In 2014, Microsoft opened their purse strings and decided to buy Mojang, the makers of Minecraft for a massive $2.5 billion, a decision which turned heads back then. But the move is being vindicated as Microsoft has just launched Minecraft PC games and the smartphone equivalents in China. The company together with Mojang announced a five-year partnership with NetEase, a Chinese software publisher. The deal sees the companies’ partner as they bring the game to the Chinese market on computers and the mobile device industry. The release date for China has not been released yet, and neither company wanted to speak about the details of the deal.
Minecraft launch in China a win
The move is seen as a win for all parties involved. China has not been overly zealous for Western made games, but the introduction of one of the most popular games globally is surely going to hold. Microsoft put the game on Xbox consoles last year, but it did not take off as much. The mobile device industry and the PC are expected to be drivers for full embracement of the Minecraft game. The fact that the company had to go through a third party shows all the hurdles that lay ahead if they had gone on their own.
Former PopCap exec, James Gwertzman said the one challenging thing with doing business in China was the government. He gave the comments back in 2010 at the Game Developers Conference where he gave a speech on the hardships of trying to release games in the communist country.
At least six permits are to be sought for by game developers and controlled foreign companies usually have trouble with acquiring them. At the conference, Gwertzman gave suggestions that the best way to do it was to get into partnership with a local seller or even marry a Chinese and have them open a domestic shop. In his role then as a PopCap exec, Gwertzman said that the company could not act as a publisher in China on their own but rather had to team up with local publishers.
This is presumably the same position that Microsoft has decided to take. The partner for its game’s launch, NetEase, already has a record of releasing Western made games as they are also in partnership with game makers Blizzard. NetEase handles every major Blizzard video game from Blizzard, and they are also expected to publish the next game from Blizzard, Overwatch.
When Gwertzman spoke in 2010, he foretold the challenges that Microsoft would be facing now. He said that when a new game is about to be released in China, a lot of bad press surrounds it. The newspapers and journals, which are state-run, by the way, would post pictures of blood and horror on their pages. After that, the government can then put rules which ban various acts of violence in the games.
After being contacted for an interview recently, Gwertzman, however, said that Minecraft was different in that it did not incite violence nor promote it. Minecraft is a teamwork game and helps kids learn. Therefore, he does not expect it to receive the same scrutiny some Western games receive. He said Minecraft was one of the perfect games which would likely receive public support in the country.