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The Evolution Of Gaming Advertising In China

Recently pan-entertainment has become a strategy of many large game companies. The use of games and movies to cross promote each other is prevalent in many countries. Chinese gamers loved seeing the movie Kung Fu Panda 3 promoting the game by the same title, and singing sensation Jay Chou not only sang the theme song for the movie but the song also made it into the game.

Publicly-traded Chinese games powerhouse NetEase, known in the West for a joint venture with Blizzard for World of Warcraft and more recently Overwatch operations in China, has launched a pan-entertainment content strategy that’s paying off; the company’s market share for mobile games is increasing. In addition, NetEase’s mobile games revenue has surged in relation to PC games revenue, and currently stands at 66% of the company’s games revenue (having surpassed PC online games revenue midyear 2015).

One new NetEase mobile game is New Ghost (倩女幽魂 手游), and it is an enormous hit. The game is now the company’s 4th-largest mobile title, following Fantasy Westward Journey, Journey to the West (both born from long-standing hit PC game franchises), and the new hit Onmyoji which has revitalized the Anime, Comics and Games (ACG) genre. The way New Ghost became popular is because the company is doing strong cross promotions with the TV drama Just One Smile is Very Alluring. The male lead has become the spokesman for the game, and his voice is also that of the game’s main character.

The New Ghost game launched in May 2016 and immediately became a Top 20 grossing game in China. The TV drama launched August 26 and overnight the game surged into the top 5 grossing charts on iOS, and the ranking by downloads soared from #135 to #3 as well. Quest Mobile noted that daily active users (DAU) for the New Ghost game grew from 120,000 to more than 1.5 million in that last week of August. NetEase at that point launched a new version of the game to accompany the TV drama while using the show’s name. The new version now incorporates scenes and images from the show. As of this piece, it remains in the top 5 grossing games.

This concept of digital games in the mainstream entertainment channels is new to Chinese consumers. The total games market revenue (for PC online, mobile and console games) in China exceeded $23 billion in 2015, yet advertising for games has been frowned upon societally until recently. Content is also more difficult to restrict when it is used on multiple game platforms and across a pan-entertainment spectrum of TVs, movies, books and games.

The Chinese government has taken steps over the past 15 years to restrict the amount of time young people spend on digital games. This also includes the influence of games on them to protect them from the negative impact of harmful content and from spending too much time in front of a digital screen. An example of a regulation is that the minimum age to go to an Internet café is 18. Another is that gamers under 18 have to adhere to maximum time allotments in order to prevent gaming addictions and unhealthy behavior. In a related step, in 2004 the government banned TV shows that included playing PC games as well as any TV advertisements to promote PC games. By that year consoles were already banned in the country and mobile games had yet to emerge, so PC games became the focus.

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