This article was originally writen by the Chinese game blog ChuApp(触乐) and translated by after it was licensed. Copyright belongs to the original author and it is forbidden to reprint without permission.

Author: Chen Jing

In March of 2020, E3(The Electronic Entertainment Expo) was officially cancelled.

In the same month, GDC( Game Developers Conference) 2020 announced an extension, which was subsequently held online.

In the same month, the 2020 Taipei Game Show was cancelled.

In April, the Gamescom 2020 announced the switch to an online model.

In May, the Tokyo Game Show 2020 was cancelled and plans to be held online.

31 July, China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference (also known as ChinaJoy) was held at the Shanghai New International Expo Center as scheduled.

I watched the ordinary and unusual exhibition on the spot.

Hand sanitizer on the booth

Bottles of disposable hand sanitizer were neatly arranged on the booth. Some of them were torn off their original labels and replaced with beautifully printed packaging with game company Logo, and more simply stood in a prominent position, waiting for people to pass by. 

Neatly arranged hand sanitizer. 

Tourists never pay much attention to these hand sanitizers. Tens of thousands of people walked through and lined up in more than 10 stadiums, and after waiting for as little as dozens of minutes and as long as an hour or two, only games were left in everyone’s eyes. When it was their turn to experience the game, people entered the trial area as quickly as possible, grabbing the mobile phone, keyboard, mouse and handle with warm, which the previous person just put it down.

But hand sanitizer was not entirely alone. I queued for half an hour in the trial area of a well-known game platform, and about 10 tourists took the initiative to use hand sanitizer.

“The number of people seems to be a little less” and “Why is it still so crowded” became the two most frequent sentences in the meeting hall. Before the exhibition, it was reported that the exhibition was restricted for epidemic prevention, and ticket sales were only 60% to 70% of those in previous years; and it was also reported that this was probably one of the few or even the only large-scale offline game exhibitions this year, and that many more people would come than expected.

Epidemic prevention staff at the entrance

July 31 is a Friday, and the queue did seem to be much shorter than usual. By August 1, the weekend doubled the number of visitors, and the air conditioner, which had been cold the day before, seemed to have lost its function overnight. 

Security guards and staff carried eye-catching “Please wear masks” and “keep your distance from gathering” signs, patrolling the venue. The next day, it was difficult for them to squeeze into the crowd, so they could only hold the sign higher so that the words “Please wear a mask” and “keep your distance from gathering” would not be completely blocked. When they were tired, they put it down to rest and hold it up later.

The staff holding the sign

The hard work of the security guard was clear at a glance. More and more people poured into the exhibition hall, and countless needs for rest, drinking water, eating, and heat dissipation were amplified. People took off their masks to get fresh air, rested in small groups, bought box lunches in convenience stores, and sat down in a corner. The security guard tried to remind the tourists to wear masks. They also tried to overcome the temperature in the venue and the tiredness of wearing masks all day.

On the afternoon of August 1, I saw a security guard in the corner of a pavilion. He was sweating, squatting on the ground, and resting against the wall, his mask was pulled to his chin. A minute later, he stood up, pulled the mask back to his face, picked up the “Please put on the mask” sign at hand, tried to squeeze into the crowd, reminding people: put on the mask and try not to gather.

In the distance, the staff on the booth were beckoning visitors to follow their Wechat official accounts, post Wechat moments, and participate in the lucky draw. The words “winning 100%” were particularly obvious on leaflets and display shelves, and one of the prizes was hand sanitizer with game Logo. 

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In order to limit the flow of people, the organizing committee issued a notice the next day, requiring each booth to perform within 10 minutes, with an interval of 50 minutes. The organizer planned the audience’s rest area for the booth overnight and re-planned the isolation measures. Exhibitors must strictly control the flow of people and not gather. At the same time, exhibitors were not allowed to distribute any gifts and peripheral derivatives in the pavilion, and the distribution of gifts and peripheral derivatives must be transferred outside the pavilion. 

Exhibitors were not the only ones being asked to restrict the flow of people. From the next day, there were temporary restrictions in several pavilions. Whenever two adjacent pavilions were restricted at the same time, tourists who did not have time to enter the pavilion and receive gifts outside the pavilion had to wait in the open air for a period of time.

