Nike Partners released a focus group finding last week that mirrored a lot of what I suspected was inevitably going to happen in China, not only in the communities that traditionally have been hardcore and more communal in general, but what's also been happening in the United States for years now.
Findings ranged from the migration of hard-core male gamers to F2P or casual games, as well as increasing boredom of Chinese hard-core gamers with existing MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft or EverQuest. And not too surprising given the increase in wealth of the Chinese, a tendency to play from home on fancy new gaming systems.
Niko outlines four key points that I'll respond to in turn (all of which are really quite obvious and expected without a survey from my own viewpoint):
Why spending per gamer is falling as the number of gamers is rising
The economy certainly has influence, as well as the continued growth in China's population. The migration from monthly (or in the case of the Chinese, hourly) fees to F2P games is surely another cause.
Why online game operators need to heed the success of SNS games
SNS games are being played more often, so online game operators naturally should account for this growth and tweak their services accordingly, if they want to survive and even profit from the transition.
What the differences are in gamer behavior between cities of different tiers
This is perhaps the most complicated of the four. I've been to all the major cities in China, and I have to say that each one is very different in any given category you wish to pick from, including the game industry.
For example, Beijing has a growing but a more classical gamer base, while Shanghai is rapidly becoming the hotbed of the Chinese game industry in both classical and new-age forms. I compare these two cities to Boston and New York, respectively.
What the reality is about Internet café usage
Chinese Internet cafe's are often a mysterious product of a low-income, gamer-rich culture. They are typically hidden away deep within the bowls of major cities, only being found by the hardiest and most desperate gamers out there.
I happened upon a few by accident and came across a rather low-key atmosphere. Everyone essentially kept to themselves, even though they were right next to each other. I would compare it to attempting to setup a game LAN party in your mother's basement, while your mother is home. It can be fun, but is obviously limiting.
With incomes gradually rising in China, I can only surmise that Internet cafe usage will steadily decline. However, I make some reservations on this, understanding that the density of Chinese cities afford a new way of looking at how one spends time outside of the home, irregardless of what is available in that home.
You can find the Niko press release on Gamasutra here: