Chinese publisher NetEase performed very strongly in 2015 thanks to the local success of games such as Fantasy Westward Journey and Westward Journey.
And in 2016, the company is extending its activities, releasing games that target the western audience.
It's a good opportunity, then, to catch up with General Manager of NetEase Games' North American office Riten Huang.
PocketGamer.biz: NetEase experienced strong revenue growth in 2015. Which games have been the main drivers of this?
Riten Huang: The strong revenue growth is driven by several successful initiatives and covers different sub-categories, including MMO (Fantasy Westward Journey, Westward Journey), Action RPG (Battle to the West, The World HD, Simulation Game or "SLG"，and others.
NetEase is building a holistic portfolio of games to meet the needs of all different types of players around the globe, rather than focus solely on one kind of game or genre.
NetEase is building a holistic portfolio of games to meet the needs of all different types of players around the globe.
Can you tell us a little about the newly-announced Spark of Space, and how it ties into your plans to release more Western-focused games.
Spark of Space is a sci-fi game combining SLG and RTS mechanics to enhance the player experience in a whole new way.
With Spark of Space, we are combining the best base-building and real-time strategy components, with pin-point controls in a graphically intense universe that pushes the limits of mobile games.
SLG games are a popular genre in western countries and an important building block for our globalization strategy.
We have spent a lot of time and resources developing Spark of Space, digging deep into western markets through local talent and consumer research. It's a game that we are designing from the ground up with western countries in mind.
As NetEase operates both as a publisher and a developer in its own right, which will be the biggest priority going forward?
It's equally important to develop a good game and introduce the right property to targeted users, and our focus is equal on both sides.
NetEase's DNA is in product quality, and we will continue to focus on production and provide the best games to consumers around the world, whether we are creating them from the ground up or publishing third-party games in targeted markets.
What do you think are the biggest differences between Chinese and Western gamers?
For the most part, if we look deep into gamers' needs, there isn't a big difference between Chinese and western gamers. They are both looking for games with attractive content, balanced gameplay, comprehensive features and playmodes, and creative design.
If we look deep into gamers' needs, there isn't a big difference between Chinese and western gamers.
We've seen a lot of games that are successful in multiple markets and enjoyed by users around the globe.
There are some differences in terms of playing habits, cultural background, and media behavior, however, and we are constantly working to optimize our game development and communication strategies.
NetEase's business is split between PC and mobile games but do you think the distinction between these is becoming smaller?
Driven by device quality and upgrades, as well as mainstream adoption of gaming, mobile games are starting to lean more hardcore. That is where we're starting to see more overlap between PC and mobile gamers.
As such, it's not a surprise that the similarities between PC and mobile games become more defined, while the differences are optimized according to how we interact with those games - whether it be via keyboard and mouse or touchscreen.
But I still believe each game type will occupy their own segments of dedicated audience. For instance, PC games can deliver stronger visual impact, multi-functional operating and a sense of immersion，while mobile games can deliver better portability and shorter bursts of enjoyable play time.
Lots of companies are excited about the possibilities of VR gaming. What's your view on this?
Without a doubt, VR will change all categories of entertainment, not only video games. But gaming will certainly be one of the first categories to convey the benefits of this revolution.
VR gaming will provide players an unexpected sense of immersion，which will significantly enhance the gameplay experience, especially for some specific game types and genres.
Since NetEase's vision is to improve players experience by introducing more and more high quality games, we will definitely monitor this trend very closely and continue investing resources into VR game design and development.
Some of our more recent game development projects are already integrating VR capabilities, the details of which we'll announce when ready.
Finally, congratulations on claiming #6 in our Top 50 Mobile Game Developers 2016. What do you hope to have achieved by the end of the year?
Thank you very much! We had a very successful 2015 in China and this year we will introduce more wonderful games both at home and around the globe.
For western gamers, we are already preparing a number of great games that will launch in 2016. We sincerely hope that everyone finds these games to be a ton of fun!