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Digital Entertainment Expo Features Latest Games

"I came here to find out about the latest games, but seeing all these girls is pretty good too," says 19-year-old student Fang Ming, his eyes flicking over to trace the path of a girl dressed in a white PVC mini-dress with thigh length stiletto boots to match.

This is China Joy 4, the country's premier digital entertainment expo, and, as at video game shows elsewhere, the eye candy is not purely of the pixilated variety.

Almost every trade stand, with the notable exception of Sony's minimalist PS3 cinema showing a loop of preview games for the new machine, comes with its own troop of models the most popular outfit being a revealing white miniskirt and crop-top combo. 

Others appear, no less provocatively dressed, as characters from games, often wielding Styrofoam swords as they hand out flyers, goody-bags and paper fans bearing their company's logo.

In the three halls at Shanghai's New International Exhibition Centre in Pudong, where organizers hope to exceed last year's gate of 127,000 visitors over three days, the music, explosions and gunfire emanating from stands competing for visitors' attention makes normal conversation impossible.

And while the majority of expo-goers will be coming to enjoy the razzmatazz and catch a glimpse of the latest games, for China's digital entertainment industry, covering mobile phone, online, PC, console and portable gaming, there is serious business to be done before the show closes on Sunday evening.

Revenue from the country's online gaming sector alone is expected to nearly double this year to around 7 billion yuan (US$870 million), with further predictions that it will double again to 14.3 billion yuan (US$1.8 billion) in 2010.

As well as established foreign names like Sony, Sega and Konami, a plethora of smaller domestic companies are also exhibiting.

"We're mainly here to make contact with overseas customers, and we're aiming to work with more overseas companies in the future," said Macro Chen on the Moliyo Online Media & Entertainment Portal stand. During the show, Chen's company are launching a new game called Dragon, Tiger Gate Online, which is being released simultaneously in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Chinese mainland.

"China's games industry is extremely fertile, especially for online gaming, where China probably has the best potential market anywhere in the world," he added.

Fertile it may be, but as fellow exhibitor Zhang Jiabing of Games College pointed out, China's computer games industry is currently lacking key talent.

"China needs 200,000 professionals for the industry, but at the moment nationally there are only about 25,000," Zhang said, promoting a three-year course in computer games development.

"We want to cultivate talent for this field. The sector is mature in Japan and (South) Korea and in China we're lagging behind, but I'm optimistic we can close the gap."

But most visitors to the show, which incorporates a virtual football World Cup, a "cosplay" fantasy costume competition and a beauty pageant, are happy to leave worrying about the business side of things to the professionals, while they concentrate on taking the latest titles for a good thrash.

Although enjoying the show, Zhang Jingjing, 19, had one major gripe.

"Well, I know why they have all these models on all the stands, but there's not really a lot for girls to look at," she said. "In computer games, besides these heroines they also have a lot of heroes, and I wouldn't mind seeing a few more of them in the flesh."

(China Daily July 31, 2006)

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