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The first games on Chinese Xbox One are… PC MMORPGs [Updated]

Microsoft will be the icebreaker in China’s previously prohibited video game industry with the introduction of the Chinese Xbox One later this year. We have voiced our concerns about that bizarre adventure, like pricing, and the rigid content censorship for game software. The ridiculously high price might be a placeholder, but the frustration on the game content front seems to be very true.

As we have mentioned earlier, the problem of China as a game market is that there are no rules to follow. The country doesn’t have a game rating system like the ESRB. Every game is to be reviewed separately by multiple government organs, led by the Ministry of Culture. In this process a game could be condemned improper, harmful, or politically incorrect, and banned for all sorts of reasons.

Did I just mention the country doesn’t have a game rating system? If it’s banned for kids, it’s banned for grandpas too. The worst part is that the Chinese censorship organs never laid out any guideline for appropriate games, or any list for taboo contents, meaning that they are free to ban games with reasons invented on the fly. For example, if a sudden surge of child accidents make the safety of youngsters a public concern, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood might easily take the official blame or even be banned, because the game, rated Everyone 10+ by ESRB, seems to be encouraging kids to commit suicide by diving into valleys, lava, and stuff, if you are determined to think that way. Common sense and gamer opinion do not matter here. The censor officers have the final say. It’s their way or the highway. This is a very real possibility. Have a look at a story here. The maker of a popular Chinese cartoon, which is in much the same spirit as The Smurfs, took the blame and was ordered to compensate the victims, when two 10-year-old boys set their friends on fire, “in imitation of the cartoon”. By that logic, even Tom & Jerry might take the boot under the right (or wrong, depending your point of view) circumstances, because… how many times have we seen the duo beating each other with big blunt instruments? Anyone kept a record?

Thus, publishing games in China is an art, in the sense of high magic. The government seems to be a lot more merciful to online games and mobile games, because the former is easier to regulate (one change on the server applies to all end users), and the latter is too trivial to cause any real social influence. But that cannot be counted on. Because not so long ago there came a new prohibition from the governors, forbidding video games, including mobile ones, to feature any girl in a bikini.

It’s still now clear what games will be there for Xbox One’s China debut. But yesterday, one game was revealed, and it has me quite worried.

It’s a MMORPG.

A PC MMORPG.

A PC MMORPG ported directly from PC, onto Xbox One, in what feels like a very short time.

Perfect World (rebranded as Arc Games for overseas market), a Chinese developer of online games (mostly MMORPG, entirely for PC), just announced that it has ported Neverwinter Online specifically over to the Chinese Xbox One. The PC version was released in June 2013, and Microsoft formally announced its plan for Xbox One in China back in April 2014. That means even if Perfect World has known about Microsoft’s secret plan as soon as Neverwinter Online was released, it has a grand total of approximately one year to port the game to new platform. Yet according to Perfect World, Neverwinter Online for Xbox One will available for hands-on later this month, on the ChinaJoy expo in Shanghai. For those who are wondering, ChinaJoy is China’s largest game expo, only with not that much game content, but a whole lot of cosplay. For your ease of understanding, just imagine it as Comic-Con pretending to be E3.

This does not look like good news, for several reasons:

  • MMORPGs on PC don’t tend to work well on home consoles, because the control is so different. An Xbox (or any other console) controller is hardly the best device to juggle 25 shortcuts for spells and skills, or achieve fast and precise cursor movement. There haven’t been many games of the RTS and MMORPG genre on game consoles, and that happened for a solid reason.
  • Given the time Perfect World has for development, this is most likely a straight port. They can’t possibly have enough time to completely redesign the game for console experience.
  • Microsoft seems mighty desperate, to grant one developer a special permit to port a PC game for one specific market.
  • The game itself may not be so enjoyable on Xbox One. If console gamers are pitched against keyboards-and-mice-dual-wielding PC opponents, they face one heck of a hard competition. If gamers on Xbox One play among themselves… well, considering the console is just released in China, how many users could there be? An unpopulated online game is not much of a game.
  • Fundamentally, why don’t people just play it on the PC? China is one huge nest of PC multiplayer games, thanks to the decade-long ban of game consoles.

