Monthly Archives: February 2007

Movie theaters offer video games to fight falling ticket sales

The article in the International Herald Tribune is about new hybrid movie theaters in Madrid.  I think, as they themselves describe this, it’s very early, still being worked out, and we don’t yet know how this might (or might not) work as a business.  But I’m glad they’re working on it!  One of my favorite things from SIGGRAPH last year was a similarly fun theatre experience, which I blogged about here: The funnest thing you’ve never heard of

Some interesting highlights from the IHT article:

The result is a hybrid movie theater with all the digital fire and fury of a video game: fog, low smoke, black light, flashing green lasers, high-definition digital projectors, vibrating seats, game pads and dozens of 17- inch, or 43-centimeter, screens attached to individual chairs. And naturally, there’s buttered popcorn.

“Forget the pathetic speakers of a PC or television!” screams an ad for the theater, which opened for games in December and is offering cut-rate €3 tickets to nurture the market. “Come feel the sound that puts you at the center of the action.”

“We’re trying this concept because there are many theaters in Spain and admissions are down,” Martinez said. “So we have to offer new products.”

“We see the future with multiplexes with five screens, one for the traditional Hollywood spectaculars and the others for screens for video halls and 3-D. That’s the next step.”

Other companies are also experimenting with different approaches to mix movie magic with video games.

CinemaxX, one of the top movie exhibition chains in Germany, carried out a four-month trial with video games on one of its screens in Essen last year. And TimePlay Entertainment, based in Toronto, is developing theater technology that would allow moviegoers to play 15 to 20 minutes of interactive, ad-sponsored games before the start of movies.

Yelmo is trying to develop an educational arm that would rent out the hall to schools that could use the system for learning and testing. And it also has plans to market the theater to corporate and senior citizen groups to attract a broader audience.

The theater is also busily organizing game tournaments with competitions this month for Manga video games and Pro Evolution Soccer, a popular soccer game produced by Electronic Arts.

The most intense activity took place on the little silver screens where players battled against one another. The giant screen formed an edgy backdrop with game highlights and changing scores posted by a person working as sort of a video game jockey tracking the play.

“We’re still learning because this is so new, but it’s better to play this way in a tournament because there are plenty of screens,” said Fernández, 21, a Madrid university student who plays video soccer under the name of “Vaquizza” with a “clan” of other players. “Next Saturday, I’ll be back with a friend.”

Game Programming for Introductory Computer Science

Here’s a link to the PDF version of the presentation I gave Saturday at the Microsoft Academic Days on Game Development for Computer Science Education conference:

Game Programming for Introductory Computer Science

If Microsoft makes the video available, I will blog a link to it – much context is missing even from the expanded PDF. Here’s an outline of the talk:

Introduction
Kid’s Programming Language (07/2005)
Phrogram (10/2006)
Publications

Pedagogical Goals
Fun: learning is best when learning is fun
Accessible: easy to get started
Engaging: games, graphics, sounds
Simple: resist CS tendency toward increasing complexity
Rewarding: see quick, fun results from one’s work
Highly leveraged: maximum function, minimum code
Progressive: lots of concepts to learn, step by step
Preparatory: easy ‘graduation’ to professional IDEs
Modern: consistent with current software design standards
Publishable: as open source or executables
State of the art: extensible use of current technology
International: IDE language versions available

First Contact = Red Herring
First contact languages are not enough.
There must be a comfortable path for students to progress into mainstream languages and IDEs

Programming is Hard
We respectfully disagree.
We think this assumption prevents the thinking that will make it easier.
If you can read and you can type, you can program.

Demo: Phrogram version of Hello World!

Demo: Phrogram’s Logo-style sprite movement

Demo: User-defined Class example

Demo: Interactive debugging’s pedagogical value

Demo: Pong – absolute beginners can do this!

Demo: Pinball simulator

Demo: Missile Command – still cool after all these years!

Demo: Program Explorer UI, for large programs

Demo: Storytelling and other programs interesting to girls as well as boys

Demo: Conway’s Game of Life
Phrogram is simpy the easiest way to create educational software on any topic

Demo: Sierpinski Triangles, and bitwise AND operator implemented in Phrogram

Demo: 3D programming – Phrogram runs atop XNA and the XBox 360!

