A beautifully written Polygon Feature drew my eye the other day, breaking down a change in the industry that has been forecast for a long time. Chinese developers have often faced criticism, and often for good reason. Culture is largely controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, the country's ruling class, and thus many subsidiary companies are often the majority owners of developers and publishers in China. What is often overlooked, though, is that this same thing can now be said about many Western developers as well. That was the entire point of my column on Tencent; we need to keep an eye on this influence.
Since writing that column, though, my stance has shifted a little bit. The reality is that China will continue to grow in its influence and that, if we want to continue enjoying the games we love, we should accept this influence with open arms. Why? Well, because a lot of these games are absolutely incredible, and not everything needs to be politicized within an inch of its life. Do we really need to inject all of these worries into the world of gaming as well? Surely we can leave that to the countless talk-show hosts, Twitter warriors and politicians, right? After all, their profits are based on our anxieties, so how about we give the currency of our time to people who are just purely trying to give us a fun and memorable experience?
So that's where the point of this column comes in: Chinese games are legitimately getting to the point where they can compete, in terms of quality, with the Western Games industry. That goes for both the Triple-A industry and Indie games. After all, look at Eastward – and of course, our interview with the game's producer – here is a fantastic game that rivals the best from the equivalent Western game development scene. That game's combination of incredible story telling, beautiful graphics and fun and engaging gameplay made it one of the best games to come out last year.
The Polygon feature talks especially about Black Myth: Wukong, a juggernaut of a game that is due to come out in a few years time. When it was announced, the game's trailer garnered millions of views on YouTube and the Chinese equivalent to YouTube, Bilibili. The game's developer, Game Science, didn't even contact Western outlets when they revealed the title online, yet it has been the talk of the town ever since. Black Mythic: Wukong has some of the most unbelievable graphics we have ever seen and would truly be considered a proper Triple-A next-gen title for the likes of PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. I mean, just watch this gameplay demo... it's f**king unbelievable.
I mean, look at this game, it's like a Monster Hunter of epic proportions, and sadly, it quite likely won't be on Western shelves any time soon. Game Science might be considered an Indie developer, but that is only because it doesn't meet the standards we set here in the West. That doesn't mean that the product they produce ain't of Triple-A quality, in the same damn way that it doesn't mean that it will be bad. Of course, we need to take the same precautions as we always should: don't preorder it, wait for the reviews before you pick it up. We don't know if it will be good until it has been released.
There is a long list of other major Chinese games that none of us even talk about. One of the biggest and most successful games in the world is a Chinese MMO, after all, but we don't cover it simply because we don't have access. It would certainly be nice too, though... it actually sounds great. We have to remember that games are, as the name of the medium suggests, games. It's about having fun, engaging in great gameplay and being told epic tales of adventure and misfortune. It doesn't matter if these stories are based on Western or Eastern traditions, they just have to be interesting and... well... good.
Does that necessarily mean that Chinese games are getting better than Western ones? Well, it's kind of an inevitability. Sure, it is harder for them to push political messages in their games but... to be honest... the most successful games out there don't do that anyway. Fortnite? Yeah, that game has no f**king message. Rocket League? Yeah, that game is paper thin. Call of Duty? Okay, yeah, but honestly we could do without that s**tty American propaganda anyway. I mean, sure, you couldn't really have a game like Grand Theft Auto, where the whole point is to take the piss and create a humorous version of modern America, but there are surely other ways to be funny, right?
In the end, whether Chinese games will be strongly affected by their context is not up for discussion. They will, of course they will. Does that mean that they will be bad? Hell no! Look at Black Myth: Wukong, look at Eastward. We might still not know whether the former will be a great game, but we can certainly confirm to you that Eastward fits every single factor required to be a great game. It even has an engaging and emotional story to follow, and has interesting themes of family, society, and the corruption that comes with power. So... yeah, with the money and population behind it, Chinese games are surely going to overtake Western ones in terms of both sales are quality. It won't even be that long until they do, and whilst we need to be cautious, that doesn't mean that we necessarily need to be worried.
Other Columns that you should check out...