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Gaming on the Digital Silk Road to China

Your champion has seen off the enemy minions and you are close to obliterating their turret. The tide has turned in your favour. You close in for the kill….and your League of Legends gameplay is frozen.

Imagine the frustration – not to mention the expletives that you might sound off. It sounds clichéd, but in gaming every microsecond counts. Why? That’s because gaming has evolved from being a geeky hobby confined to basements, bedrooms and arcades to a $100 billion dollar behemoth.

Gaming is big bucks. Gamers have hi-tech accessories and attend eSports tournaments in packed stadia for live play-offs and gameplays .

Chinese gameplay

The enthusiasm, passion and raw emotion for gaming is alive and kicking in the world’s second largest economy. According to Asian games analyst outfit Niko, over a half a billion Chinese consumers play their favourite games on mobile, PC and on consoles. Another analyst house, newzoo, values the Chinese gaming market at just north of $22 billion - surpassing USA and Japan to clinch the top spot. While Sony and Microsoft entered the console market in 2015, a large chunk of gamers in the Middle Kingdom prefer playing on mobile and PC rather than on TV.

As of December 2015, China had over 275 million mobile gamers. The most popular categories included puzzles, chess and racing games. Popular among the legion of Chinese PC gamers are MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) such as World of Warcraft and MOBAs (massive online battle arenas) like League of Legends. And according to Niko, games such as FIFA Online 3 can attract well over 500,000 peak concurrent users from China. That requires reliable networking technology and a robust gaming platform with expandable bandwidth and power to connect gamers.

The next level: China

To meet the growing demand in China, a number of Western video games publishers have launched localised games and partnered with Chinese companies. For example, Activison joined forces with Tencent to launch Call of Duty Online and Supercell collaborated with Kunlun to distribute popular games such as Clash of Clans and Hay Day. Local partnerships with Chinese companies make commercial sense and can help Western publishers’ secure new markets and revenues.

Gamers no matter where they are – in Chengdu, Cambridge or Chicago – are discerning, even fanatical, when it comes to their gaming experience. Similar to their Western counterparts, Chinese consumers want seamless and secure gaming. Downtime and latency are not tolerated.

Chinese gamers are certainly not just located in and around Tier 1 cities. China has the world’s largest internet population and the largest number of mobile users – as such, PC and mobile gamers are spread right across the country. Publishers must be able to deliver content fast to gamers, no matter where they live.

Game over for latency

The telecommunications industry in China has invested over $25 billion in content delivery networks (CDN) and data centre (DC) infrastructure. China has the world’s second largest DC market and Chinese network providers have hundreds of DCs across tier 1 – 4 cities. This enables developers to access their customer base right across China – within miliseconds.

Game developers must partner with Chinese network providers who have access to infrastructure. They can also provide insight on local regulatory requirements. For example, gaming companies wanting to tap the Chinese market would need to locate their local websites and servers in China. Local network providers can help developers obtain an Internet Content Provider (ICP) licence and the Autonomous System number – both are prerequisites for companies wanting to have an online presence in the country.

The future is bright

The gaming industry is in continuous evolution. From new business models to cloud hosted and free-to-access games, today’s developers face a number of technical and strategic challenges. Developers must have robust technology and reliable back-up systems in place to make sure their fan base remain loyal. Transaction security must be maximised to keep gamers safe.

Products such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and HoloLens will herald a new dimension in advanced gaming. And China’s telecommunications infrastructure is prepared for the future of gaming technology. Chinese network providers built a digital silk-road known as the Euro-Asia network. In fact, data on this CDN can travel between Europe and China in less than 150 milliseconds – faster than the blink of an eye.

The possibilities are endless for developers looking to launch data and memory intensive advanced gaming experiences through Virtual, Augmented or Mixed Reality. Come to China and be part of the next frontier in gaming.

Edmund Cheung, Director of Marketing and Enterprise Business at China Telecom Europe