HONG KONG, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Sony Group Corp ( 6758.T ) said it plans to expand a program to identify and incubate Chinese-made games, in a race with Microsoft Corp ( MSFT.O ) to tap China’s games market .
The program will invest more than 1 million yuan ($140,080) in each game it registers, and will fund not only small teams but also large teams with dozens of engineers or more, said Bao Bo, Sony’s director of game production in China.
The Japanese tech giant’s plans were announced during an event broadcast live on Tuesday from the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu to restart the China Hero Project program, which was halted due to COVID-19.
“The scale of the third phase will far exceed the previous two,” Bao said, adding that Sony will publish some games and PlayStation Studios will support signed-up projects.
Sony said it will be the publisher of Lost Soul Aside and Convallaria, two games registered in the previous two phases.
The China Hero Project unveiled its first two series of games in 2017 and 2019 and has supported 17 titles, seven of which have reached the market.
Bao told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the new batch aims to include 10 titles or more, and it accepts games of all genres.
It marks the latest in Sony’s years-long approach to China, which eventually led it to a lucrative exclusivity deal with the hit Chinese game “Genshin Impact” outside the China Hero Project. Little known before its launch in 2019, it became one of the world’s most profitable games.
Reuters reported last month that Sony’s success with “Genshin Impact” has driven Microsoft to aggressively woo Chinese game developers with major licensing deals.
To accelerate its expansion, Sony announced that it has formed the “China Game Production” team to oversee Chinese-made games. The Shanghai branch of Sony’s gaming-focused subsidiary, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) now employs just under 100 people after entering China in 2014.
Tatsuo Eguchi, president of SIE Shanghai, said the success of Genshin Impact convinced Sony’s management that Chinese games are important, adding that Sony is allocating more resources than ever there. He also said that Sony’s partnership with Genshin Impact’s developer, miHoYO, is going strong.
Sony sells the PlayStation (PS) consoles in China, where people have traditionally preferred to play mobile-based games.
It has sold more than 3.5 million PS4 consoles in China, and Jim Ryan, CEO of SIE, said it had sold around 670,000 PS5 units there since its Chinese launch in May 2021.
Eguchi said Sony’s goal is to sell twice as many PS5 consoles as it did for PS4 and believed the China Hero Project could help achieve that goal.
“We want gamers around the world to understand the creativity that comes from China. I’ve always had a dream that console gaming will become a regular part of daily entertainment for Chinese people,” he said.
(This story has been corrected to say just under (no more than) 100 people, in paragraph 10)
($1 = 7.1388 Chinese Yuan Renminbi)
Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Alexander Smith and Louise Heavens
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