CHINA> Focus
Chinese 'facebook' friends hooked on games
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-09-17 07:28

"Everyone was talking about it. They would even yell at each other if they got a ticket on their car. I didn't want to be left out," said Gao, who now has 70 friends on his Kaixin web page.

Facebook is widely used by ex-pats and Chinese who befriend ex-pats, but has not caught on with ordinary Chinese, according to media expert Jeremy Goldkorn.

"The reason Facebook and MySpace don't work in China is because they don't have enough local users to trigger the ripple effect," said Goldkorn.

The secret of Kaixin's success, according to Goldkorn and others, is that it combines social networking with gaming.

"The interesting part is that you are playing with people you know," explained Richard Gao. "Suppose you get a parking ticket from a total stranger. So what?"

Kaixin's clean layout and simple design also appeal to Chinese netizens.

"Yes, it looks like Facebook. But it looks more tidy and simple,' said Li Haibo, an editor of a popular science magazine in Beijing who joined Kaixin last month and brought 62 friends with him. "That's important for highly-stressed white collar workers."

In addition to "Parking War," Kaixin users play "Friend Sales," a game in which each user can be sold as a "slave" twice a day. "Masters" can earn money by forcing their "slaves" to work as singers, miners or toilet cleaners, or they can just "touch" them for fun.

Users say the games provide entertainment and enhance friendship.

"It is really fun to 'slave' your friends and ask them to serve a cup of tea or make them sing a song," said Zhao Yun, 27, a photographer in Shanghai.

"If you like a girl, for example, you can purchase her as your 'slave'. You might have to fight for her "slavery right" with other people, which shows how much you care for her."

Although many of its applications are similar to Facebook and MySpace, Kaixin succeeds because it is more entertaining, said Hong Bo.

"Kaixin is more about playing games than networking or finding a job at sites like Linked-in," he said.

Xu Bin from iResearch agrees that the site's simplicity appeals to users between the ages of 18 and 35, as well as to the increasing number of Internet users in rural areas. Sites like Facebook that allow users to further develop the application are not feasible in China, Xu said.

Kaixin's gaming component can be a double-edged sword, however.

The more users are attached to the games, the less they work on other content such as blogs or pictures, which are essential for the site's sustained development, according to Xu.

For Richard Gao, his relationship with Kaixin is a love/hate affair. He says he enjoys his new "toy", but has formed an "annoying" addiction to the website.

"I log on at least three times a day - in the morning, after lunch, and before I go to bed," he said. "Life is boring without it."

   Previous page 1 2 Next Page