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The ten best-selling Chinese buyout games in 2021

The year 2021 was quite a memorable year for the Chinese game industry, with Chinese buyout game sales of about RMB 2.79 billion (About $ 440 million) for the year, up 335% year-on-year, creating the largest increase in the last 10 years. In this article, we will focus on the top 10 games on the list, through which we can learn the preference of Chinese players for Chinese games.

On January 14, 2022, Chinese Video Game Sales Tieba, a gaming community which focusing on research and statistics of Chinese game sales, released its Game Ranking List of 2021.

The Chinese Video Game Sales Tieba was founded in 2015 by the initial administrator of the bar, Xiao Qingyu, with the initial intention of satisfying his desire for statistics and having a platform to communicate with other Chinese game players. After several years of development, the Tieba is now managed by the administrator, Mu Xinghe, and 8 junior administrators, with 15,135 followers and a cumulative total of over 780,000 posts.

It is based on Baidu Tieba, a reddit-like service provided by Baidu.

The community will compile and organize the statistics of game production groups and various game platforms every year, and release the monthly, semi-annual and annual lists of Chinese game sales. These lists are one of the important reference data of Chinese game sales, through which we can learn the preference of Chinese players for Chinese games.

In this list, only the Chinese buyout games released in 2021 are included. The games released in previous years are not counted. The cut-off date for the data is December 31, 2021. The game sales volume and revenue data in the list are projected by each platform and the official news of the game, which only has quantitative reference significance and does not represent the actual sales and revenue status of the game. Although not precise enough, these data are still very informative.

The year 2021 was quite a memorable year for the Chinese game industry, with Chinese buyout game sales of about RMB 2.79 billion (About $ 440 million) for the year, up 335% year-on-year, creating the largest increase in the last 10 years.

In the list, “Tale of Immortal” and “Dyson Sphere Program” were released in early 2021, and “Naraka: Bladepoint” was released mid-year. They all set new records for sales volume and revenue of Chinese payout games. The sales of “Naraka: Bladepoint” exceeded 5 million in volume, and sales reached 1.4 billion RMB (About $ 220 million), close to the sum of the total revenue of the past three years in the market.

It is worth mentioning that more than half of the 20 games on this list are independent games developed by individual developers or small teams. Among the top five games, Indie games occupy 2nd to 4th place. While the big game makers are focusing on developing in-pay games to achieve commercial success, Chinese indie game developers have started to make their mark in the buyout game space.

In this article, we will focus on the top 10 games on the list. The games ranked 11~20 will be listed in the second half for reference by interested readers.

I still need to remind you that, as mentioned in our previous article, China’s game market is basically dominated by mobile games. Therefore, this list does not represent the actual situation of China’s game industry. The games on these lists may be of high quality, but their sales volume and revenue are far lower than those of the more popular mobile games in China. By way of comparison, miHoYo’s launch of Genshin Impact generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2021, eight times the sales of Naraka: Bladepoint.

Top 10 of 2021 Chinese buyout games

1.Naraka: Bladepoint

Developer: 24entertainment / Publisher: NetEase

Release date: August 12, 2021

Launch platform: NetEase official website, Steam, Epic

Sales volume: 7,000,000
Sales revenue: 1.4 billion RMB (About $ 220 million)
Original price: RMB 98 (About $ 15)
Steam review number / Positive rating: 79332 / 80%
Type: Action, Adventure, MMO

Naraka: Bladepoint is a competitive multiplayer action game developed by 24entertainment Studio, a subsidiary of NetEase, one of the largest game manufacturers in China. It opened beta testing on July 8, 2021, and officially opened on Steam on August 12. It far surpasses all other games on the list in both sales volume and revenue, and it is a worthy winner of the 2021 Chinese buyout game.

The game is a high-freedom action game that supports up to 60 players on the same stage. Players can choose different characters, weapons to fight, but also through the unlocking of talent and with the ability to build their own unique avatars. Players can use the flying rope to move, use the “Knife Vibrationing” operation vibration down enemy weapons, these gameplay provides a lot of room for operation and freedom of play.

The attribute of multiplayer competition has the advantage of natural heat, and many anchors live broadcasted this game at the beginning of the service. And this promotes the game’s heat further in turn. Some players call it the Chinese-style martial arts version of PUBG.

The game is one of the Top 12 in Steam’s annual sales in 2021.