Things I didn’t demo:
XNA compatibility: beta next month!
Extensible class libraries:
Peer-to-peer Internet-based data exchange, for multiplayer games, chat and other multi-user apps
Extended file I/O library
Advanced math library (128 bit precision)
Weatherbug library for processing and visualization of weather data from live Internet feeds
XML-based IDE translation: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Czechoslovakian so far

Ohio State University feedback

PUC-Rio University feedback

Lakeside School, Seattle – academically acclaimed independent school
Using Phrogram in 6th and 7th grades, and Java in 8th+

Available Phrogram materials
150-page User Guide and 30-page Beginner’s Tutorial
110-page Addison-Wesley eBook, Learn to Program with Phrogram!
Active online community: www.phrogram.com
Ohio State: full CS0 course curriculum
Lakeside: curriculum published end of term
3 more book proposals in progress, one of them a textbook by a published CS teacher/author

Wii versus PS3 versus XBox 360 market share predictions

This Gamasutra feature, Screen Digest: PS3 To Lead Through 2010, Wii ‘Great Unknown’, is VERY interesting.

The report is from a talk to Screen Digest’s Ed Barton, based on a research report they are selling. The outline of the report is here – but to actually read the report you’ll have to cough up, um, $3600.00. Yowsa.

“estimating $13.9 billion in global sales of next generation software by 2009”

This is about 3% lower than the estimate I blogged about six months ago:

Console online game software 2005 $0.26 billion
Console online game software 2010 $2.95 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 62.5%

Console game software 2005 $11.0 billion
Console game software 2010 $11.4 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 0.7%

The article doesn’t discuss a disparity between console and console online revenue growth, but the outline of the actual report does include a section titled Exploiting online business models. My estimates from last year also include PC, mobile and handheld figures, btw. In a nutshell, online is the only place there is either console or PC growth to be had, but mobile growth is better than both.

His overview comment:

“PS2-style dominance will not be repeated in the next generation hardware market: we anticipate that competition will be far more intense with market shares split on a territorial basis.”

Another good one:

“Third party publishers aren’t so concerned about showing off the particular technical features of a particular console, these guys are interested in selling as many games as possible. … This is why we think that you’re now seeing a lot of games going multi-platform which were previously exclusive to a single platform, say PS3 or Xbox 360”

I’d recommend clicking to see this developers-per-studio graph; it’s too small to be worth embedding here. Quick summary: EA is more than twice as big as anyone else, with over 5500 developers. Ubisoft and Sony are next in size, each around 2200. Nintendo is 11th in size and Microsoft 12th, with around 800 and 750 respectively. Interesting analysis of three distinct strategies from the big three:

The report notes that Sony’s Worldwide Studios employ around 2,200 staff in 14 studios, all but one, it notes, are strictly devoted to PlayStation 3 development, a number only rivaled by third party publishers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts.

By comparison, though with a number of large teams under its own wing, Microsoft has instead focused on “aggressively forged relationships” with third parties to create Xbox 360 exclusive titles, which, the report says, is already beginning to find success with games such as Gears of War.

Nintendo’s own strategy, the report says, has been to focus on “game play innovation” and has “shunned high-definition graphics, ensuring the cost of making Wii games has not increased as dramatically as its counterparts,” a strategy Screen Digest says is similar to its own for the DS, “accessible hardware and software designed to appeal to a wider range of consumers, such as young women who would not usually consider gaming to be part of their lifestyles.”

This connects directly back to the point in my last post about Wii appealing to (and marketing to) girls and women. I think their estimates and predictions about Wii are low, but only time will tell. Here’s a link to the chart, and here’s the summary from the article:

In looking at the group’s predictions for regional market share by the year 2010, Screen Digest has shown the battle lines clearly drawn evenly between the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, apart from Japan, where the PS3 shows a clear lead, while in all three markets, the Wii comes in a distant third.

A detailed explanation of his analysis:

“The one thing I would admit is that Nintendo’s strategy with the Wii is, at the moment, the great unknown,” said Barton. “Can they repeat the kind of success that they’ve had with the DS by applying that strategy with the Wii? Absolutely, if Nintendo can make this work on a home console and appeal to those demographics outside the core gamer constituency, the potential is absolutely huge.”

