On Friday, I talked with a rather unusual game developer. He is Richard Wu of Wistone, a Beijing based game studio. He started developing games over 15 years ago, around 1996, when he was still in high school. He did not went to university, instead he started selling his games and made a living out of it.
In this way, he is a bit like Bill Gate. But Bill Gate,at least, went to Harvard. He just did not graduated, as Microsoft was so much more fun. Richard skipped the whole process and started his own game company and in 2004, he sold it to Shanda. Then, he started another one, Wistone. The company has over 100 people and a revenue of Rmb40-50 million last year. It develops MMORPG, and operate its games over multiple platforms (mobile / PC / social networks). It also expanded internationally, to Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, Germany, Greece, Russia, Spain, etc. Currently, overseas market accounted for about one third of Wistone’s revenue.
“I have been developing game for a very long time. I know what will make a game sell. And I am already tired of it,” said Richard. According to him, MMORPG games are popular in China because it allows people to display their anger in the games, something they cannot do in the real life. “In China, many people are angry and frustrated in real life. So, if we just give them a small excuse in the game, their anger will be ignited and they will fight fiercely with each other. The game developer will make a lot of money out of them by selling them different weapons,” said Richard, “It is just like selling a person a sword and another person a blade, and then, watch them fighting.”
This is the money-making formula for many of the hit titles in China. “But, in the end, people playing such games will not be happy. The ones who win might be happy for a while. But to the ones who lose, they are angry and frustrated not only in real life, but also in the virtual world. Anger is accumulate in the game playing process and it needs a outlet. That is why we have seen so many people curse the game companies in their official sites,” said Richard, “I feel game companies and game players are working against each other in China. We are not creating happiness, we are profiting from the anger within people and helping anger grows.”
“I have my own kids now. But I don’t want them to play my games,” said Richard, “If that is the case, why I want to make such game anymore?”
That’s why Richard is leading a small team in his company and they are trying out something new. This time the formula will be happiness. “If people play my games and feel happy about it, I will be even more happy,” said Richard.
In fact, such games are quite common overseas. Games which let you play with your friends and enjoy the process. All the popular social games, such as Farmville or Cityville, are like that. I wonder if Richard is thinking something similar.