2.Tale of Immortal

Developer: Gui Gu Studio / Publisher: Gui Gu Studio, Lightning Games

Release date: January 27, 2021

Launch platform: Steam

Sales volume: 3,900,000
Sales revenue: 250 million RMB (About $ 39 million)
Original price: RMB 68 (About $ 11)
Steam review number / Positive rating: 125152 / 87%
Type: Action, Adventure, RPG, Sim, Indie

Tale of Immortal is an open-world sandbox game that combines the Chinese legendary immortal cultivation system with the cultural background from the ancient book “Shan Hai Jing“.

Players can customize their appearance, personality and talents at the beginning of the game and choose their own growth path during the game. They can interact with scenes and NPCs in a variety of ways within the game and use them to build their social relationships in the immortal cultivation world. The choices players make in the game can even affect the social ecology and plot outcome in the game world.

Just like the Chinese legendary immortal cultivators pay attention to the “Yuan”, which is similar to lucky chance in English, the game also joined all kinds of strange encounters. Random events lead to different outcomes, which makes each game experience new and unrepeatable.

The game adopts the ink painting art style, and various monsters from Chinese myths and legends will also appear in the game, making it have a unique traditional Chinese flavor. However, because the game is an Indie game, the cost makes part of the UI slightly simple, it is jokingly referred to by Chinese players as a buyout web game.

Tale of Immortal and the Dyson Sphere Program, which will be introduced next, have been successfully entered the Top 100 of Steam sales list in 2021.

3.Dyson Sphere Program

Developer: Youthcat Studio / Publisher: Gamera Games

Release date: January 21, 2021

Launch platform: Steam, Wegame

Sales volume: 1,900,000
Sales revenue: 160 million RMB (About $ 25 million)
Original price: RMB 70 (About $11)
Steam review number / Positive rating: 55575 / 97%
Type: Sim, Strategy, Indie

Dyson Sphere Program is also an Indie game, it was released on Steam on January 21, 2021. It became the top on Steam’s global best-selling weekly list on January 28, and a few days later it was squeezed into the second position by Tale of Immortal.

It is a sandbox construction game with a science fiction theme that incorporates elements of space, automated factories, adventure, and exploration. In the game, players will implement a project called “Dyson Sphere Project”, and build a Dyson sphere to provide energy for the supercomputer “Mastermind”.

Players will take God’s point of view for factory construction and resource management, and solve the various difficulties encountered. As the game progresses, you can start from your own Dyson Sphere, explore the broader universe, and establish your own unique interstellar kingdom. The star chart and events are randomly generated for each game, making it highly replayable.

The game was developed by a five-person team from Chongqing, China, and its completion is not at all inferior to the works of the major top game makers, but its price of RMB 70 is less than the price of even a ten-gacha for most mobile games. Therefore, many Chinese players have left comments in the comment section, “Top game companies (design) ten-gacha (games), five-person team (designs) Dyson Sphere” to express their praise for this independent game.

4.Eastward

Developer: Pixpil / Publisher: Chucklefish

Release date: September 16, 2021

Launch platform: Steam, Wegame, Ns

Sales volume: 560,000
Sales revenue: 44 million RMB (About $ 7 million)
Original price: RMB 68 (About $ 11)
Steam review number / Positive rating: 10,135 / 86%
Type: Adventure, RPG, Indie

This exquisite and charming adventure game is designed by Pixpil, an independent game team from Shanghai, China.

The background of the game is set in the distant future, where the world is destroyed in a catastrophe and mysterious disasters are rampant across the land. And the only remaining humans went underground and have been isolated from the world ever since.

Players will play a hardworking minner and a mysterious girl, trying to escape from the underground town in order to open a new adventure in the Land of the Wind. Players can switch between the two roles to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. On the way around the world, players will encounter beautiful landscapes and villages and meet new partners.

The game is quite outstanding in both plot and gameplay, and the art and music style are also appreciated by the players. For fans of adventure and RPG games, it is a game well worth buying. It is the top 15 of the best-selling indie game on Nintendo Switch in 2021.

5.Swords of Legends Online Overseas version

Developer: Aurogon Shanghai / Publisher: Beijing GAMEBAR, Gameforge

Release date: August 5, 2021

Launch platform: Steam, Gameforge, Epic, Official website

Sales volume: 530,000
Sales revenue: 130 million RMB (About $ 20 million)
Original price: 39.99 USD in the foreign region, 85 RMB (About $ 13) in the Chinese region
Steam review number / Positive rating: 3909 / 73% in Chinese region
Type: Action, Adventure, MMORPG

Swords of Legends Online Overseas version is a buyout MMORPG in which players can choose different genders and sects, upgrade their characters, complete quests, and explore the vast world. You can interpret it as a Chinese-style fairy version of “World of Warcraft“.

