Genshin Impact officially launched on September 28th, 2020.
This is an open world Nijigen-style role-playing online game from China. It released mobile, PS4 and PC versions at the same time. Even better, players who play the game with different terminals can meet in the game and play together.
Unlike many mobile games from China that fail to get good results overseas, Genshin Impact also has a good popularity among overseas social platforms and player groups. But no one seems to have talked in detail about the polarizing comments of Genshin Impact in China in the English-speaking world.
On the one hand, the global pre-registration number of Genshin Impact has exceeded 10 million. On the other hand, Genshin Impact received only 34% of recommendations on Zhihu (China’s Quroa), with a score of 4.5/10 on Taptap (a mobile game version of STEAM in China).
On the game’s first day of operation, Genshin Impact served as a hashtag with 296000 posts on Weibo and garnered more than 330 million views. In addition to a lot of discussion about the content of the game itself, there are many posts about boycotting the game.
Many overseas players also think that the game is similar to “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild“, but they are not extremely angry about it. Why are Chinese players so angry about the game? We try to explain this point in detail.
Plagiarism controversy since the first trailer
Chinese netizens’ criticism of Genshin Impact began with Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2019. At this exhibition, miHoYo, the developer of Genshin Impact, released the first promotional video for Genshin Impact.
In the previous non-demonstration warm-up promotion, the game has attracted the attention of some players. But when the trailer was officially released, it aroused a strong reaction from Chinese gamers. Bad reviews, very bad ones.
Because it is so similar to Breath of the Wild, the same artistic style, the same novice guide, the same way of fighting, the same way of gliding. This trailer seems to be designed to attract potential players who don’t want to buy Nintendo Switch but always want to play Breath of the Wild. This has angered hardcore players in China.
How angry are they? Two months after the trailer was released, Sony announced that the Genshin Impact would be released on Playstation 4 at the same time. An angry Chinese player took his PlayStation 4 to Sony’s ChinaJoy booth and smashed it with a hammer.
IGN reported this, and I’m sorry to find that many foreign readers think it’s fake news. But this is true, and that player does represent a lot of Chinese players who boycott the Genshin Impact.
In subsequent rounds of testing, many of the details of Genshin Impact were considered plagiarism from other games. Some Weibo users in China have compiled a list of Genshin Impact’s suspected plagiarism, including more than 20 plagiarism from Breath of the Wild, NieR: Automata, Xenoblade, Devil May Cry, Dragon Nest, Ys IX: Monstrum Nox and Final Fantasy 14. Some of these are graphics and sound effects, while others are gameplay. This initial Weibo was deleted after receiving a complaint from miHoYo, People took a screenshot and reposted the Weibo post and got another 6, 900 retweets.
We are not here to discuss whether Genshin Impact really copied these games. But suspected plagiarism is the main reason for the game’s hopelessly low scores in China. In other words, Genshin Impact would not have sparked a national discussion on the Chinese Internet were it not for the fact that it looks too much like some games.
As mentioned in our previous article, the main gamer groups in China are mobile game players, but the Chinese game media and game communities are mainly aming PC games and game consoles. To some extent, Genshin Impact stirs up the antagonism between the two groups for a long time.
This magnifies the war of words of Genshin Impact on the Chinese Internet, because in fact, games have never been a popular topic on the Internet in China. But “plagiarism of culture commodity” has been a hot topic on the Internet in China since a few years ago.
Many plagiarized culture commodity are boycotted in China, which is why Genshin Impact got hopelessly low scores on Taptap and Zhihu.
Positioning of Genshin Impact
To some extent, Genshin Impact’s position in the game field is unique.
It is a rare 3D MMORPG that allows players to play together on game consoles, PC and mobile phones at the same time. This makes it irreconcilable in the balance and play of the game.
To put it simply: for players who use mobile phones to play Genshin Impact, the operation of this game is very difficult. For players who use PC or PS4 to play Genshin Impact, the game is very expensive.
On the one hand, Genshin Impact adopts the Free to Play mode, which is more popular in mobile games, which means that it contains a large number of micro-transactions. On the other hand, in order to provide better gameplay, Genshin Impact has a more complex combat system than other mobile game, which makes it difficult to perform too well in the game without a keyboard and controller.
This leads players to think of the game as “complicated and expensive”.
In mobile games in China, most games are either complicated or expensive, because they are usually aimed at different types of players. Some players have a lot of free time, and their main purpose of playing games is to get some fun. While other players are very rich, they play games in order to become the top after purchasing.
But Genshin Impact’s positioning has led to dissatisfaction among both types of players.
Among the online game giants in China, there is indeed a game positioning similar to miHoYo, which is NetEase.
