Casual gaming on computers and on phones like the iPhone is the biggest and most lucrative trend to hit the gaming market in years. In the past (and with a few notable exceptions like WoW) Western games haven’t really taken off in China, as Chinese gamers tend to prefer local products. But the same games that have made a huge splash on iPhones across the West have also exploded among Chinese users.
Consider, for example, Angry Birds, a simple game where players launch birds at pigs using a slingshot. It’s got an addictive puzzle-like quality and simple mechanics. It also requires no translation at all, as there’s basically no spoken language in the game. 愤怒的小鸟 (Fènnù de Xiǎoniǎo, the game’s Chinese name) has become such a hit in China that you don’t even need an iPhone to play it anymore, you can use a real-life slingshot and stuffed bird toys to take those arrogant stuffed pigs down a peg — literally!
Plants vs. Zombies, the PopCap game that’s shuffled its way onto phones, computers, and just about everything else in the West has also taken root here in China, where it’s called 植物大战僵尸 (Zhíwù Dàzhàn Jiāngshī, “Plants Battle Zombies”). In fact, it’s so popular that it’s parodied in Chinese sitcoms and has allegedly even led some Chinese to take up gardening in real life (note: we’re pretty sure that gardening will not save you in a real zombie apocalypse).
Of course, the gardening trend comes mostly from another popular casual game, Happy Farm (known to the West as Farmville). This one actually originated here in China, Farmville is just a copycat. And if you thought Farmville was popular, get a load of Happy Farm on this map of online communities from the webcomic xkcd.
Social and casual gaming, it seems, are here to stay. But which games are most likely to catch on with Chinese gamers? Apparently, games that feature plants, zombies, and angry birds. You’ll have to excuse me now, I’m off to create the next casual gaming smash hit, “Angry Birds Battle Zombies on a Happy Farm.”