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‘Warcraft’ and Its Popularity in China

The release of ‘Warcraft’, the film adaption of the popular video game, has been breaking records in the Chinese box office. What’s on Weibo’s Chi Wen provides a short overview of ‘Warcraft’ and its popularity in China; the game was, and still is, the most popular western online game in China.

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The release of ‘Warcraft’, the film adaption of the popular video game, has been breaking records in the Chinese box office. What’s on Weibo’s Chi Wen provides a short overview of ‘Warcraft’ and its popularity in China. The game was, and still is, the most popular western online game in China.

Warcraft fans worldwide have been eagerly awaiting the release of a movie set in the Warcraft universe since it was first mentioned in 2006. This certainly includes its Chinese viewers, that have been fans of Warcraft since Internet Cafes became booming in the 1990s.

A Short History of the WarCraft Game

The adventures of Warcraft date all the way back to the 1990s. Before the famous World of Warcraft game came into existence, there was the “real-time strategy” game called Warcraft: Orcs and Humans.

The game was developed by the American Blizzard Entertainment and came out in 1994 featuring two races for the player to choose from. Set in the fantasy world of Azeroth, players chose either the humans or orcs. The goal of the game was to collect resources for building a town and an army with which to defeat the opposing force. The game was famous for setting a new standard for multiplayer games.

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Blizzard followed Warcraft with Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness in 1995. The game was essentially the same as its predecessor with the added element of conducting battles at sea and better graphics. Like its predecessor, Warcraft II won many awards and was highly praised.

Fans of the game then had to wait another seven years for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion pack Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Warcraft III not only saw a huge upgrade in the graphics department, but it also saw the introduction of two new races: the Undead and the Night Elves. The game also marked the beginning of Warcraft’s adventures into China.

WarCraft: Game On in China

Warcraft III appeared in China just as the Internet was speeding up, which led to a new phenomenon called the Internet Cafe (网吧). The boom in Internet Cafes around China coupled with a ban on console games was a great factor in boosting the game’s popularity in China. Students would sneak off to Internet Cafes after or during class to try and dominate their friends in a game of Warcraft III (魔兽争霸III).

Warcraft III gained more popularity in 2004 after an unknown Chinese gamer named Sky (Li Xiaofeng, 李晓峰) won the 2005 World Cyber Games. Not only has Warcraft III influenced the competitive gaming scene in China but it also paved the way for World of Warcraft (魔兽世界).

Blizzard opted to go in a new direction for World of Warcraft. Instead of a real-time strategy game, World of Warcraft used the role-playing game formula. Set in the same fantasy world as the Warcraft games from before, World of Warcraft had players create avatars. Using these avatars, players would quest for gold and treasure throughout a vast landscape.

In 2005, Blizzard set upon a new quest to conquer China’s realm of MMORPGs with World of Warcraft.  Blizzard partnered with Shanghai-based The9 (第九城市) to handle localization and support in China.

To promote the game, The9 partnered with Coca-Cola. For their TV ads, Coca-Cola brought in Taiwanese girl band S.H.E, pop star Li Yuchun and Olympic gold medalist Liu Xiang. It was a recipe for success: within the first month, The9 reported 1.5 million active World of Warcraft players in China. The game was and still is the most popular western online game in China.

For the Love of WarCraft

Die-hard Warcraft fans around the world have creative ways to show their love for the game. A common way to pay homage to it, is through the art of cosplay. In China, however, fans have gone to extremes to show their appreciation of the game.

In 2008, a restaurant with medieval décor resembling the Warcraft universe opened up in Beijing. Customers to the restaurant where served by characters from the Warcraft universe and other MMORPGs. Sadly, the restaurant did not manage to garner as many fans as World of Warcraft did, and closed down in 2011.

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The restaurant was not the only way China showed its love for Warcraft. In 2011, a theme park called Joyland (环球动漫嬉戏谷) in Changzhou opened its doors to the public. The theme park is famous for “borrowing” scenery and character designs from the Warcraft universe. Unlike the Warcraft-themed restaurant, the theme park is still up and running.

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China’s most recent homage to Warcraft comes in the form a movie called My WoW (我的魔兽世界). My Wow started shooting in April this year and was set to hit theaters in May, a month before the Warcraft movie was due to be in theaters. Nothing much is known about the movie except that it will contain elements of romance, fantasy, and time-travel. Many Chinese fans, however, were not pleased with news about the movie; Chinese netizens’ response to My Wow were mostly negative, saying: “Don’t insult the name of Warcraft.”

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Although Blizzard’s Warcraft seemingly has been one big success in Greater China, it has also not been all roses. Some fans were so devoted to the game, that they died while playing it. In order to prevent such tragedies from happening again, the Chinese government later added timers to online games. In 2005, it became mandatory for all online games to have a “timing mechanism”. The mechanism works by lowering the player’s game character’s ability to the lowest level after a set amount of time. Playing at a lower skill level created an unsatisfactory gaming experience. However, this effort to curb game addiction failed as gamers found a workaround by creating multiple accounts.

