How Activision understands online gaming in China

Regular readers will know that underestimating the culture gap is the quickest way to fail when entering the Chinese market. From eBay competing, and being completely outmanoeuvred by Alibaba, to Groupon’s relationship destroying arrogance (source: Tech in Asia), the business landscape of China is littered with the husks of failed Western companies. Online gaming in China is a fast growing market, and Activision is determined not to repeat the mistakes of businesses in other Chinese markets when it launches Call of Duty Online after three years of preparation.

When the game launches, it will do so on the players’ terms, not Activision’s. How have they managed this?

Optimised for local connections

China struggles with low internet speeds, particularly in rural areas. This is one of the biggest challenges facing online gaming in China, where a secure, reliable connection is vital to ensure that players from across the country can interact and compete together. Slow internet speeds can result in huge loading times, low framerates, and render certain games unplayable. Internet speed is why online games, even in the West, typically have graphics that seem a lot less advanced than console games.

With this in mind, Activision has spent much time and effort developing the game so that it looks good, whilst not requiring a massively fast connection to play. This research and development focus will ensure that Call of Duty Online doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.

Partnering with key domestic players

It may seem odd, but Activision’s partner in bringing Call of Duty Online to China is Tencent: publisher of the most popular online game in China, Crossfire. Tencent also have shares in Activision, so they have an interest in ensuring the company does well in the lucrative market.

By teaming up with such a large player in Chinese online gaming, Activision gain access to a huge number of Chinese gamers. Their association with a known and trusted domestic brand will help Activision gain credibility and win over Chinese customers, who can be slow to trust but incredibly loyal.

Studying Chinese online gaming competition

Call of Duty Online is a very different game to Crossfire. It involves a much more complex set of controls and the ability to multitask during gaming – something Chinese gamers don’t usually have to do in the same way as Western gamers. This could be a potential problem for Activision, who anticipate Chinese gamers feeling daunted by the potential of Call of Duty Online.

To address this problem, Activision have taken special care to make the tutorial level of the game as comprehensive as possible. They have identified that Chinese gamers have different needs, and so have adapted their offering to address those.

By paying careful attention to the state of online gaming in China, and identifying the problems and concerns of online gamers in China, Activision have given themselves the best possible chances of succeeding in the market.

(Image source: Baidu Baike)