Women’s growing purchasing power gives life to untapped domestic ‘otome’ market

How large is China’s untapped female-targeted gaming market? The recent market sensation Love and Producer – a game which enables players to date four virtual male characters at once – may have revealed the answer. The mobile game has been downloaded over 7 million times in the month after it was released on December 20, helping its developer rake in millions of yuan in revenue. The frenzy over the game has given life to a potentially huge female gaming market, where big opportunities and challenges coexist.

How far away are you from being a princess and developing romantic relationships with a legion of rich, attractive and considerate male characters?

Well, that desire is only a mobile game away.

Officially debuting on December 20, Love and Producer, a role-playing mobile dating game which enables users to date four virtual men of different personalities and occupations, is a perfect fit for those with “Mary Sue” dreams.

In the game, players start as a television producer – the only central female character in the story – who must save her father’s film company from bankruptcy by inviting guests and producing popular shows.

As the plot unravels, the player meets four men during a day’s work – police officer Bai Qi, scientist Xu Mo, CEO Li Zeyan and superstar Zhou Qiluo – the beginning of a polyamorous romantic relationship quintessential of a “Mary Sue” fantasy.

The online simulation game has wooed many young women in China and become an immediate hit.

It jumped into the top 10 on Apple App Store’s December free downloads chart for mobile games, positioning it close to the high-ranking and hugely popular Honor of Kings, according to a report by consulting firm App Annie.

So far it has more than 4 million daily active users and has been downloaded 7 million times, where women represent 90 percent of the game’s players, according to industry website GameLook.

When explaining why the game appeals to female players, Wu, a 22-year-old college student studying in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday that she was introduced to it by her friends in late December and soon got addicted as it fulfills her fictional romantic needs.

“At night, I’m so thrilled to receive calls and WeChat messages from those characters. Their voices are fascinating,” Wu said, highlighting the game’s interactive function which allows animated men to call, text and send things to players’ virtual WeChat accounts.

But Wu is certainly not alone in her addiction.

A 20-something white-collar worker surnamed Bei cites the game’s “delicate drawings” as another desirable feature.

“I’m immersed in the visual style… It’s like a Korean TV drama with an engaging storyline and I’m eager to see what’s going to happen next,” Bei told the Global Times.

While winning the hearts of young Chinese women like Bei and Wu, the dating game is also luring their wallets. Although the game is free to download, advancing levels and unlocking more plots calls for the injection of a huge number of “game jewels”, which can be gained from transferring money to the game.

Bei worded the game’s slogan as “money and four wise men you will never be able to afford.” She has burned about 10,000 yuan ($1,562) since downloading the game. Wu, however, is more reserved, spending around 200 yuan on the game so far.

The craze for the game reached a tipping point on January 13, the birthday of virtual boyfriend Li Zeyan. That day, a giant digital banner was lit up by fans in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province as a way to send birthday wishes to the fictional character, according to photos on social media platforms. The cost for the banner is estimated to be over 200,000 yuan.

Female gamers’ strong enthusiasm in turn is bringing bulks of revenue to the company.

Its revenue for the whole of January is expected to reach 300 million yuan, according to GameLook.

The game’s developer and distributor, PaperGames, based in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province, had not responded to an interview request from the Global Times as of press time.

Market vacancy

Experts have pointed out that the rapid success of the dating game highlights a market which leading domestic gaming developers have long been absent from – the otome game (Japanese phrase for “maiden game”).

“We cannot deny that the game has done a good job in design, voice features and interactive functions, but a more important reason behind its popularity is that so far in the domestic female player market, [Love and Producer] does not have any competitors at all,” Wang Guanxiong, an independent industry analyst, told the Global Times over the weekend.

Wang’s opinion is echoed by Wen Shijun, principal researcher of the cultural and media industry in the Research and Development Center under Beijing-based Cinda Securities Co.

