Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang
Fantasy fiction continues to heat up in China, and its future seems boundless. But with the current state of China’s finances and technological realities, plus a strict censorship system and a tendency toward real-life subject matter, it is very difficult to make fantasy blockbusters that can compete with Hollywood. So if a fantasy novel hopes to reap additional profits, it has only one road to follow — to be adapted as an online game.
Chinese readers will never forget the stir caused by the original version of the 1995 Taiwanese game, “The Legend of the Sword and Fairy.” It is said that of this game’s 1.3 billion players, 400 million were from China. The game is about how Li Xiaoyao, a young servant in a tavern, goes to the Immortal Spirit Islands by accident and encounters Zhao Ling’er, descendant of Nüwa (the goddess who created humans in Chinese mythology). The two of them fall in love as soon as they see each other, and Ling’er’s grandmother presides over their wedding. But when she returns to the mainland, Li Xiaoyao is entranced by powers from the spirit world and loses her memory. Afterwards she meets Lin Yueru, daughter of a martial arts master, and the two female protagonists play out a soul-stirring story of slaying demons and monsters on their journey to save mankind. After it was a game, this story was made into a television series with 38 episodes that is still being aired to this day. And so many fantasy novels being adapted as online games has become a trend.
Over the past 5 years, a large amount of money has been pouring into China’s online games market; it seems that more than one new online game comes out every few months. And so in order to put out a large-scale game in such a short amount of time, businesses have developed a strong reliance on fantasy novels. On the one hand, these stories have structural integrity, are rich in context, and are easy to adapt; on the other hand, these novels have a large readership, and most of these readers also play online games. So internet novels and internet games have become post-natal integrated twins to the point that game companies are even investing in manufacturing websites for serialized online novels, such as the establishment and investment by the Beijing company Perfect World in the nationally second-most-popular online book site Zongwen Chinese Network. Everyone, including authors, publishers, serialized novel websites, and game companies are all collecting statistics on each other’s audiences and projected earnings. However, in a short time they have produced a large amount of products, but the well-made ones are in the minority. Many small and medium sized companies do not do nearly as well as novel websites. Novel websites can accommodate large numbers of serial works for readers to choose from at will, and the works have to stand on their own two feet to either survive or die. Within a short period of time, no matter which books sell well, there are always profits to be made, and they always have a chance to acquire huge profits from adaptation. On the contrary, when a game company puts out a game it must spend a huge amount of capital. If players do not buy the game, then it will be annihilated after a few days.
Xiao Ding’s fantasy novel, “Zhu Xian”(Jade Dynasty), was published in 2003 on HJSM.TOM.COM, and the traditional Chinese version came out in 2006. It rapidly became the champion of the China / Taiwan / Hong Kong best-seller charts, and it ranked 4th on the “Baidu Novel Billboard” in the Mainland. In 2007 it was adapted into an online game by the same name and in a short time became quickly popular; gamers gave it more than 80,000 votes. But the original novel had constructed a perfect world in the hearts of its fans, and some avid readers would not deign to purchase the online game product. This game was short-lived, and eventually dropped from the top 10 in the Chinese gaming networks. The recent novel, “Xing Chen Bian”(Legend Of Immortals), put out by I Eat Tomatoes, is being adapted into an online game, and currently only its basic structure has been completed, but already it has had a pretty good reaction. This novel tells a coming-of-age story of a prince who by chance obtains a piece of meteorite that transformed into a mystical stone, and in the end he goes through trials and tribulations. Quite a few of its readers who have become gamers have said they really like the spirited play style in the game and settings that allow their pets to marry spirit beasts and give birth to new pets, etc. But compared to online games that have endured in China such as “World of Warcraft” or “Heaven,” these games adapted from native works might be beautifully made; however, their sales and popularity have not met their expectations, showing how immature the entire market still is.