WarCraft in China: No Skeletons and Less Bloody

After 11 years, World of Warcraft is still a much-played game because of the release of expansion packs which add more playability to the game. Due to government regulations, the Warcraft games in China are a bit different than those from other countries. These regulations meant the game need a makeover for it to be allowed to be played on Chinese computer.

For the game to be allowed in China, The9 had to replace skeletons with headstones and make blood less “bloody”. Then, an application had to be submitted to the General Administration of Press and Publications  (中华人民共和国新闻出版总署) for approval. By the end of the long process, players in other countries had already been playing the expansion packs for months or even a year.

Despite the many delays, Warcraft still endured and managed to attract a generation of fans in China. And in order for the Warcraft sequel to happen, it would need the further support from fans in China.

WarCraft in China’s Cinemas

According to China Film Insider, Warcraft: The Beginning by Legendary Pictures is China’s most anticipated movies of all time.

Building up to the release of the movie, the Taiwanese hip hop group G.U.T.S (兄弟本色) released the song “We Will Rule (背水一戰)” to promote the movie. The music was heavily panned by Warcraft fans. “The sound effects from the game sounds better than their song,” commented one fan. “Trashy song, don’t sing a Warcraft song if you haven’t played Warcraft before,” another fan said on Weibo.

The Warcraft movie has entered theaters in China since June 8. On the first day it already broke China’s box office records, as it had the best premiere day for any film launched during the week in the history of China.

On Weibo, netizens rated the movie with an 8.4. Although many fans are positive about the movie, it seems that the long anticipation of seeing it was greater than realization. “It was good, but now that it’s finished, I feel lonely,” one netizen says. Let’s just pray to the Old Gods of Azeroth that there will soon be a sequel for fans to look forward to.

By Chi Wen

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Chi Wen is a freelance translator and writer who lives in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Besides translating and writing, he also teaches English as a Second Language to high school students. Chi is a self-proclaimed geek with a love for video games.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Two Hour Time Limit for KTV: China’s Latest Covid-19 Measures Draw Online Criticism

China’s latest COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures are drawing criticism from social media users.

Manya Koetse

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No more never-ending nights filled with singing and drinking at the karaoke bar for now, as new pandemic containment measures put a time limit as to how long people can stay inside entertainment locations and wangba (internet cafes).

On June 22nd, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (文旅部) issued an adjusted version to earlier published guidelines on Covid-19-related prevention and control measures for theaters, internet cafes, and other indoor entertainment venues.

Some of the added regulations have become big news on Chinese social media today.

According to the latest guidelines, it will not be allowed for Chinese consumers to stay at various entertainment locations and wangba for more than two hours.

Singing and dancing entertainment venues, such as KTV bars, can only operate at no greater than 50% maximum occupancy. This also means that private karaoke rooms will be much emptier, as they will also only be able to operate at 50% capacity.

On Weibo, the news drew wide attention today, with the hashtag “KTV, Internet Cafe Time Limit of Two Hours” (#KTV网吧消费时间不得超2小时#) receiving over 220 million views at the time of writing. One news post reporting on the latest measures published on the People’s Daily Weibo account received over 7000 comments and 108,000 likes.

One popular comment, receiving over 9000 likes, criticized the current anti-coronavirus measures for entertainment locations, suggesting that dining venues – that have reopened across the country – actually pose a much greater risk than karaoke rooms due to the groups of people gathering in one space without a mask and the “saliva [drops] flying around.”

The comment, that was posted by popular comic blogger Xuexi, further argues that cinemas – that have suffered greatly from nationwide closures – are much safer, as people could wear masks inside and the maximum amount of seats could be minimized by 50%. Karaoke rooms are even safer, Xuexi writes, as the private rooms are only shared by friends or colleagues – people who don’t wear face masks around each other anyway.

Many people agree with the criticism, arguing that the latest guidelines do not make sense at all and that two hours is not nearly enough for singing songs at the karaoke bar or for playing online games at the internet cafe. Some wonder why (regular) bars are not closed instead, or why there is no two-hour time limit for their work at the office.

Most comments are about China’s cinemas, with Weibo users wondering why a karaoke bar, where people open their mouths to sing and talk, would be allowed to open, while the cinemas, where people sit quietly and watch the screen, remain closed.

Others also suggest that a two-hour limit would actually increase the number of individuals visiting one place in one night, saying that this would only increase the risks of spreading the virus.

“Where’s the scientific evidence?”, some wonder: “What’s the difference between staying there for two hours or one day?”