“However, we also have a lot of faith in the ability of, in particular, Sony, which we see has really got a huge amount of development resources, and they are backing the PlayStation 3 to enormous unprecedented levels for a first party publisher,” he responded.

“One of our core beliefs,” Barton continued, “is that no one buys one of these plastic boxes on technical specs alone, people tend to buy them for content. Our forecasts at the moment are based on the belief that PlayStation 3 has this level of support. The numbers that we’re seeing now for the Nintendo Wii, they’ve come out of the blocks fantastically strongly – no one would deny that – however it’s incredibly early in the hardware cycle. There’s still another five or six years to play out on this one, and the first big battleground will be Christmas of 2007.”

“There’s also a third pillar,” he added, “in that the PlayStation 3, and this is also true for the Xbox 360, is, if you like, a domestic broadband hub, the magic box which enables a consumer to buy premium content delivered over broadband. And so, if Microsoft and Sony can execute and convince consumers to buy content delivered over broadband stored and played in the magic box, then this could grow the market for the particular games consoles, and also has an influence, in my opinion, on how the market will shape up over the next five or six years.”

And two last points from him about how the Wii is the big unknown:

“As market forecasters,” Barton admitted, “it’s very hard to take a view on a new strategy which is effectively what Nintendo are executing with the Wii. They’ve stepped aside in the graphical arms race, and improvements in graphical technology in a gaming sense has historically been what’s driven market growth, and having seen what they’ve done with the Nintendo DS – which obviously they’ve executed fantastically, and which has basically created a new gaming phenomenon – we don’t deny the possibility that this is a possibility with the Wii.”

Tying together the challenges of rising development costs with the relatively modest costs for Wii development as compared the prior cycle, Barton added, “This is the massive positive point for the Wii, that it’s basically cheaper to develop games for. As to whether more cheaply developed games can continue to drive Wii sales momentum, when you put it against the kind of games pipelines we’re seeing for the Xbox 360 and PS3, I would argue that the jury’s still out.”

Gender, Lies and Video Games: Women and Computer Sciences

I’m attending and presenting at Microsoft’s Academic Days on Game Development in Computer Science conference through Sunday. It’s a conference on a cruise ship, actually, from Disney, Orlando to Nassau, Bahamas and back. Nice schwing, eh?

The first talk this morning was by Maria Klawe, now President of Harvey Mudd College, and with quite a resume in mathematics and computer science education. Her talk this morning was titled “Games, Gender and Why It Matters.” She presented the most detailed research I’ve seen on the issue, and in fact has spent decades working on it. I will try to get copies of her slides, but I was able to find this Research Channel video she recorded at UW a couple of years ago, Gender, Lies and Video Games: Women and Computer Sciences. It won’t have her latest input on the importance and brilliance of the Wii actually marketing to girls and women. Gasp! That’s crazy! Only guys buy games! Yeah, well, that’s only one bit of Wii brilliance, isn’t it? Actually think about the over-half-the-population who are female, charge half as much as the other guys, add a world-changing Wiimote, and suddenly it’s not just Sony versus Microsoft any more. I digress – but it really is a riff on how she ended her talk.

I will try to get the recording or slideshow from here, but meanwhile I expect this recording will be interesting to anyone who thinks the topic is important.

Surgeons who play video games more skilled

The Reuters article by Andrew Stern is available here.  It looks to me like this story is breaking big in the media – MSNBC has syndicated this now, and I expect other big media will.  Note this is real data from a medical study, published in a journal of surgery, and the language is very strong that past game play was “such a strong predictor of advanced surgical skills.”  At the same time, the article ends with the caveat about too much game play.  Yep, it’s a complicated issue, and yep, moderation in all things remains as good an idea now as when the Greeks carved it in stone at Delphi.

From the article:

Surgeons who play video games more skilled – U.S. study

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO, Feb 19 (Reuters Life!) – Playing video games appears to help surgeons with skills that truly count: how well they operate using a precise technique, a study said on Monday.

There was a strong correlation between video game skills and a surgeon’s capabilities performing laparoscopic surgery in the study published in the February issue of Archives of Surgery.

Laparoscopy and related surgeries involve manipulating instruments through a small incision or body opening where the surgeon’s movements are guided by watching a television screen.