Photographers and Internet celebrities holding cameras recorded the most intuitive images of the exhibition. Photographers are carefully looking for an angle to take pictures, and online celebrities wear face masks to “visit the exhibition through the clouds” with live viewers online, with occasional comments. The scene was crowded and noisy, and the viewing effect was not good, but most of the online audience was enthusiastic, and whenever Internet celebrities passed by a large booth, they always made comments on the bullet screen.

Many Coser also wear masks.

Overseas development, 5G & cloud games

The B2B (Business to Business) Pavilion could give people the most intuitive feeling that “there are really fewer people”. In this year’s B2B area, only “big company” could occupy a place in the exclusive pavilion, and many small companies engaged in dubbing, art, translation, and overseas operations had been crowded into the entrance area. if you didn’t talk about work and cooperation with clear goals, it was easy to ignore them.

Some small companies were even unmanned. A QR code and several brochures constituted a simple booth.

A self-help booth. Tourists look for the information they want by themself.

Whether it was dubbing, art, translation, or public relations, channels, promotion, many people had the same goal: to enter overseas markets. 

I came to the booth of a “cross-border integrated digital marketing” company. The booth was very large, and its area, content and decoration were as good as those of Unity, Unreal, TapTap and BiliBili that players were familiar with. In the circular promotional films, words such as “domestic game publication number policy” appeared from time to time.

The increasingly frequent overseas operation demand of Chinese games provides opportunities for companies mainly engaged in overseas distribution and overseas marketing.

Tim (a pseudonym), a head of the company, said that in recent years, domestic game manufacturers had been increasing at an annual rate of 20% to 30%. Many game companies chose to go online directly in overseas markets, and the increasing demand gave them a living space. 

“In overseas marketing, it is necessary to know what foreigners like. It is not possible to simply translate and advertise.” According to Tim, the games their company was responsible for marketing were first classified according to platform users, such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, what type of advertisement to send, what kind of online celebrities to find, whether to be “Nijigen” or “Realistic”, 2D or 3D, and how to interact with players. At the same time, they also contracted some business to deal with overseas banks and payment channels. 

“Many people mention going to overseas markets, that is, Europe, the United States, Japan and South Korea. In fact, the largest group of mobile game players is not in Europe and the United States, but around China. Japan and South Korea are really good, and Southeast Asia is also very good.” Tim said, “India used to be a big market, because they have more than 1 billion people, the order of magnitude is very large. However, there are many players there, but the money is not easy to earn, and many Apps can only make money from advertising there, not charging directly. ” Since June, India boycotted “Chinese Apps”, and Tim’s companies had also been affected. They quickly turned to the Middle East.

Translation, dubbing and other local work are necessary conditions for Chinese games to be launched overseas.

Tim’s view was verified on the booths of some dubbing and localization companies. A staff member of a dubbing company who had participated in ChinaJoy for three years told me that most of the people who came to consult on the spot wanted to go abroad, and their scope of business was “mainly in English, Japanese and Korean, but there are still few minor languages at present.” When I asked her if she had any business for Southeast Asia, Arabia and Africa, she only replied that I was “not very clear”. 

5G and cloud games were also twin buzzwords. At the 2020 China Game Capital Summit held on August 1st, leaders, executives and developer representatives of the China Publishing Research Institute, the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association, and listed game companies, everyone mentioned “5G” and “cloud games”.

“Cloud Game” was one of the hot words in this exhibition.

Mobile phone manufacturers’ 5G promotions and cloud game advertisements could be seen everywhere at the exhibition. The trial area also attracted a lot of people. Almost every cloud game trial area took the high-definition games as the selling point, “Red Dead: Redemption 2“, “Dark Souls 3“, “Titanfall“, “Sekiro“, “Detroit: Become Human” and “Frostpunk“. 

In terms of trial experience, the performance of these cloud game platforms was uneven, and there was a certain gap between the actual picture quality and the number of frames and what is said in the publicity. There is no particularly good solution for keystroke delay. Overall, cloud games still have a long way to go before they are really used for daily use.

The trial area provided a variety of devices, and the game is mainly 3A.

But from another point of view, these cloud game trials to some extent make up for the absence of “overseas game companies”. For various reasons, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo announced their absence early, the pre-exhibition press conferences were cancelled, and overseas manufacturers and console games were rarely seen. By contrast, it is commendable to be able to play with “old works”.