“As a wangba owner, this really fills me with sorrow,” one commenter writes: “Nobody cares about the financial losses we suffered over the past six months. Our landlord can’t reduce our rent. During the epidemic we fully conformed to the disease prevention measures, we haven’t opened our doors at all, and now there’s this policy. We don’t know what to do anymore.”

Among the more serious worries and fears, there are also some who are concerned about more trivial things: “There’s just no way we can eat all our food at the KTV place within a two-hour time frame!”

By Manya Koetse

*” 餐饮其实才更严重,一群人聚在一起,而且不戴口罩,唾沫横飞的。开了空调一样也是密闭空间。电影院完全可以要求必须戴口罩,而且座位可以只出售一半。KTV其实更安全,都是同事朋友的,本身在一起都不戴口罩了,在包间也无所谓。最危险的餐饮反而都不在意了”

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Idol Survival Shows – The Start of a New ‘Idol Era’

Idol reality survival shows are riding a new wave of popularity in China.

Yin Lin Tan

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China has a vibrant online popular culture media environment, where new trends and genres come and go every single day. Chinese idol survival shows, however, have seen continued success and now seem to go through another major peak in popularity. What’s on Weibo’s Yin Lin explains.

On May 30, the finale of Chinese online video platform iQIYI’s Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) broke the Internet. Official videos on iQIYI’s Youtube channel garnered over 300 million views. At the time of writing, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” (#青春有你2总决赛#) has 3.15 billion views; the hashtag “Youth With You 2” (#青春有你2#) has 14.5 billion views. 

In recent years, China has produced a slew of so-called ‘idol survival shows.’ They have enjoyed much popularity among local audiences, as well as overseas—more than 393 hashtags related to Youth With You 2 trended in Asia, Europe, South America, and North America. In this overview, we explore the background, status quo, and future of China’s idol survival shows.

 

The Start of The ‘Idol Wave’ in China 

 

In China’s idol survival reality shows, so-called ‘trainees’, or aspiring idols, participate in a series of different challenges to compete for a chance to debut.

The ‘idol culture’ (偶像文化) has been dominating popular culture in Japan and South Korea for many years. An idol is, in short, a heavily commercialized multi-talented entertainer that is marketed – sometimes as a product – for image, attractiveness, and personality, either alone or with a group.

Especially K-pop and the Korean entertainment industry have since long been extremely popular among Chinese youth, heavily influencing pop culture in China today (more about Korean and Japanese idols here and here, and also read our article “Why Korean Idol Groups Got So Big in China and are Conquering the World“).

These kinds of shows are ubiquitous in South Korea’s popular culture, with Produce 101 (2016) becoming one of the most popular and successful South Korean reality series ever. 

The concept is simple. Every week, viewers vote for their favorite contestant. Trainees with insufficient votes during elimination rounds are eliminated from the competition. 

Nine Percent, the group formed from Idol Producer (Source).

The group formed from the final trainees then goes on to ‘promote’ for a period of time, usually one to two years.

This method of creating an idol group, in which the members are basically selected by their own fans, is a major way to bridge existing distances between fans and their idols. Fan participation is a key factor in the success of idol reality shows.

While China has had several idol survival shows, iQIYI’s Idol Producer (青春有你, 2018) was the first to reach levels of popularity similar to that of South Korea’s Produce 101

Idol Producer premiered in January 2018 with Zhang Yixing as the host and Li Ronghao, MC Jin, Cheng Xiao, Zhou Jieqiong, and Jackson Wang serving as mentors.

This first season of Idol Producer brought together a total of hundred trainees. Though most trainees were from China, there were a few from overseas, such as You Zhangjing from Malaysia and Huang Shuhao from Thailand. The younger brother of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, Fan Chengcheng, also participated in the show.

The first episode of Idol Producer attracted more than 100 million views within the first hour of broadcasting. In the final episode, more than 180 million votes were cast, with first-place winner Cai Xukun raking in more than 47 million votes.  

Trainees performing on Produce 101 China (Source).

Two months after Idol Producer, Tencent launched Produce 101 China (创造101) in March 2018. Both shows marked the start of the ‘idol wave’ in China. 

In the next two years, more idol survival shows would dominate the Chinese entertainment scene. iQIYI released Youth With You 1 (青春有你) and Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Tencent, too, released Produce Camp 2019 (创造营2019) and Produce Camp 2020 (创造营2020), the latter of which is currently airing. 

 

China’s New Idol Survival Show Era 

 

In 2018, both Produce 101 China and Idol Producer enjoyed overwhelming popularity, accumulating more than 4.73 billion views and 3 billion views respectively. Their sequels, however, have failed to achieve the same level of success.

At the time of writing, 150,000 viewers have completed Youth With You 1 on Chinese community site Douban, versus 470,000 viewers for its predecessor, Idol Producer. Additionally, the number of votes cast for the first episode of Youth With You 1 was much lower compared to its Idol Producer equivalent. 