“Most women do not like stratey-oriented and fight-oriented games, such as Honor of Kings and PlayerUnkown Battlegrounds, and would rather play relaxed games that are easier to operate and meet their emotional and visual demands,” Wen told the Global Times over the weekend.

Prior to Love and Producer, there were just a few otome games entering the domestic market, such as 100 Sleeping Princes and the Kingdom of Dreams, which were neither well produced nor had any elaborate or touching storylines, Wang continued, pointing to the fact that female gamers’ interests have been underestimated in the gaming sector.

PaperGames also created a game of a similar genre called Miracle Nikki in 2015, targeted at senior high school students.

But for Love and Producer, “the developer pinpointed a specific women gamer group – female white-collar workers aged around 22. That young group has rising consumption power compared with [that of] Miracle Nikki and is also social media-savvy. They share their gaming experiences via social media platforms, prompting the game’s success,” Wang noted.

Love and Producer is therefore just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of the domestic otome game market.

According to a report by iResearch, women accounted for 24 percent of all gamers on the Chinese mainland in 2016. And women players are willing to spend $0.48 more per game than men, said a study by research firm DeltaDNA.

“China’s mobile game market hit the wall in 2017 as demographic dividends lost streams, and so the rising otome games market is providing new opportunities,” Wang said.

Wang predicted that the domestic market for female-targeted games will surpass that of Japan, whose otome market budded a decade ago, in the next three to five years.

Short life cycle?

The female gaming market is so large and lucrative that competition in the sector will ignite this year, experts say.

“China’s gaming industry has been dominated by online giants like Tencent and Netease, but such scenario may not happen in the female-targeted segment, where independent game studios will also come into the spotlight because they are positioned at the same start line as their gigantic rivals,” Wang said.

But unlike “masculine” mobile games which usually adopt “battle models”, female-targeted games’ life cycles are likely to be much shorter as plots soon finish and players could easily get tired of repetitive game missions. Therefore, a key challenge to their potential market success is to “offer a good experience” rather than simply be a money-grabbing exercise, experts noted.

Wang said that Love and Producer will only end up as fast-food consumption unless its developer can come up with some innovative features, adding it needs to build a game culture like intellectual property.

Source: Global Times


When Chinese and ancient Chinese characters meet on WeChat

Chinese oracle bone inscriptions over 3,000 years old are now being widely used as emojis by young WeChat users, thanks to a person who made them closer to people’s life.

“The ancient characters are not as cool and distant as they are supposed to be. In fact, they are cute and humorous, and they could totally serve people’s needs for online expression,” said the creator Chen Nan.

The 46-year-old professor of fine art at Tsinghua University has been working to make oracle bone inscriptions into emojis. For example, the character for “zui,” which means “drunk” in English, was created to look like a stumbling figure. Such vivid figures have been well accepted by WeChat users.

Chen has also combined the ancient Chinese characters with cartoon figures. A cartoon video clip featuring oracle bone inscriptions designed by him was viewed 31 million times and shared 140,000 times.

Chen embarked on the road of innovation 19 years ago. In 2016, the ancient typeface was included into the font library under his efforts to let the ancient words walk into people’s life.

Now the library has 3,500 characters, but Chen’s research on the project still continues, as he plans to extend the library to 7,000 characters. In the future, he will apply the ancient characters to education and the development of games and apps.

China’s auto sales top the world again, hit 28.88 million in 2017

China’s auto sales volume hit 28.88 million in 2017, topping the world for nine consecutive years, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM).

Statistics show that China’s auto sales volume reached 28.88 million last year, up 3 percent on a year-on-year basis and topping the world for nine consecutive years.

MOFCOM says that the sales volume of China’s new energy vehicles grew 53.3 percent last year due to optimized consumption structure of China’s automobile market.

In addition, used car trade volume in China is estimated to exceed 12 million in 2017, up about 20 percent compared with 2016.

China’s population of endangered crested ibis rises to 2,600

China’s population of endangered crested ibis has risen to 2,600 from the original 7 after 30 years of breeding and protection, according to Shaanxi Environmental Protection Bureau.

