Despite Internet Censorship China’s Social Gaming Market Grows

In China, it is almost harder for residents to get access to censored information via the Internet than it is to acquire goods on the domestic black market. While Internet censorship in China started off blocking what the government deemed to be controversial political and historical websites, the ban has grown to include everything from adult content to entire search engines. One area that has seen consistent growth despite restrictions in China is the social gaming market. With approximately 124 million of China’s Internet users currently signed up for social networking websites, sites like 51.com are hopping on the social gaming bandwagon. What interests these Chinese social networking websites is the fact that US players can’t seem to get enough of the games, and they are willing to pay for them. For instance, Facebook users in the US play games such as CafeWorld, with a good portion of them spending real money to buy credits. Chinese social networking websites see the potential, and now they are in a race to develop games that will attract users by the million.

Recent studies have shown that Chinese social gamers respond almost exactly in the same manner as players from the US in terms of game preference. Because of China’s censorship policies, ultra-violent games such as Mafia Wars are out, but virtual farming games are all the rage. While Chinese gamers probably won’t be as quick to spend money on credits individually, the fact that there are many more Internet users in China will actually help these sites to net more total profits than companies based in the US. What makes social networking games different in China is the fact that the majority of these games are only available on closed platforms. In the US, if you want to play Farmville for instance, you can choose to play the game on about 3 to 5 websites. China’s popular game Happy Farm is the only game currently known to be available on more than one social networking site.

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