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Made in China: The Rise of AAA Chinese Games in the West

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Chinese games have gone global. This week’s launch of Honkai: Star Rail and Starlight 84 marks China’s emergence as a AAA developer for Western audiences.

In the past, top Chinese games such as Honor of Kings, Fantasy Westward Journey, and QQ Speed struggled to meet Western expectations or compete with their Western counterparts. As with our usual economic growth story, manufacturing and outsourcing accumulates valuable human capital and spur agglomeration effects, letting developers move up the supply chain. Original IP development sits atop that chain.

The adoption of mobile gaming and sophisticated virtual “dual stick” controls in the West has aided Chinese success. GenZ is being raised on dual-stick Roblox mobile, and Call of Duty Mobile’s dual-stick success was a revelation. The explosion of anime in the West hasn’t hurt, either. Driven by platforms like Netflix and Crunchyroll, the growing popularity of anime in the West has contributed to a receptive audience for anime-style art. This cultural influence is evident in other Western preferences; I write this across from three ramen shops in Stockholm. Ten years ago, there were none.

Next stop? HD. Naraka: Bladepoint has consistently ranked among the top 10 titles on Steam, although it has yet to gain significant press attention. Meanwhile, the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Black Myth: Wukong, will be released next year.

Although tensions between China and the West may be simmering, including rifts between Netease & Blizzard and Timi & Respawn, the regions have never better served each other’s audience.

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