The species used to be widespread in eastern China, Japan, Russia, and North Korea. However, its population plummeted due to environmental deterioration.

This bird species did not get much attention until 7 of the remaining wild crested ibis population were only found in Yang County, Shaanxi Province, in the 1980s.

During the past three decades, the province has been stepping up efforts to protect the endangered crested ibis and carry out research into artificial breeding of the creature.

At present, the population of crested ibis in China has reached about 2,600 and the species are also found in Japan and South Korea.

Moreover, their habitat area has expanded to 14,000 square kilometers from only 5 square kilometers during the period.

Smog-filtering tower developed by Chinese scientists in trial phase in Xi’an

A smog-filtering tower developed by Chinese scientists at the Institute of Earth Environment under the Chinese Academy of Sciences has been built in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, and is in the trial phase.

The tower, which is 60 meters high and 10 meters in diameter, was built in Chang’an District, and is a key experimental project of the institute.

According to the institute, the tower is coated in glass and has a heat collector and a draught fan, which is all designed to help filter air and improve the purification efficiency.

An on-site employee said that the smog-fighting tower has really helped to improve the air quality, according to initial tests, but did not disclose further details.


Men outnumber women by 32.66 million on Chinese mainland

Men outnumbered women by 32.66 million on the Chinese mainland by the end of 2017, according to data released by National Bureau of Statistics on Jan. 18.

Experts warn that the imbalanced sex ratio of 104.81 males for every 100 females may cause social problems, China News reported.

The statistics show that the total population of the Chinese mainland was about 1.39 billion by the end of 2017, among which, the population of men stood at about 711.37 million, with the female population at 678.71 million. Men outnumber women by 32.66 million, down 930,000 compared with 2016.

The narrower gender gap is attributed to the comprehensive two-child policy implemented by the country since 2015, said Chen Jian, vice president of China Society of Social Reform.

Chen stressed that the phenomenon of men far outnumbering women may cause lots of social problems and influence social and economic development.

Li Jianxin, a professor at the Department of Sociology, Peking University, also noted that surplus of men, whose physiological needs cannot be normally met, may be a threat to the society, adding that as China is now stepping into an aging society, once the population of marriage age keeps rising, it will be a complex and difficult social security problem in the future.

In addition, Chinese women nowadays have more advantages in choosing their mates than men due to the gender gap, and they are inclined to choose someone better than themselves, making it harder to find a suitable marriage partner, Chen pointed out.

Anxiety pushes US to turn hostile to China

China’s foreign ministry and defense ministry Saturday strongly responded to the latest US naval operation involving the USS Hopper missile destroyer entering within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Island in the South China Sea. The US recently signaled its harsh stance on China on varied occasions. Its National Security Strategy called China a “rival,” while the Pentagon gave more importance to competition with China and Russia than the fight against terrorism in its National Defense Strategy released Friday.

The US is indeed turning to contain China, trying to reverse its narrowing gap with the economically rising country. An annual report from the office of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the US mistakenly supported China’s WTO membership in 2001. While Washington allegedly wants to punish China over trade, it’s hard to take such actions. China has more tools in hand to retaliate against the US.

Tensions will probably flare up between China and the US. But if Washington intends to undermine its ties with Beijing, it needs to reckon with the returns and losses and take a high-stake move to turn its diplomacy with China from a controllable process into a gamble.

Neither China nor the US will win if they enter into a Cold War. This involves much higher political risks for the US. Those in the US who advocate containing China mostly disregard the reality, and hence seriously underestimate the possible repercussions on the US. US society is unprepared for the risks and pain required to “Make America Great Again.”

If the Trump administration turns China-US relations from the status quo to Cold War confrontation, international relations in this century will be fundamentally changed. Yet this means a crisis for the US that is unable to champion such a shift, and will steeply increase pressure on the Trump administration and exacerbate divides within the US.