There was something here, and was not.

There were not many bright spots for big game companies in the exhibition this year. Some manufacturers moved the booth from the B2C area to the B2B area, while others chose to be absent. 

Players were still flocking in. Some people came in for fun, some came back disappointed, and some were just curious. Only they knew what “stand in line for 2 hours and play for 10 minutes” means. “it’s mainly about feeling the atmosphere, waiting in line for a trial with everyone, and chatting with others and staff, which is very interesting.” Wang told me so. 

Wang works as an operator in a domestic game company. Last year, the company rented a booth in the B2C Pavilion, and the response from players was relatively enthusiastic. As there are no new works this year, I won’t come at all. 

“I only like Blizzard.” He said. On Friday, July 31, he asked the company for leave to come to the exhibition. “I want to try Diablo 4.” 

“Is there a trial of Diablo 4?” I reminded him. 

“There should be.” Wang looked a little confused. “There are too many people in Blizzard booth. I’ll try my luck later.” 

In fact, Diablo 4 was only broadcasted at the exhibition, and no trial play was arranged. I didn’t know how Wang will react when he goes to the Blizzard booth.

Tourists waiting to enter the Blizzard booth

Without Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, Ubisoft has become the representative of “big overseas game companies”. However, due to conditional restrictions, only the “Rabbids: Adventure Party” led by Ubisoft Chengdu is available on the booth. 

“from the player’s point of view, the experience of this year’s exhibition is actually better.” A Ubisoft staff member said to me, “the queue time is shorter, the trial time is longer, and there are more games you can play.” One player also said that it only took him more than 20 minutes to line up “Rabbids” this year, but “not at all” last year.

The Chinese homophonic stem is used in the Ubisoft booth, and the Chinese pronunciation of “Ubisoft” is similar to the beginning of “Imperial Catering Room”.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Model

Rabbids: Adventure Party” is colorful and easy to play, suitable for many people to play with, and attracts many parents with children. When a young couple with two children heard that they only had to wait for 20 minutes to play, they immediately began to wait in line. When we arrived at the trial area, the family listened carefully to the staff’s explanation: how to use the Switch handle and how to operate the game. Through a game, they became interested in the “strange” game console.

Parents who tried out “Rabbids” with their children.

Ubisoft also has high hopes for “Rabbids. The staff told me that “Rabbids: adventure Party” will be first launched on the official Chinese Switch (Imported and sold by Tencent). “Ubisoft hopes to turn it into a high-quality party game in China”, game publication number is also in the process of applying.

Not every game in the exhibition already has game publication number. “Pokémon Quest” sets up the “game publication number prayer place”. Pikachu, Ibu, Charmander, Squirtle and other game images and “the wind is so strong, it is so cold, I am still waiting for game publication number for a year” slogan. 

Shortly after the end of the exhibition, the NPPA( National Press and Publication Administration, Responsible for approving the release of the game in China) released a new list of overseas game publication numbers, and “Pokémon Quest” is still not on the list.

Players can bless Pokémon Quest get the game publication number at this booth.

Some new faces appeared in the exhibition. Shaanxi Animation and Game Industry Association is one of the few booths directly supported by the government. Ms. Yang Shan, deputy secretary general of the Association, said that it was the first time for them to come to the game exhibition “group output”. The main goal was to promote the cultural resources of Shaanxi Province and IP, also wanted to attract some powerful game companies to northwest China.

Inside and outside the exhibition

Compared with the attention received at the opening of the exhibition, the end of the exhibition was very insipid. 

On the last day, when I left the venue, countless players were still waiting in line, exchanging game tips and complaining jokes. Others were stuck between venues, wearing masks and backpacks, exposed to the 34 ℃ summer in Shanghai. 

Both desolation and noise continue, some were pursuing business cooperation, some were looking for channels to sell overseas, some were hyping about new concepts, and some were looking for their own position in the middle and lower reaches of the industry. 

In a few days, many people just posted a circle of friends saying, “I’m at the xx restaurant today. Friends who come to the exhibition can meet.” At the dinner table, they talked about new ideas, old friendships, and “if you can’t apply for the game publication number, when will you go to Steam?”