Black Myth an Indicator of China’s Rising Creative Powers
The perception of Chinese game development is shifting. The release of the trailer for the eagerly anticipated Black Myth: Wukong, based on the traditional Chinese legends of Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King, topped 10 million views on Chinese social media site Bilibili and 2 million views on Youtube, the latter being a watershed achievement for a Chinese release.
Video games are a blockbuster business that are expected to surpass $200 billion in market value by 2023 according to various market analysts. This dwarfs the film, music and television sectors and is fast becoming the world’s go-to media platform for entertainment. After a rapid development in sophistication, video games are now considered beautiful works of art, capable of creating moving storylines and giving rise to complex emotions such as empathy. First-person gameplay living through multifaceted characters puts you, the player, in the driving seat, a unique quality that even the biggest Hollywood blockbusters cannot replicate. For proof of their popularity you need not look any further than franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted and The Last Of Us, which have generated billions in sales and touched millions of fans around the world.
Those previously mentioned titles, so-called AAA games (considered the highest calibre games with the largest budgets), have all been created by American developers. China, whilst holding a significant $77 billion market share and a rich gaming culture, has not yet produced an internationally renowned release of the same level.
However, the perception of Chinese game development is shifting. The release of the trailer for the eagerly anticipated Black Myth: Wukong, based on the traditional Chinese legends of Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King, topped 10 million views on Chinese social media site Bilibili and 2 million views on Youtube, the latter being a watershed achievement for a Chinese release.
The traditional stories of the Monkey King (also the inspiration for Japanese character Goku, the protagonist of the world-famous Dragonball Z cartoons) have a special place in the heart of many young Chinese. To see the adventures that they grew up with be brought to life through the latest technology is an important juncture that should help bring Chinese video gaming and culture to a larger international market. Developers of Black Myth, Hangzhou-based Game Science, revealed the impressive 10-minute plus in-game trailer showcasing state of the art graphics. Black Myth will join a long list of cutting-edge Chinese titles, soon to be available on next-generation consoles such as the Sony Playstation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X.
The Chinese video game market has traditionally been just as enthusiastic as the U.S. market, however, there are a few notable demographic differences. According to research carried out by Niko Partners, the gender divide between male and female gamers is much smaller in China, whereas the U.S. market holds a much larger percentage of male players. Culturally, Chinese gamers also tend to rate competitive aspects of gaming as more important, with combat games such as PUBG becoming wildly popular domestically.
The two markets are however deemed similar enough for Black Myth to cross over and gain worldwide popularity. It may also be the first time in which Chinese mythology receives global mainstream recognition. Gaming and television platforms based on cultural and historical events have proven to be a hit worldwide, as was seen with the mega international success television fantasy series Game of Thrones, itself based loosely around events that occurred during the 15th-century English civil war, known as the War of the Roses.
The emergence of Chinese innovation in the last few years has resulted in globally recognized household brands. Names such as WeChat, Huawei and TikTok are all examples of Chinese ingenuity which is rapidly being adopted by the rest of the world. Entertainment and works of art are telling of China’s increasing sophistication within its creative industries, and when combined with the country’s thriving technology industry, are capable of creating powerful titles such as Black Myth, with many more on the horizon.
The author is a writer with china.org.cn, who is a global technology and business commentator based in London, initially specializing in start-ups and technology PR.