China doesn’t need to fear a change of heart by the Trump administration toward China since it’s no big deal. If US society can live with strained ties with China, so can China.

China’s pursuit of a win for all is not understandable to all Westerners, and may even be taken by some Americans as a scheme to evade US containment. We should just let it be in terms of ties with the US.

With fewer cards, the US finds it difficult to confront China and sending a naval vessel in the South China Sea is something easier.

Yet as China’s military size and quality improve, so does its control of the South China Sea. Provocations by the US military in the waters will inflict more pressure on itself rather than China. The US is doomed to fail in this respect.

While disputes between countries involved in the South China Sea have considerably subsided, China’s challenges are growing from US provocation. China is able to send more naval vessels as a response and can take steps like militarizing islands. This can by no means bring honor to the Trump administration.

Getting hawkish on China, the US actually feels chaotic amid anxiety. Washington can hardly use new levers against China. We need to neither take a tit-for-tat stance against the US that sees China as a rival nor make unprincipled concessions on specific issues. We can handle impulsive US moves by employing ancient Tai Chi philosophy – overcoming hardness with a soft approach.

Source: Global Times


Chinese enterprise builds world’s largest single-unit solar power plant in Morocco

Power Construction Corporation of China, one of the country’s largest hydro and thermal power project providers, said on Wednesday via its WeChat account that it has completed the second phase of a solar plant with world’s largest single-unit capacity in Morocco.

“The phase II project was completed on Jan. 10. With this clean energy technology, Morocco is expected to grow from an energy-poor country to an energy-rich one. This project is the result of our sincerity and long-term dedication,” the company said.

The second phase of the project will have an installed capacity of 200 megawatts, and the whole solar plant will have a total installed capacity of 510 megawatts once it is completely finished.

Morocco gets long hours of sunlight a year, but as a country with poor fossil fuel reserves, it has to spend $6 billion on electricity imports per year.

The Noor Solar Complex will play a key role in Morocco’s ambitious solar energy development program, which aims to expand solar power to half of the country’s total power projects by 2030.

The project will satisfy the electricity need of over a million households, and cut 760,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.

The project has created nearly 4,000 jobs for locals. A local construction worker, who has worked on the project for more than one year, said the Chinese workers have helped him to improve his skills. “By following them, I have not only mastered skills, but also gained new ones,” the young man said.

The project is also hailed by foreign experts as a great work, because it has created a longer industry chain. The Guardian said it will light up Africa’s path of clean energy development.

The State-owned enterprise signed an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for phases II-III of the project with the Moroccan government in 2015. EPC contracts are a common form of contracting in the construction industry.

China to take multiple measures to expand consumption in 2018

China will take multiple measures to expand consumption in 2018, with information technology-related products and services being the major area, said Chinese newspaper Economic Information Daily on Jan. 18.

The information consumption of China is expected to reach 6 trillion RMB ($933 billion) in 2020, with an average annual growth of over 11%. The sector will also be responsible for an output of 15 trillion RMB of related industries.

“Information products are not only a major growth point of general consumption, but will also drive the development of the digital economy,” said Gao Hongbing, president of Ali Research, an institute under Alibaba Group. It will be a major driving force of China’s future economy, he added.

With the expansion of this sector, more tax sources and jobs will be created, Gao told Economic Information Daily.

According to national departments, including the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), practical policies will be rolled out this year to further spur consumption on information products and services.

For instance, the government will encourage the promotion of digital home appliances such as smart TV, smart speakers, and smart security systems, accelerating the establishment of universal specifications.

In addition, the country will accelerate the digitalization and utilization of cultural resources, including the establishment of high-quality digital cultural services and the in-depth integration of traditional and emerging media.

Apart from the expansion of the information consumption, China will also maintain the tax reduction policies for new-energy vehicles, remove restrictions on used-car registration, and promote new forms of consumption such as shared bikes in a bid to enlarge total consumption.