Industry insiders also said that Perfect World has two more games for the Chinese Xbox One. One of them is Torchlight 2, the other a Chinese kungfu-themed MMORPG called Swordsman. The same problems again: PC ports, short production cycle, and console-unfriendly hostile controls.

If Microsoft is relying this much on Perfect World and its PC ports, does it mean they have failed to get any proper Xbox One game pass the Chinese censorship?

But on the bright side, hardcore Xbox One gamers (the true fans) do not have to worry about it. They can either buy smuggled versions of the console from China’s extremely advanced grey market (many have already done so), or tweak the region settings in the local version. I have heard from multiple sources that the Chinese Xbox One will not be region-locked, meaning that a quick change of the machine’s region setting will grant its owner instant access to Microsoft’s online game store in other countries.

ChinaJoy starts on July 31 (Beijing time). We will keep track on this. Meanwhile, as always, wish Microsoft good luck. China is a strange market with harsh rules, where everyone is bound to have a rocky start. It’s OK as long as you improve with time.

For a side note… Does that mean cross-platform development across the entire Microsoft ecosystem (Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox) is made super easy?

Update:

Fresh news coming in. According to the insider source of the Chinese site WPDang, Microsoft has a total of 20 games and 20 apps for the debut of the Chinese Xbox One. However, these games will  generally be of the casual kind, developed mostly by Chinese local developers. Of the apps, the overwhelming majority of them are educational, different from what Xbox One users elsewhere have access to. The apps will be crafted by local developers too.

It looks like the Microsoft is either being super cautious in the beginning, or has already hit a wall at the censor offers'. The Chinese Xbox One is indeed starting off as a walled garden, operating in a "from locals, for locals" mode. We certainly hope the situation will improve over time.

Source: Sina Games, WPDang

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Reader comments

The first games on Chinese Xbox One are… PC MMORPGs [Updated]

68 Comments

Sounds a lot like the early days of the Apple App Store, with Apple playing the role of China on approving apps and games.

 

Can't you use keyboards on the Xbox One? Not sure about mice, but I thought keyboards we're added in a patch a couple months ago.

I've found that most cryptic games work well with the XBOX controller. I haven't played Neverwinter yet but DDO and Star Trek Online both work fine with the controller. Also DCUO works with the controller as well. Me thinks you are much ado about nothing.

Fellow DDO player here. You the real man... As a wizard I can't imagine how to handle the game with an Xbox pad.

Agreed. ALL PC games work fine with my Xbox 360 controller using XPadder (or native controller support through a lot of Steam games). I have no idea why there is this argument that controller equals diminished experience. In fact, especially for PVP in MMO's, using my controller with it's macros makes for a far easier experience. Instead of having to hit 20 buttons, I hit a few that trigger those action bars. And not it's not cheating by the developers since I still have to hit a button. I with there were more PC MMO's for the Xbox One, I might actually buy one then.

It's definitely a diminished experience in the realm of FPS games and games that have a lot of key bindings, but for most games my 360 controller works pretty well. I still prefer the overall feel of a keyboard and mouse, though.

Neverwinters more movement based and a few skills rather than a WoWlike 3-4 hotbars full of them, it'd do just fine on a controller. Heck, if you look at FF14, it does just fine with how SQEX has it set up.

Microsoft really needs to find a way to gain market share in China. Windows phone is diminishing in China due to lack of localised service support. Windows phone experience in China is a lot worse than outside China and Microsoft hasn't done much to improve it (as Microsoft's focus is primarily in US)

The good news is that they finally realise the importance of Chinese market. The bad news is that it's a bit too late as they have almost screwed up their reputation with windows phone there. Hope they can catch up soon

As for your side note, Xbox UI is built on the Windows kernal. In theory, any program released on Windows can be released on the Xbox One. I've often championed the idea of Microsoft buying Steam and integrating it into the Xbox One. Buy a compatible game via Steam and play it on either the PC or the Xbox One (with cross-platform saves).

That would be great, and it's painful to see Steam developing its own console and controller from ground up.

The only hang-up I see would be the potential anti-trust issues. Microsoft owning both the biggest PC distributor and the best selling console in the previous generation? They'd have to convince regulators both Nintendo and Sony provide adequate competition.

As for Steam Box, it'll be a niche product. PC gamers are not going to give up that kind of power and console users are not going to pay that much.