The number of votes for the top 19 trainees on Idol Producer (left) versus Youth With You 1 (right) in the first episode (Source).

As for Produce 101 China, 510,000 viewers have completed the show on Douban, but only 340,000 viewers have finished watching its sequel. 

Groups formed from these shows have met with varying amounts of success and have run into problems regarding scheduling conflicts. 

Nine Percent, the boy group formed from Idol Producer in 2018, was known as a group that rarely met. Their second album was a compilation of tracks from solo members. Members had existing contracts with their own companies while simultaneously promoting with Nine Percent; hence, due to scheduling conflicts, members would often forgo Nine Percent activities for those of their own company. 

Rocket Girls from Produce 101 China. (Source)

Rocket Girls, formed from Produce 101 China, also faced problems after debuting. Due to conflicts between Tencent and their management company, Yuehua Entertainment, Meng Meiqi and Wu Xuanyi, who placed first and second respectively, left the group two months after debut.

Despite the problems faced by groups formed from such shows, some idols were able to ride on the momentum they gained from participating.

For instance, Cai Xukun, first-place winner of Idol Producer, swiftly rose to become one of the most popular trainees on the show, consistently ranking first place in every round of elimination. He was also the host of the recently concluded Youth With You 2.

Liu Yuxin obtained first place in the last episode of Youth With You 2. (Source)

Other trainees have also seen individual success. Liu Yuxin, the first-place winner of Youth With You 2, gained attention for her androgynous look: short hair, a cool personality, and wearing shorts instead of a skirt. Her hashtag “Liu Yuxin” (#刘雨昕#) has been viewed more than 550 million times on Weibo. In the final episode, she received more than 17 million votes.

Despite the lowering audience ratings for other recent idol shows, the success of Youth With You 2 might mark the start of a new ‘idol era’. Even Chinese netizens wondered why the show is so popular compared to Youth With You 1.

Just one day after the finale premiered, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” had already been viewed more than 2.2 billion times on Weibo. On Douban, 580,000 viewers have finished the show—more than any of the previous idol survival shows by iQIYI and Tencent.

 

The Future of Idol Survival Shows 

 

Chinese idol survival shows were received with much fanfare when they first entered mainstream popular culture in 2018. But the ensuing conflicts that the resulting groups ran into resulted in netizens doubting the success and effectiveness of these shows. 

Trainees from Produce Camp 2020 practicing for the theme song. Source

This year, however, the popularity of both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 might signal a comeback for the idol era in China.

And this time around, Chinese idol survival shows are also gaining more traction outside of the PRC, becoming more and more popular among global audiences. Both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 have been well-received by viewers from many different countries.

On social media, online commenters praise the two shows – and Chinese idol survival shows in general – for having a more “laid-back atmosphere” between the trainees and mentors. Web users also comment that they enjoy how the shows highlight the friendship between the trainees, rather than the feuds.

It seems that what sets Chinese idol survival shows apart from the South Korean ones is precisely why some viewers prefer them. The longer running times, for example, makes it possible to give more screen time to the different trainees and to give a deeper understanding of the relations between them.

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Reddit comment on Episode 9 of Idol Producer. Source

With the popularity of idols like Liu Yuxin and Wang Ju who challenge conventional beauty standards, shows can also look into moving away from the cookie-cutter aesthetic that idols usually adhere to. 

Furthermore, management companies and broadcasting companies have to come to an agreement regarding what scheduling arrangement would benefit all parties and be conducive towards the idols’ physical and mental health. 

Selected trainees from Produce Camp 2020 took part in a photoshoot with Elle. Source

It remains to be seen whether THE9, the newly formed group from Youth With You 2, will be able to flourish in the time to come and avoid the troubles that other groups ran into. 

As for Produce Camp 2020, it seems set to enjoy just as much success as Youth With You 2 did – if not more. Only five episodes have been released, but the show’s hashtag already has 16.1 billion views.

A reviewer on Douban writes: “The trainees are all confident, taking opportunities to express themselves and actively showcase their talents. So much youthful and positive energy!” 

The latest newcomers to the idol reality show genre further consolidate the success of the format. Recently, Mango TV released Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风波浪的姐姐们, 2020), where female celebrities above 30 years old compete to make it into the final five-member girl group. The first episode was viewed more than 370 million times within the first three days of release and immediately became top trending on Weibo.

The number of survival shows in China right now and their growing popularity shows that audiences seemingly can’t get enough of the genre. It is an indication that, despite setbacks in the past, China’s idol survival reality show genre is still going strong and might be here to stay.

You can watch the currently airing Produce Camp 2020 and Sisters Who Make Waves here and here.

By Yin Lin Tan

 Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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