China’s large population and youth gaming culture make it an appealing target for international game developers. Still, domestic gaming startup GameGou sees an opportunity to develop sports games for overseas players. The startup in August launched a penalty kick game, Soccer Shootout, a game which was installed 500,000 times in one week.
In the game, taking a penalty kick or making a save is as easy as a slide with your finger, similar to Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja.
On top of the easy to play interface, the game has a detailed and 3D replica of a soccer pitch and energetic background music, aiming to grab the attention of players.
The hit game was not developed in a day. Soccer Shootout is more like an upgraded version of GameGou’s earlier popular game, Perfect Kick. In Perfect Kick, the characters are in cartoon images, and are not as life-like and complicated as those in the newest game.
Still, Perfect Kick was welcomed among gamers and gaming distribution platforms. It was listed among Google Play’s Best Apps of 2015.
“Perfect Kick is the first online penalty kick game that enables its players to compete against each other,” said He Dongxu, the Founder and CEO of GameGou.
“We hope to become a sports game developer that has an influence across the globe,” He told AllChinaTech.
An independent game developer
He, a veteran sports game developer, founded GameGou in 2010 as an independent game developer. The team has more than 10 years’ experience in the gaming industry. Management team members come from either tech giants like Tencent, or from international game developers like Gameloft. He himself was the Creative Director of Gameloft Sports China.
Although the gaming industry remains lucrative, independent game developers are at a disadvantage compared to the tech giants, all of which have more resources and better access to users.
Nevertheless, independent developers tend to have their own unique characteristics, being more likely to freely develop experimental and unique games. They feel less pressure to follow popular genres, and they do not necessarily feel an urgency to cater to the broadest possible tastes of the gaming community.
“Minecraft, for example, only has blurry images in itself. But it is so popular,” noted He.
“We can concentrate on our game. Master League Soccer is a new game that we will release in January 2017. Our team spent two and a half years developing the match engine for that game. It enables gamers to fight against other gamers across the world. This is less likely to happen in big gaming companies,” said He.
“GameGou is one of its kind in the niche market we are in,” added He.
Unlike many Chinese game developers, GameGou’s attention is focused on providing games for overseas players: its website and games only have an English display.
“We mainly target games in overseas markets,” He said.
The reasons, according to He, is that the team’s advantages are on the gameplay and details, which are regarded as important among overseas gamers. In contrast, according to He, Chinese gamers like to show off the money they spend on purchasing gaming kits.
The startup launched some brand-new experiments in the gaming sector. Another game by the startup, Song Shaker, is an example. It has two modes: In one mode it’s like any music player. But another mode is more innovative, involving the player continuously shaking the phone to keep the music playing.
The startup hasn’t landed financing so far. He said that the team has limited energy and they chose to first develop better games and establish itself in the industry. They will raise financing in the future to expand its business.
The company’s games have been downloaded altogether more than 40 million times across the world.
Today’s mobile sports games
The online games market is too big and growing too fast to be ignored. In China alone, it is predicted that the online games market will be worth RMB 151.6 billion (USD 22.4 billion) in 2018, up from RMB 136.2 billion (USD 20.1 billion) in 2015, according to Analysys.
For Chinese tech company Netease, online games contributed about 76% out of its RMB 22.8 billion annual net income in 2015.
As for sports games, He believes that mobile sports games have not entered a boom era yet.
Technically, advanced artificial intelligence algorithms and production are needed to authentically represent a soccer game. In design, the industry needs an advanced interface to bring gamers fun experiences on mobile devices.
In addition, it is an expensive task to add intellectual property – such as popular real world sports brands or teams – into games.
In spite of these difficulties, there is still light at the end of the tunnel for developers who can succeed; Gamegou hopes that they can win over the markets with quality design and gameplay.
(Top photo from Pixabay.com)