I never understood to target audience for the steambox considering that many PC gamers have gaming PCs with specs that far outclass the steambox

I know it's not. But a company can always make offers. Its not even the physical boxes but the software and eco system with the games itself I don't want other companies to ever have. Mainly google.

I wouldn't count on that. From what I hear, the guy who runs Valve and therefore Steam is a Linux fanboy who doesn't much care for Microsoft.

Maybe. But I'm also sure he's a Benjamin Franklin fan. Given enough of those and the guy who owns Valve will tell you everything there is to love about Microsoft. ;)

Yeah, Gabe hates windows, but without it, steam would lose an incredible amount of revenue, considering many titles are Windows only. Apple has some. Linux has a paltry few.

Seriously, who give rat's ass about which games can be sold, or first game publicly published in China?! With no China market the whole video game market will still go on, we people outside China can still play games we like, purchase games we want. Do they really think that complying to China govt's censorship policy can make more money than other regions around the world?

Well considering that China is an emerging market with an expanding economy and the largest population of any country, companies want to make money from it. I'm sure you have seen multiple articles of tech companies trying to enter the Chinese market.

Too bad Chinese players cannot play various of games, Chines Government ban this, ban that. Seriously, I wonder how many games left for Chinese players to enjoy after censorship?

Console gaming isn't popular in China due to piracy and other issues, publishers will not risk quality of their games for a market that's not going to sell games.

No, Chinese government banned all game consoles for many years, MS, Sony and Nintendo have no way to sell their consoles in China, so console game sales are bad for years, not just because of the piracy issue. How would play video games when you cannot legally purchase game consoles?

I wouldn't put it pass Chinese devs to put out a decent port in that short timeframe. Their work rates are pretty crazy quick and effective. It's just the Chinese govt that tends to slow things down with their bureaucracy.

I reckon it does. It's like reading China news on New York Times written by Andrew Jacobs. "Am I living in the same world?"

This article just completely throws me off balance...

"Chinese Xbox One gamers get to play Neverwinter and Torchlight... and that's bad!"

Gotta admit, having a very hard time reconciling that.

 

 

Both consoles will be really slow to pick up. They'll be too expensive for the mass market, and the most popular games won't be on it. PC does well because of internet cafes where you just pay for the hours that you want to use one. No League of Legends, no DOTA 2, no WoW, no Counter Strike Online, and in particular no CrossFire. China is the home of free to play MMOs, MOBAs, and shooters. Call of Duty doesn't matter over there and Halo offers no nostalgia. They need Tencent games for China.

 

It'll be like cell phone games now where games are pretty much expected to be free if not then no more than like $5. Since consoles were banned for so long, the market hasn't been fostered to support a Chinese equivalent to $60 video games along with an Xbox Live Gold or PS+ pass for online play.

I dunno why, but the author missed one important thing: online games for Xbox One were a no-go for devs because of a completely closed ecosystem. Servers should've been run only from Azure cloud, meaning that PC gamers won't be able to play with their friends on consoles. If named MMOs are indeed straight ports (meaning also the ease of porting for the platform), there's a chance that we will see some fine games, like FFXIV, in the near future.

Trust me, don't be, life will find its way, Chinese will live on with no game consoles, since their government banned game consoles for so many years.

China has different tastes in games to the rest of the world, so I'm ok with this. Coups be a great thing for gaming in general

"MMORPGs on PC don’t tend to work well on home consoles"
This statement is not universally true. Final Fantasy XIV is a MMORPG which works exceptionally well on PS4 and provides overall a more consistent experience than on PC (no driver issues, no interruptions caused by Windows' multitasking environment etc). They even implemented optional keyboard/mouse support, but the game is perfectly playable even with the controller.
Diablo III is another example of an online RPG (although I wouldn't say that it is a MMORGP), which is optimized for controllers and works like a charm (on both X360 and PS3).

So, yes... MMORPG is not a problem on consoles if those are optimized.

Not in defence of China's messy content regulating system, but the author's judging the quality of a game that he's yet to get his hands on. The author also tries to imply that apps/games produced locally in China will not play well and be successful. I don't know why but as one reader above said, this article is filled with bitterness. I suppose it's not a good way to write news. Or is it?

"PC port" im loving that word, it should be like that for all games, in all markets, pc first, consoles at the end