The Chinese gaming market has a dark history of suffocating censorship, console bans, and rampant software piracy, but indie champions like Lost Castle are shining a light on the strong support Chinese gamers are willing to show their local developers. A 90s Kid head honcho Lachlan is currently covering PAX Aus and got to speak with one of the men responsible for helping Lost Castle reach a larger audience.
But first, a brief history lesson.
China banned consoles from 2000-2013, which caused an explosion in PC gaming.
Meanwhile, software was heavily censored, resulting in widespread piracy. When the Xbox One and PS4 were finally released, sales were sluggish. Expensive consoles with limited games due to censorship (Sony launched with 6!) didn’t stand a chance in a market conditioned to free-to-play PC and mobile games (the biggest mobile market in the world with 400 million users and $7 billion annually).
Despite China’s F2P focus, Lost Castle – a PC roguelike from Chinese Developer Hunter Studio – has found great success. As of this writing it’s sold 160,000 copies in China alone, with 40,000 sold in the West (western PS4/XB1 release coming soon).
A large contributing factor comes from Steam not only launching in China, but finally accepting Chinese currency and other popular payment methods. This is obviously much more convenient than using foreign credit cards and/or Steam key resellers.
Another contributing factor has to be the regional pricing. Although Lost Castle sells for $9.99 USD, it’s roughly $3 in China.
Other than pricing, there are many other regional considerations.
In an early-access interview with the developer and publisher Another Indie Studio, they remarked on the difficulty in pleasing everyone. While Chinese gamers insisted on online everything, Japanese gamers were requesting four player local co-op.
The biggest obstacle facing games in China is the unpredictable censorship of the GAAP, the agency in charge of approving games
Iian Garner – PR and Social manager of Another Indie Studio – has said “…because of China’s isolation, because of the Great Firewall, etc. It’s really tough, especially for indie developers, to get out when they’re developing a game.”
“Sometimes it’s really difficult to get that approval. The rules are quite nebulous. Sometimes you’ll get through with something and the next time you won’t. Sometimes skeletons are totally banned and sometimes skeletons are totally fine. Sometimes blood is totally banned and sometimes a little bit of blood isn’t.”
Although the GAAP is still making life difficult for aspiring developers, it’s fantastic to see Chinese developers have success and support from their local markets. Hopefully Lost Castle will continue to inspire other devs to bring their vision to gamers around the world.
Read our review on Last Castle here.