The game is considered a unique presence in the list, with the eponymous MMO opening in China back in 2018 and still in operation today. Launched on August 5, 2021, Swords of Legends Online Overseas version was originally prepared especially for foreign players, and it was optimized from an earlier Chinese version, like a nostalgic service for overseas players. Its payment model has changed from a pay-per-hour system in China to a buyout system, and it was not available on Steam China at the beginning.

The game caused a great response after its release on Steam, and its different versions (including the game proper and the bundle) were once on Steam’s weekly best-seller list at the same time. Chinese players also want to play this version of the game when they see it, and the game company has put it on sale urgently in Steam China.

Due to the lack of preparation for the sale of the Chinese region in advance, many bugs unique to Chinese regions appeared in the initial stage. And this makes the Positive rating was once less than 50%. But with the game company’s constant updates since then, its Steam rating has now changed to mostly positive.

6.Moncage

Developer: Optillusion / Publisher: X.D. Network Inc.

Release date: November 16, 2021

Launch platform: Steam, WeGame, Taptap, AppStore

Sales volume: 520,000
Sales revenue: 13 million RMB (About $ 2 million)
Original price: RMB 48 (About $ 8) for PC, RMB 25 (About $ 4) for mobile
Steam review number / Positive rating: 2235 / 95%
Type: Adventure, Casual, Sim, Strategy, Indie

It is also an indie game, its developer Optillusion Studio consists of only two people, and it is the only game on the list that has a mobile version. After just over 1 month on sale, it earned the 6th best result on the list.

Moncage is an “optical illusion” puzzle game in which all the content is contained in a cube, and each side of the cube is a separate but interconnected world. Players need to find connections and solve puzzles in different worlds to discover the hidden stories behind the puzzles.

One of the more interesting points is that although the game is selling well, the low pricing makes it the one with the lowest revenue in the Top 10.

In any case, Moncage is a pretty well-designed puzzle game. From my point of view alone, it is the “most indie” and the best indie game on the list.

7.Sword and Fairy 7

Developer: Softstar Technology(Beijing)Co.,Ltd. / Publisher: CubeGame

Release date: October 22, 2021

Launch platform: Steam, CubeGame, WeGame

Sales volume: 500,000
Sales revenue: 70 million RMB (About $ 11 million)
Original price: 128 RMB (About $ 20)
Steam review number / Positive rating: 9419 / 70%
Type: Action, Adventure, RPG

As early as 1997, there were three series of single-player games known to Chinese players for their excellent quality-Sword Heroes‘ Fate, Sword and Fairy and XuanYuan Sword. And because they all have the word “Sword” in their names, they are called “The Three Swords of Chinese single-player games” by players.

Sword and Fairy 7 is the ninth work in the Sword and Fairy series. The reason it is the ninth work is that the third and fifth have an extra Work and a prequel respectively.

It continues the worldview of the series and revolves around the human, god and demon races. As the story progresses, players will battle various monsters from Chinese mythology and legends, and unlock more storylines.

Sword and Fairy series previous works are using the turn-based mode, but this work made a major change, using the third-person real-time combat mode. This also makes many Chinese players say Sword and Fairy 7 do not have the same style as the series.

There is no doubt that it is a game with a strong fan orientation, which has led to good results in sales and ratings.

8.Myth of Empires

Developer: Angela Games / Publisher: Antiidelay

Release date: November 18, 2021

Launch platform: Steam, Official website

Sales volume: 310,000
Sales revenue: 33 million RMB (About $ 5 million)
Original price: RMB 98 (About $ 15)
Steam review number / Positive rating: 7248 / 76%
Type: Sandbox, MMO

Myth of Empires is a cold weapon warfare sandbox online game with the 3rd century A.D. Eastern continent as the background and high freedom gameplay as the core. Players can experience survival, construction, management, creation and other extensive gameplay in the large world map, and can also give full play to their leadership skills on the battlefield, leading their soldiers to victory in battle and building their own empires.

Unlike the other games on the list, this game was released on Steam on November 18, 2021, but was suddenly taken down from Steam on December 4 and could no longer be purchased.

The official announcement said this is because Steam received allegations of suspected infringement of Myth of Empires, and the game was temporarily taken down according to the process of the U.S. DMCA regulations. The game company said it fully owns the self-development property of the game, will actively respond to all the questions and allegations, and is actively communicating with the Steam platform.

Players who have purchased the game will not be affected by the taken down and can play as usual.

By date, the game has gained 8th place in the list after only half a month online. If the accusation problem can be successfully solved, perhaps the sales will not be lower than the top 5 games in the sales list.