Video game skills translated into higher scores on a day-and-half-long surgical skills test, and the correlation was much higher than the surgeon’s length of training or prior experience in laparoscopic surgery, the study said.

Out of 33 surgeons from Beth Israel Medical Center in New York that participated in the study, the nine doctors who had at some point played video games at least three hours per week made 37 percent fewer errors, performed 27 percent faster, and scored 42 percent better in the test of surgical skills than the 15 surgeons who had never played video games before.

“It was surprising that past commercial video game play was such a strong predictor of advanced surgical skills,” said Iowa State University psychology professor Douglas Gentile, one of the study’s authors.

It supports previous research that video games can improve “fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, visual attention, depth perception and computer competency,” the study said.

“Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons,” senior author Dr. James Rosser of Beth Israel said.

While surgeons may benefit from playing video games, the study did not give parents a pass if their children play the games for hours on end.

A 2004 survey by Gentile found 94 percent of U.S. adolescents play video games for an average of nine hours a week. Game-playing has been linked to aggressiveness, poor school grades and can become a substitute for exercise.

“Parents should not see this study as beneficial if their child is playing video games for over an hour a day,” Gentile said. “Spending that much time playing video games is not going to help their child’s chances of getting into medical school.”

First Phrogram book available!

Learn to Program with Phrogram cover

OK, eBook – we’re in a digital media world now. Formatted to the screen – landscape – so it’s easy to read and use. Here’s the link to it at Addison Wesley’s site. It came out great – the professional designers and editors at AWL impressed the heck out of me! Thank you Joan and Tyrrell and Wayne and Alfred! And no less than three other Phrogram book proposals are on the table at the moment, one from us and two from other authors. Cool!

We See Farther: a History of Electronic Arts

Jeffrey Fleming’s feature at Gamasutra is called We See Farther: a History of Electronic Arts.

It’s a fascinating retrospective over the last 24 years.  Indeed, they see farther, and they have been by far the most consistently successful company in the business.  It’s fascinating to follow the ups and downs and shifts in technology – and to think that it has only taken 24 years for all of that to happen.  The whole article is a fun read, with lots of great photos, screenshots, and product packaging images – but one particular treat is the every-four-years timeline of EA screenshots.  Wow, how much and how fast things have changed!

Researchers say video games may be key to teaching youngsters

The headline is from a Chicago Tribune article by Howard Witt, which I found through syndication at The State, a South Carolina newspaper. The full article is online here. It is truly excellent, and makes so many important points that it seemed silly for me to clip highlights. Note how the second paragraph lays the stereotypical assumptions out plainly, and demonstrates the chasm on this issue between those who grok games and those who don’t. Here’s the full article:

Researchers say video games may be key to teaching youngsters

By Howard Witt

Chicago Tribune

(MCT)

HOUSTON – Tired of badgering the kids to quit wasting time with those computer and video games and get started on homework? Here’s a news flash for the 21st Century: It turns out many of the games might be better than homework.

In a series of research projects as likely to thrill young people as they are to horrify their parents and teachers, academic experts across the country are unearthing educational benefits in the digital games that surveys show are now played by more than 80 percent of American young people aged 8-18.

At the top of the experts’ lists are simulation and role-playing games, often played on the Internet alongside thousands of other participants, because of the vocabulary, reasoning and social skills they can boost. But even some of the most violent games, such as the notorious Grand Theft Auto, have some valuable lessons to teach in the right circumstances, researchers are finding.

Some researchers even suggest supplanting much of the traditional back-to-basics K-12 curriculum with a new generation of game-based materials to capture the increasingly short attention spans of today’s youth.

“Right now in American schools we spend most of the first six or seven years of math education teaching kids to do what a 99-cent calculator does,” said David Williamson Shaffer, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of a recent book, “How Computer Games Help Children Learn.”

“We have this view that schooling is the natural and inevitable way to get kids ready for life in the world,” said Shaffer, a leader in the field of digital learning. “But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when our economy has changed, when innovation and creativity are much more important than rote memorization, that the system needs some real updating to train kids how to use computer games to solve problems in the real world.”

If that sounds like yet another New Age fad, destined for the scrapheap of once-trendy educational ideas alongside “new math,” “open classrooms” and “whole language,” consider this: The prominent Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation – the people who give out those half-million-dollar genius grants every year_is distributing $50 million to researchers to understand how digital technologies are changing the ways young people learn, play, socialize and exercise judgment.

