers racing to reach the battlegrounds, there will be fakers routing unsuspecting folks to inadvertently install malware on their devices. It’ll be interesting to see how Epic and Google respond here.

Turning to eSports, the industry’s growth globally is nothing short of phenomenal. With professional leagues and tournaments all over the world selling out stadiums, it’s serious business. Olympic standard drug testing has even been brought in to discourage pro-gamers from using Adderall and other performance enhancing drugs.

Millions more still are tuning in via streaming platforms like Twitch and Facebook and via TV channels like Ginx TV, ESPN, Disney XD and ABC. The industry is awash with sponsorship and broadcast rights deals. Toyota were the first non-tech brand to jump in as league sponsors alongside Intel and HP but we predict many more will follow suit. Amazon-owned Twitch invested $90m for the exclusive broadcast rights for Blizzard’s Overwatch league.

Gaming brands can now afford to offer eye-watering prize funds. Back in 1997, a chap called Dennis played Quake and walked away with the world’s first eSport prize: the Ferrari 328 previously belonging to the game’s developer. This year Epic Games has pledged $100m in prize money for Fortnite tournaments around the world, and last year’s International 7 offered the biggest ever prize pool for a single tournament at $24.6m! Tencent believe the industry will grow from $760m in 2017 to a predicted $1.5bn by 2020.

According to a recent report by iResearch, 1 in every 5 people in China have played eSports, so it’s small wonder China Joy has lived up to its reputation as the most intense and ambitious games conference in the world. I for one, look forward to dodging typhoons and the Shanghai pigeon soup to soak it all up again next year!