It can be difficult to get the latest news from China, given how locked off it can be for the rest of the world, but we're making it a little bit easier with our new, weekly round-up of the biggest stories from the region.
We're working with Junxue Li, CEO of Beijing-based 2D art firm Sunny Painter, to bring the most interesting news from China to you, so you can stay informed of what's happening in one of the biggest markets in the world.
This week, we're looking at the return of Wind Fantasy on mobile, the continued rise of Chinese anime around the world, and the growing grey market for items in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Mobile game of an acclaimed Chinese anime announced
Only Below One Man (一人之下) is an acclaimed Chinese anime TV series. Its third season was released on April 24th, and its mobile game will be launched on May 27th - exciting news for its fans. The game is a combat game.
It's a high school story, featuring fighting and magic, set in the background of modern China. The series is widely loved for its Chinese twists, for example the setting, the dialects of many provinces, and spells in the Chinese magic culture.
The original manga is by a Chinese artist Mi Er (米二)，and the production of its three seasons anime is a collaboration of Chinese and Japanese studios. The series is available in both countries.
Classic Chinese fantasy RPG reincarnated on mobile
Around the beginning of this century, the Final Fantasy series had been a fad among Chinese gamers. And there were dozens of Chinese imitations, with a few very good ones among them. Wind Fantasy (风色幻想) is such a game, adopting similar a art style, world view and gameplay.
The first game in the franchise came out in 1999, and in the following decade, 10 games were released in this series. Now its first mobile installment, Wind Fantasy: Destiny (风色幻想：命运传说), is about to be launched, and it has gathered 143,000 players to pre-register on Taptap so far.
April's second batch of domestic games Approved
On April 27th, the second batch of licenses for month were released to 55 domestic games, including 51 mobile titles, among them 24 hypercasual games.
This time, anime games become eye-catching, and the highlighted mobile games are Incredible Butterflies in Dreams (不可思议之梦蝶), an adventure game by Tencent; New Dreamy Deity Wars (梦幻新诛仙), a turn-based MMORPG by Perfect World; And Above Dark Tide (黑潮之上), an anime card game with a Sci-Fi twist by Netease.
So far in 2020 over 400 games have been approved, at an average pace of 100 games per month.
How to make real cash in Animal Crossing
It's rumored that in China, people are making good money by trading items in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
I decided to explore how this is made possible by starting searching for the key word "动物森友会道具" (Animal Crossing items) in Alibaba’s Taobao platform. Then a whole bunch of stores pop up in the results, and I click one with high number of transactions.
I paid ¥10 ($1.4) for a golden spade, and the salesgirl asked for my island entry code, and then her avatar came in, dropping an item on the lawn in front of the pier before she leaves. The sales support is excellent, and the girl gave me a lot of gameplay tips.
In the list of this Taobao store, there are the full items and furniture in the game for sale. I can imagine a whole staff is needed for this business: a team to gather raw materials in the game, make DIY items, and another team to manage and ship the items to customers' islands.
And this doesn't amaze me very much, because trading items and in-game currencies of online games is nothing new in China. The same store also sells items for Pokémon games. What really stuns me is that Nintendo would allow players to drop items on other people's island in this casual fashion, which would surely only foster gray transactions.
Maybe I can think of creating customized pixel art-style wallpapers/clothes to sell in the game!
Netease releases Shan Hai Ching-themed DLC in hit MMORPG
Under Heaven (天下) is a mobile MMORPG published by Netease. The story sets in China's first dynasty Xia, and the storyline is centered on early Chinese mythology. The game features beautiful backgrounds and character designs in traditional Chinese style.
And this week, a Shan Hai Ching-themed DLC was released for the game., which is named Strange Beasts in Shan Hai(异兽山海).
The Legendary Creatures of the Shan Hai Ching (山海经) is a Chinese classic literature which was collectively written during 1000~100 BCE. It was in a geographic book style, recording imaginary continents, fictional people and mythical creatures.
Its contents are so rich and unfathomable, and has continued to be a source of inspirations for literature and art for the generations to come. The art design in Chinese games is deeply influenced by the work.
The most successful Chinese anime game in the US
In Q1 2020, a Chinese anime game Arknights (明日方舟) took 17th place of Chinese games in the US by revenue, earning $12 million. This makes it the most successful Chinese anime game in the US so far.
The game is a strategy game with tower defense and card collection game play. It's developed by a Shanghai company called Hypergryph, a new rising start-up.