“We realized that over 80 percent of American kids have game consoles at home, 90 percent of kids are online and 50 percent of them are producing things online, so we really need to understand what is going on here,” said Constance Yowell, director of the MacArthur Foundation’s digital research initiative. “This is what kids are doing, so we need to know both the positive benefits and the unintended consequences.”

Hard data is scant so far – most of the MacArthur-funded research projects are just getting under way – but there’s no shortage of anecdotes testifying to the educational benefits of video and computer games and new multimedia tools. Simulation games in particular have already been embraced by some educators, as well as many businesses and the U.S. military, as effective ways to introduce people to environments and situations that would otherwise be too expensive, dangerous or impossible to access.

Kurt Squire, another University of Wisconsin researcher, has been observing students as they play Civilization, a simulation game in which players build historically realistic civilizations and interact with them as they evolve.

“We’ve got middle-schoolers now who are going to their teachers and saying, `I’ve built this historical model of the American Revolution, which took about 40-50 hours – can I submit this with a paper about it?'” Squire said. “If you look at the crisis in American schools with low-achieving kids, many teachers would jump if there’s a way to keep these kids engaged.”

The computer games and tools being studied are generations removed from the static, linear educational software commonly found inside many of the nation’s schools today – software that girls and boys quickly master and then discard as boring.

“There are a lot of terrible educational games out there, where you have to do something un-fun, like solve five math problems, so you can do something fun, like play a game,” said Ben Stokes, a games expert at the MacArthur Foundation.

Instead, the experts are interested in the educational benefits of commercially available games that were not expressly designed for school use – simulation games like Zoo Tycoon, in which elementary school-age children build virtual zoos by selecting animals, creating appropriate habitats, managing food budgets and even setting the prices of popcorn at the concession stands.

Other researchers are studying what students learn when they join other players across the Internet in creating characters, or “avatars,” in online fantasy or role-playing games, such as Second Life, There or World of Warcraft.

Still other experts are designing prototype educational games that immerse students in such professional roles as urban planners, journalists, medical ethicists and graphic designers.

Squire studied middle-school youths as they played Grand Theft Auto, a game abhorred by many parents and educators because it is centered on killing, violence and racial stereotypes. He found that when the game was played in isolation from others, it had little educational merit – and that the kids “even got bored with the killing part of it,” migrating instead to a part of the game that permits players to create highly customized cars.

But when he used the game to spark a discussion among players, Squire discovered a benefit.

“What you could do is get white kids and black kids playing the game together and talking about their perceptions,” he said. “We found they were all troubled by the stereotypes in the game.”

The verdict on the potential benefits of computer and video games is not unanimous, however. Some critics worry about the persistent racial and economic gaps in access to computers and the Internet: 60 percent of white households, but only 36 percent of black households, had Internet access at home in 2003, according to the Census Bureau.

Other experts believe that the benefits of digital games are over-hyped and could actually harm students’ creativity and emotional development.

“The only thing we know for sure is that video games are effective at desensitizing people to extreme violence,” said Edward Miller, a senior researcher at the Alliance for Childhood, a non-profit child advocacy group. “There is no evidence that video games are good at teaching problem-solving or collaboration or the other higher-order skills that these proponents are claiming.”

GAMES EXPERTS LIKE

These are some of the video games most highly praised by researchers for their educational value:

_Zoo Tycoon

_Sim City

_Civilization

_The Political Machine

_A Force More Powerful

_America’s Army

Video games – and presidential politics?!?

It honestly surprises me that a presidential candidate is choosing this is an important issue to address as he begins his candidacy.  Sure, I’m blogging about games cause they are changing the world – but surely there’s a few other important issues presidential candidates might us to launch a campaign?  Or perhaps is that the point, that he’s staying away from those, umm, other issues?  😀

Also, does this next sentence not demonstrate that this is legislation by people who have no idea what they are legislating?

calls for requiring video game rating organizations to play all games “in their entirety” before issuing labels

Errrrm, in open-ended dynamic games, this is not possible?

