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The purpose of this blog is for my personal use. It serves as my personal diary as I investigate Chinese internet/gaming companies for investment purpose. If you have any comments or disagreement, please give me feedbacks.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Netease – TX2 – Open beta preview

It is about 3am China time, 9 hours before the official open beta starts. After following TX2 for more than 6 months, here is my prediction for this game.

I think this is a great game. I think it is going to be a game that will be as popular as WOW (World of Warcraft) in China. But I don’t think it will get there right away. It will probably have moderate success at the beginning and start to build up from there.

The reason for my optimism:
1). Excellent 3D game. Right now, there is only one other Chinese made 3D game that has graphics as good as TX2, that is Perfect World. But Perfect World is not a real success (for many reasons that won’t affect TX2). Multiple Korean games have great graphics, but they suffer multiple ill effects that usually associated with Korean games.

2). Feels like Ancient China. Perfect World feels more like foreign games. People can tolerate the wizards, knights, witches, etc. when there is no choice out there. But TX2 give them the choice to play ancient chinese mythology rather than ancient England mythology.

3). NCTY drops the ball. The only game that can stop TX2 on its track is the WOW expansion pact, the Burning Crusade. But according to NCTY’s conference call, it won’t be out until end of 2Q. That means TX2 has 3 to 4 months of head start to gather momentum.

4). Unique game play. TX2 has everything that XY2 and XYQ has. But it will also have something that is unique that even WOW and other foreign games doesn’t. It will have PvP (player vs. player) on the massive scale in the form of castle warfare. Other games has PvP, but never close to the scale that TX2 would like to be (can they do it, see below)

5). The Netease way. When it comes down to it, Chinese like the way XY2 and XYQ plays. They like the economic system, the marriage system, the friend system, the tribe system, the market-trading system, the promotion system, … TX2 will have all of that.

However, there are two unknowns that can possibly stop TX2:

1). Game program refinement: The game engine for TX2 is the Big World from Australia and this game is the first 3d game made by NTES. There are two ways this can be a problem:
(a). Unstable server. They may not be able to write the server software to keep the server stable under stress. They did a stress test on the servers about 1 month ago. It is clear that they are satisfy with the result that they goes to open beta soon afterward. This doesn’t seem like a problem any more.
(b). Resource hog on users computer. This does seem like a problem. TX2 takes more resource than WOW on users computers. A lot of users are not able to turn on many eye-candies to play the game without the game turn stuttering. But there are two things that works in favor of TX2. First, it is 2 years after WOW was out and there are a lot more newer computers in China out there that can play TX2 satisfactorially. Second, Netease is still working on this and making progress on every revision.

From what I gather, a computer that has a spec of AMD 1.7G, 1G memory, and nVidia MX440 can probably gets to play TX2 satisfactorialy (about 15-20 fps) with many graphic options turn off. That is about a 4 year old budget computer (with memory upgrade from 250M to 1G). A 2 years old main stream PC with a video card of ATI 800GTO or nVidia 6600 (with memory upgrade from 500M to 1G) can pretty much play TX2 with all the options on and fps greater than 30.

A game like that won’t have any problem if it is in the US. But I don’t think average Chinese player has computers as powerful as average US player. Still, I don’t think this is the deal stopper.

2). Is there a paradigm shift in the market? This is the one thousand dollars question. Can any new game that is not free-to-play pay-for-item thrive? There are conflicting evidence that can go either ways. Paying games like WOW, XY2, and XYQ are still growing. That means pay-to-play games can still thrive.

On the other hand, in the last 2 years, no NEW pay-to-play games are successful. That seems to suggest that the gaming market in China had complete changed to the free-to-play model.

Is there a paradigm shift in the Chinese market? I don’t know and NTES doesn’t know. But we will find out soon.

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