Society

Millions fall in love with SNS games

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-12 08:02
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David Tian, a 26-year-old Beijinger, usually arrives at his office earlier than he is supposed to. He looks around to confirm he is the only one, and then switches on his computer. A slight smirk appears on his face.

Half an hour later, when Tian is completely glued to the computer screen, two of his colleagues rush to his desk, screaming: "You took my fish again! Give me one of yours."

Tian laughs as he clicks the "send present" button of a popular online game called Fishing.

"This game has given me and my colleagues a lot of things to talk about," Tian says.

Like Tian, there are tens of millions of people who regularly play games on social networks in China, mirroring Internet users' growing need to communicate and entertain through the Web.

According to available figures, a third of Chinese netizens use social networking websites. Among them, 51.2 percent use message boards frequently. And SNS (social network software) games are broadly received, according to a report from China Internet Network Information Center released last November.

The example of renren.com, a popular social network in the country, is rather typical.

Around 50 percent of the 26 million daily users of the website play SNS games, which generates around 50 percent of the website's yearly income. The company is working on plans to promote its cooperation with SNS game companies.

"In terms of user groups, SNS games are totally different from traditional network games," says Zhao Xufeng, a senior analyst at the iRearch Consulting Group - a professional organization specializing in Internet research.

The number of traditional network game users stayed rather stable at 40 to 50 million in recent years, while SNS users grew from zero to tens of millions in the past two years.

According to Zhao, SNS has become popular so quickly because it creates a cheaper and easier way for people to interact on the Net.

And for Tian, communication is priority.

"The game (Fishing) creates a way to get me closer to my colleges in real life," he says.

More than 90 percent of Tian's colleagues are users of the social network kaixin001.com. Their favorite functions of the website are sending placards and playing games.

Ye Zi, 49, has been playing a popular SNS game called "Happy Farm" since last April. All he wants is to be the best at it.

The game allows people to plant virtual vegetables and raise virtual animals in their own "garden", even as they can steal fruits from other farms.

But Ye never steals. She has registered seven IDs to operate seven "gardens". Every day, she spends two and a half hours on them.

"This is time consuming, but I simply can't quit," Ye says.

According to Zhao, social networks utilize free games to attract users. And their major role is a worldwide information-sharing platform, which concentrates on holding a stable user group and earning advertising fees.

Zhao worries that too much concentration on games could weaken the distinguishing feature of a communicative platform.

"The users will distinguish their needs much clearer in the long run, and social networks have to take this into consideration some day," she says.