Monthly Archives: September 2007

Red Steal?

As reported in the China Daily, video game production outsourcing to China is predicted to exceed $2.5 billion by 2010. Given that China is currently the fourth-largest economy in the world, with recorded economic growth reported as 10.7% last year, it’s no surprise that interest from game developers and publishers in establishing a long-term presence in China is high, given that production costs are significantly lower than the West and investment opportunities are common. However, the Chinese government’s position on the moral issues surrounding video games as an entertainment medium – especially within the context of internet use – is no secret, with Beijing displaying little tolerance towards Western companies seeking to capitalize on the rapidly-growing market for online gaming and cheaper labor. Is a backlash inevitable?

With potential revenues proving especially enticing to Western companies, it’s unlikely that pursuit of this lucrative market share will wane, even with fierce opposition from Beijing. Companies like Ubisoft are already building branch offices in China for development reasons, and Electronic Arts recently expanded their Pogo casual gaming service to offer their services to Chinese gamers. However, could intense interest from foreign investors (particularly Westerners) be met with stern response from the Chinese government? Never one to bow to popular opinion, Chinese President Hu Jintao has regulated the Chinese media (particularly internet usage and television broadcasts) in a manner deemed stricter than his predecessor, and also favors some rather hard line views in terms of political reform.

It is this that could prove to be a conflict of interest for Jintao, and the Chinese as an economic power. I’m sure that Beijing won’t pass on the chance to capitalize on the West’s need for cheaper production costs long associated with Chinese outsourcing, but will traditionalism and the iron grip on the country’s media be won over by aggressive business interests of Western media companies and China’s desire for economic growth? China’s internet usage statistics indicate a strong increase, despite heavy censorship and media control and video gaming is gaining in popularity at a steady rate – something has to give, especially given the speed at which the Chinese economy is growing. Will Beijing listen to the voice of The People? Or will China’s continued growth be met with ever-tightening control?

Expansion comes at a cost – but will Beijing be willing to pay?

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Jack Thompson: “Are You Nuts?”

Everyone’s favorite pantomime attorney Jack Thompson was making headlines across the gaming world, following his comical email exchanges with Gena Feist, Take-Two’s VP and Associate General Counsel regarding his criticism of Take-Two’s business practices. Whilst the legality of this is questionable under the terms of the legal agreement between Thompson and Take-Two, perhaps what is more irritating than Thompson himself is the fact that he remains free to continue his political soapboxing on sites like Game Politics.

I understand the fact that this is considered newsworthy information, and that Game Politics would be foolish not to report on it in the first instance. However, without taking sides, you don’t see Take-Two contacting political blogs and sending out of context, incorrectly timestamped emails for the purposes of posturing and assigning blame, which seems to be the sole point in doing so unless I’m missing something. Not only that, but Thompson does himself no favors by highlighting his ignorance of the legality of commonplace age verification techniques – something I’d assume attorneys would do well to be knowledgeable of. I’m sure that much will be made of Take-Two’s failure to respond to Game Politics’ request for a statement regarding the emails, but perhaps they simply recognize that the proper place for this kind of discourse is the courtroom.

Personally, I look forward to the time when Manhunt 2 is forgotten about as the mundane, uninspired title that it will inevitably be, and these painfully frequent arguments about video game violence and selfish political agendas can be reserved for games that people actually want to play, like GTA IV. Roll on 2008.

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