On the Chinese Internet, there is a meme about Chinese Internet game companies. The part of Tencent is: “Before you pay, Tencent is your father. After paying, you are its father. “
And NetEase’s part is: “Before you pay, NetEase is your father. After paying, NetEase is still your father. “
This sentence implies that the games produced by NetEase are usuall “complicated and expensive”. But unlike miHoYo, any of NetEase’s games are single-platform.
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In order to meet the needs of PC and PS4 players, many of the game mechanisms of Genshin Impact are too difficult for mobile players, which increases the conflict between “complicated and expensive”. Mobile players who plan to spend a lot of CNY to gain high-performance characters and weapons will find that they still have to face extremely hard battles after getting these.
For PC and PS4 players, operational proficiency does not fully make up for their combat effectiveness in the game, and the lack of rare characters & items still makes the game extremely difficult in the face of high-level dungeon.
The same balance problem also appears in the picture performance. As a mobile game Genshin Impact screen performance is good. But in order to make it look better on PS4 and PC, it banned players under iPhone 8p. And the temperature of the phone will become extremely high when playing this game on the upstream of iPhone 11.
Even so, as a PS4 or PC game, it looks like it’s an era behind.
Of course, this is not a very serious problem. But as mentioned before, any shortcomings of the game will be magnified in public opinion and become part of the boycott movement because of the attention Genshin Impact has received in terms of “suspected plagiarism.”
Critics of Genshin Impact are trying to take advantage of this flaw to persuade players who don’t care about plagiarism not to play the game.
Not just a game
Behind the Genshin Impact controversy is not only the criticism of the single game by the players, but also the criticism of the Chinese game industry as a whole.
It may be hard for foreign players to understand this feeling-it’s just a controversial game, and why Chinese players are so angry about it.
In fact, shortly after the Genshin Impact was released, a Chinese programmer wrote an article entitled “Why do foreign players and people in the game industry generally not care about Genshin Impact plagiarism?“
The reason is explained at the beginning of this article:
What he means is that Chinese players are using the criteria to measure top games to criticize Genshin Impact, rather than seeing it as another 3D Waifu game. Foreign players generally have a low opinion of Chinese games, so when they see Genshin Impact, they think “it looks good as a Chinese game”.
Because of the traditional concept of Chinese families, video games have been known as “drugs” in Chinese public opinion for a long time. This makes China’s video game industry always look like a cripple.
On the one hand, mobile games dominated by Tencent and NetEase have made a really lot of money in the last five years (See Also: History of Nijigen Culture in China). On the other hand, due to the lack of experience in keeping pace with the global game industry, Chinese games often lack artistry and gameplay, with the main goal of making money.
Therefore, although the total output value of China’s game industry has surpassed that of the United States to become the first in the world. But this is the same as what China has achieved in the statistics of many industries, only because of the demographic dividend, not because it really has become the first level in the world in terms of quality.
In the minds of many Chinese hardcore players, there is a holy grail. The holy grail is that one day Chinese game companies will be able to produce a triple-A video game like the God of War, Red Dead, and GTA. Or at least, create an original online game that is loved by players in different countries and has great vitality like World of Warcraft.
In the past, many Chinese game companies claimed that it was unrealistic to invest a lot of manpower and financial resources to make such a high-quality game because of the small number of game consoles and PC players in China.
Genshin Impact could have been such a game that miHoYo claims it cost as much as $100 million to make the game, with a development cycle of more than three years. But the end result is that it seems to copy Breath of the Wild and FF14. This makes some Chinese players feel even angrier.
There is a Chinese saying that “hate iron not become steel”, which directly means “an iron ore that can be forged into steel is only turned into a piece of iron”. This idiom is often used to describe the feelings of parents or teachers in educating gifted children who are unwilling to work hard.
The essence of Chinese hardcore players’ criticism of Genshin Impact is consistent with the core expressed by this proverb. What really angered them was that miHoYo could have made a game without suspicion of plagiarism with so much money, manpower and technology.
Especially when the Genshin Impact does attract the attention of many players overseas, which makes China’s hard-core gamers and some game practitioners feel even more ashamed.
On the whole, as we said before, Even considering that it is suspected of plagiarizing Breath of the Wild, it may still be the most worthwhile mobile game made in China in recent years. Genshin Impact’s negative criticism in China mainly comes from the fact that it has failed to live up to the expectations of many people in China’s gaming industry.
Some Chinese game industry analyst think that it is a reverse marketing strategy for the plagiarism of classic games, because it is “unnecessary” to add these plagiarism elements to a game that invests such a cost. Genshin Impact, which seems to be designed to infuriate Chinese hardcore players, has spread more widely with the help of their criticism.
No matter what the truth is, analysts believe that the game will still make good profits in China. Because Chinese mobile game players often do not care about the score of the game and criticism from hard-core gamers.
If this becomes true, it will indeed be a tragedy for China’s game industry. Because more gaming companies in China may follow miHoYo.
Chinese players are a little further away from the dream of “having a domestic original 3A-level games”.