A Free Game that Pays

Zhengtu is a MMORPG ( Mas­sive Mul­ti­player On­line Role Play­ing Game) de­vel­oped and run by Shang­hai based Zhengtu Net­work. The game is the most pop­u­lar on­line game in China as of May, 2008, by peak con­cur­rent users, with a peak count of ap­prox­i­mately 2,000,

Special Focus - - Contents - Peng Zheng

On Oc­to­ber 20th, 2005, Shang­hai Zhengtu Net­work Tech­nol­ogy Co., Ltd. (the pre­de­ces­sor of Gi­ant In­ter­ac­tive Group Inc.) qui­etly de­clared Zhengtu, or ZT On­line a com­pletely free game with­out the usual pub­lic­ity of a game launch.

No one knew what Shi Yuzhu, the com­pany head, had up his sleeve.

Be­fore Shi Yuzhu, an en­tre­pre­neur fa­mous for his mar­ket­ing of a vi­ta­min tonic called Naobai­jin, en­tered the gam­ing in­dus­try, nearly all on­line games, both in China and abroad, used a “time card” profit model— namely, gamers pay for the time spent play­ing on­line games. How­ever, Shi de­cided to dis­card the old model and cre­ated his own on the ba­sis of free gam­ing.

Shang­hai’s Zhengtu of­fers an op­tional pro­gram called the “stand-in elf (tishen baobao),” a game booster that plays the game for those whitecol­lar users who have no time to play dur­ing work, on the con­di­tion that they shall pay for it via pre­paid cards. The most eye-catch­ing fea­ture of the “stand-in elf” role is that it can

earn 30% of the ex­pe­ri­ence points for white-col­lar play­ers, sav­ing them time and ef­fort in lev­el­ing up their char­ac­ters. There are a large num­ber of white- col­lar play­ers will­ingly pay­ing for this ser­vice, which brings in abun­dant prof­its to the com­pany.

Though Zhengtu is only a 2D on­line game, Shi Yuzhu proudly claims, “We are com­mit­ted to be­ing the best 2D game ever in his­tory.” He pays salaries sev­eral times higher than his coun­ter­parts to re­cruit dozens of the top art de­sign­ers in China, and pur­chases high qual­ity sound ef­fects from Hol­ly­wood, which pro­vide an im­mer­sive gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with fan­tas­tic se­quences of horses tread­ing on stones and com­bat scenes in swamp­lands.

He wor­ships the busi­ness phi­los­o­phy that “wool comes from sheep (mean­ing, you al­ways get what you pay for).” The fat­ter the “sheep” are, the more “wool (profit)” there will be. His pas­sion and per­sis­tence for on­line gam­ing has fi­nally paid off. Zhengtu has ul­ti­mately be­come a game for “the rich,” and the graph­ics are con­sid­ered some of the best on the mar­ket.

Ob­vi­ously, it is a game de­signed for “rich” play­ers, so why are so many “poor” play­ers ad­dicted to it?

As we know, most on­line gamers are school-aged stu­dents or wage earn­ers. At an ap­praisal meet­ing for teenager-safe games, many ex­perts pre­dict that play­ers have to spend over RMB

3.5 mil­lion yuan to fa­cil­i­tate full char­ac­ter devel­op­ment in Zhengtu. How can many peo­ple af­ford it?

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics re­leased, 83% of the play­ers of Zhengtu need not pay and only 17% of the play­ers are the real con­sumers of this game. Shi Yuzhu says,

“In our profit model for Zhengtu, we earn the rich player’s money and pro­vide free ser­vice to play­ers who

can­not af­ford to pay. In our game, prob­a­bly half the play­ers need not pay. Yet even though they do not pay, they still play an im­por­tant role as they be­come the pos­si­ble chan­nels that the wealthy play­ers can gain ex­pe­ri­ence and equip­ment from by pay­ing them. For ex­am­ple, some play­ers pay RMB 20,000 a month to pur­chase equip­ment for the ‘fel­low play­ers.’ We strive to cre­ate a player-friendly at­mos­phere so that the wealthy play­ers can pay for ser­vices for those who can­not.”

As reg­is­tra­tion and the game it­self are free, more and more peo­ple start to play the game, which makes the game even more pop­u­lar. White-col­lar em­ploy­ees have great pur­chas­ing power, but they are also tied up in work dur­ing the day­time, so they nat­u­rally need the help of some well-ex­pe­ri­enced gamers who have no money but have plenty of time.

Thus, an eco­nomic chain has formed. The pos­i­tive cy­cle of rich play­ers pay­ing and poor play­ers play­ing for them in­evitably falls into the model set up by Shi Yuzhu: a “game for the rich” that the poor can play.

In a well-for­mu­lated ar­ti­cle, a com­ment was made on Shi Yuzhu’s mar­ket­ing strate­gies: “When play­ing Zhengtu, you will find that it is not only a world for the rich, but a heaven for the poor.” Poor but skilled play­ers can wait for high-in­come play­ers to come and ask for their help in play­ing the game. The hard­core play­ers not only earn money, but also se­cure many paid weapons and items. It is not dif­fi­cult to start from scratch in on­line games. Once you mas­ter the skills, it is even pos­si­ble to play the game for free for­ever.

Deeply aware of the psy­chol­ogy of the rich and poor, Shi Yuzhu has won univer­sal ac­claim for his ma­neu­ver. In this great “gam­ble” of an in­vest­ment, he has had well-rounded suc­cess in both re­coup­ing his costs and mak­ing a huge profit.

( From The Bi­og­ra­phy of Shi Yuzhu, South­ern Pub­lish­ing and Me­dia. Trans­la­tion: Trans)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.