Here’s the CNET article:

Senator wants to ban ‘deceptive’ video game ratings

From the article:

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) on Tuesday reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, first proposed last September. It calls for requiring video game rating organizations to play all games “in their entirety” before issuing labels and prohibiting game developers from withholding any “hidden” game content from raters. It would also punish ratings groups that “grossly mischaracterize” any game’s content.

“The current video game ratings system is not as accurate as it could be because reviewers do not see the full content of games and do not even play the games they rate,” Brownback, who is expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said in a statement.

The proposed regulations represent another reaction to a high-profile scandal surrounding the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In July 2005, reports surfaced that a readily downloadable modification could unlock sexually explicit scenes in the best-selling game, prompting bipartisan outcry from Capitol Hill and a federal investigation.

The bill’s introduction drew opposition from the Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies for the video game industry. An ESA executive said the group believes the existing rating process is already sufficiently reliable and “remarkably useful” to parents.

“Sen. Brownback’s bill not only attempts to address problems that don’t exist, but his recommendations are unworkable and will not help consumers,” Carolyn Rauch, a senior vice president at ESA, said in an e-mailed statement. “For instance, how does one play a game in its ‘entirety’ when a game has no defined end?”

Earnings call transcript from Chinese gaming giant

Here’s a link to the transcript:

http://china.seekingalpha.com/article/27168

And here are a few highlights – note that these are Chinese-only numbers:

First, I would like to present a quick overview of the key financial highlights for Q4 and FY 2006. Net revenues for Q4 2006 were $36.2 million, representing 21% QoverQ growth. Net income was $13.5 million for earnings of $0.54 per ADS for Q4 2006. For FY 2006, net revenues were $126.3 million, representing 112% YoverY growth. Net income for FY 2006 was $14.0 million, or earnings of $1.63 per ADS.

Stunning growth rates, even when compared with the global growth rates I have posted previously

For Q4 2006, WoW’s peak concurrent users was over 680,000 and the average concurrent users was 340,000. As of December 31, 2006, approximately 6.8 million accounts had been registered and activated for the WoW game in mainland China.

Last I heard, WoW was at 7 million globally.  Now they’re approaching that in China alone.  Yowsa.

As you may know, Blizzard Entertainment launched the highly anticipated expansion pack for WoW, The Burning Crusade, on January 16, 2007 and has broken day one sales records in North America and Europe. We are very encouraged to see the strong DPO[?] of the Burning Crusade in overseas markets and we are very excited to bring this expansion pack to mainland China.

We have started to prepare for the launch of the Burning Crusade in Mainland China, including content localizations, server arrangements and so on. We currently estimate that the Burning Crusade will be launched in Mainland China by the end of Q2 2007.

Oh, I’m sure they’re making that expansion pack available there as fast as they possibly can.

For Guild Wars, we started limited open beta testing January 19, 2007 and so far the demand is high. We plan to commence full scale open beta testing for Guild Wars by the end of Q1 2007, after the Chinese New Year holiday.

Pepsi Cola is our co-marketing partner for the Guild Wars games. During the limited open beta testing, we distributed Guild Wars game account through Pepsi’s nationwide internet testing channels and we will hold Pepsi-sponsored Guild Wars tournaments and other marketing campaigns in the coming months.

Partnering with domestic or international famous brands to conduct marketing and promotion efforts has been proven to be one of our most important marketing methods to promote online games. Many renowned brands of different industries have shown interest in our strong game pack line, and we are currently in discussions with them to explore potential cooperation opportunities.

Very interesting, and a marketing approach I will look into more.  Think about the implications of “Pepsi’s nationwide internet testing channels” in China.  I think I’m gonna buy some Pepsi stock.  No joke.

Now let me update you on our proprietary in-house developed games. Joyful Journey West is generating small but stable revenue streams since we launched the shopping mall function for the game in September 2006. Fantastic Melody Online, also known as FM Online, a 3D zone action-based MMORPG that we developed through outsourcing arrangements, is estimated to launch in the second half of 2007. In addition, we have another two MMORPG titles that are currently under development.

Note that they are generating revenue from a “shopping mall” in the game.  Like it or not as a gamer, it’s something that’ll be ubiquitous before long.  Also consider that with a proven online market this large in China (see the numbers above), funding and developing top shelf games in and for that market first is a no-brainer.