9.F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch

Developer: TiGames / Publisher: Antiidelay

Release date: October 3, 2021

Launch platform: Steam, PlayStation, Epic

Sales volume: 300,000
Sales revenue: 35 million RMB (About $ 6 million)
Original price: RMB 108 (About $ 17) for PC, RMB 198 (About $ 31) for PlayStation
Steam review number / Positive rating: 4267 / 90%
Type: Action, Adventure, RPG, Sim, Indie

Six years ago, Torch City, which was autonomous by animals, was invaded by mechanical legions and the resistance war failed. Player-controlled protagonist Bunny Draven is a reclusive former resistance fighter, with his friends arrested for no reason, he re-dressed equipment – a huge metal iron fist, embarked on a journey to fight back.

The player will also be involved with him in a complex conspiracy woven by the Legion, the resistance and the underground rat gang.

F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch is a Metroidvania game with more than a dozen distinctly designed areas, countless hidden rooms, secret passages and shortcuts. Players need to make reasonable use of three different forms of weapons – iron fist, drill and electric whip to fight, and to solve puzzles to complete different challenges.

The game adopts a dieselpunk aesthetic, blended with a period oriental cityscape, giving it a unique visual effect. The Chinese dialogue of some characters in the game uses a very characteristic dialect dubbing, making many Chinese players can’t help but smile when they hear it.

Of course, as a Metroidvania game, the level design is the most important point. And the 90% positive rating on Steam proves that it is quite successful in this regard.

10.Kingdom Heroes 8

Developer: USERJOY Technology Co.,Ltd. / Publisher: USERJOY Technology Co.,Ltd.

Release date: January 12, 2021

Launch platform: Steam

Sales volume: 300,000
Sales revenue: 35 million RMB (About $ 6 million)
Original price: 128 RMB (About $ 20)
Steam review number / Positive rating: 12660 / 55%
Type: Action, RPC, Sim, Strategy

Despite having a different name, this game is one of Heroes of the Three Kingdomsseries. The previous game was released in 2007, and this is the latest sequel to be released in 2021. In Chinese they are named in the same lineage.

This is a strategy game in which players will take on the role of a lord of the Three Kingdoms period in the late Eastern Han Dynasty of China, recruiting military generals, training soldiers, and running their own cities and towns. There are restraint relationships between different types of soldiers in the game, and different warriors have their own unique and exclusive abilities. Players need to win the battles with other forces to achieve the goal of unification.

As you can see, this game is the game with the least Positive rating on the entire list, bar none. It has only a 55% Positive rating on Steam.

Because of the 14-year gap between the work and the previous work, many players playing the previous work is still a child, buy this game is more for the sentiment to pay, and have high expectations. The actual experience of the game is not as good as it should be, and many Chinese players have given poor reviews as a result.

In marked contrast, the previous Heroes of the Three Kingdom 7 on Steam is priced at only RMB 29, with 83% positive reviews. Many players said that compared with the continuation of the sequel, the developer is better to develop the Heroes of the Three Kingdom 7’s remake version.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are a total of 20 games in this list, but there is a certain gap between the 11 to 20 games in terms of sales volume and revenue, so they are only listed in the form of a table for interested readers to refer to.

As of December 31, 2021, the games ranked 11~20 are only available on Steam platform. Except for Fate Seeker II, Settlement Survival, and The Immortal Mayor, the remaining seven games are all indie games. It is clear that Chinese indie game production teams are quite strong in the field of buyout games.

RankNamesales volume / revenue(in USD)TypeSteam review number / Positive rating
11Fear Surrounds300,000 / 1.4 millionCasual, RPG, Indie8904 / 88%
12Firework270,000 / 1.4 millionSuspense, Puzzle, Indie21820 / 98%
13Fate Seeker II250,000 / 3.3 millionRPG8013 / 91%
14Home Behind 2210,000 / 1.5 millionAdventure, RPG, Sim, Strategy, Indie5190 / 87%
15Bright Memory: Infinite150,000 / 1.5 millionAction, Indie23211 / 93%
16Settlement Survival110,000 / 1.2 millionSimulation, Strategy1720 / 89%
17Touhou Mystia’s Izakaya84,000 / 470,000Casual, RPG, Sim, Indie3558 / 98%
18The Immortal Mayor79,000 / 800,000Sim, Strategy2159 / 66%
19Bunny e-Shop60,000 / 350,000Adventure, Sim, Indie4703 / 96%
20Never Return50,000 / 350,000Action, Adventure, Indie1285 / 81%

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