Game sales in China surge 22.3 per cent in first half of 2020 amid coronavirus pandemic

·4-min read

The game industry in China has seen a boom in the first half of the year amid stay-home orders and social distancing measures due to Covid-19, according to a new report.

Sales of games in China surged to 139.4 billion yuan (US$19.9 billion) from January to June, 22.3 per cent higher than the same period last year, according to the China Game Industry Report by the government-backed China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association (CAVCA).

Home-grown games continued to dominate the market, accounting for about 86 per cent of total game sales – 120.1 billion yuan – from January to June, while mobile games were the most popular format making up 75 per cent of total sales, the report said.

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“The coronavirus epidemic has had a huge impact on economic and social development, and brought many changes to people's work, life and consumption habits,” said CAVCA director Sun Shoushan on Thursday, launching the report at the China Digital Entertainment Congress (CDEC) in Shanghai.

Sun said that as the spread of the disease stabilised in China, gaming companies were quick to respond to a national call to resume production. “Many companies did not lay off staff or reduce wages, thus contributing to economic and social stability,” he added.

Behavioural changes from pandemic could sustain gaming, e-commerce boom

The gaming industry has been one of the major beneficiaries of the stay-at-home orders issued globally during the Covid-19 pandemic, when millions of people have turned to online consumption, online entertainment and working from home.

The strong growth in the first half of the year shows the industry climbing out of a two-year slump, after a nine-month freeze on new game licenses ended last year. In 2018 and 2019, total game sales grew 5.23 per cent and 8.59 per cent respectively, compared to 26.7 per cent in 2017.

However, China’s gaming market appears to be getting saturated. The report estimated that the country had about 657 million gamers as of the first half of the year, only 1.97 per cent higher than the same period last year. In the first half of 2019, the number of gamers grew 22.25 per cent.

Although the country is known as the world’s largest market for video games, sales for Chinese games grew more in overseas markets such as the US, Japan and South Korea than at home. From January to June, sales of Chinese games overseas totalled about US$7.59 billion, an increase of 36.32 per cent, compared to 30.38 per cent growth domestically.

In his speech at the CDEC, Sun encouraged Chinese game companies to “go global” while stressing that it was imperative for their products to communicate cultural values.

“The core content of many online game products are closely related to China's long-standing traditional culture, and many excellent online game products are usually masterpieces with distinctive Chinese cultural connotations and characteristics,” he said.

“We want to use online games as the carrier and take advantage of the internet to better serve game users with excellent cultural content, serve domestic and overseas markets, and enhance the influence and reach of China's excellent traditional culture through games.”

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