Sony to expand Chinese game incubator in Microsoft head-to-head

HONG KONG, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Sony Group Corp ( 6758.T ) said it plans to expand a program to identify and incubate Chinese-made games as it competes with Microsoft Corp ( MSFT.O ) to capture the Chinese games market.

The program will invest more than 1 million yuan ($140,080) in each game it applies for, and will fund not only small teams but also large teams with a dozen or more engineers, said Bao Bo, director of Sony’s China game production.

The Japanese tech giant’s plans were revealed at an event broadcast live from the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu on Tuesday to restart the Project Hero of China program, which was suspended due to Covid-19.

“The scale of the third phase will greatly exceed the previous two,” Bao said, adding that Sony will publish some games and its PlayStation Studios will support registered projects.

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Sony announced that it will be the publisher of Lost Soul Aside and Convallaria, two games registered in the previous two phases.

The Chinese Hero Project launched its first two batches of games in 2017 and 2019 and has supported 17 titles, seven of which have made it to market.

Bao said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday that the new batch aims to include 10 or more titles and welcomes games of all genres.

It marks the latest in Sony’s years-long approach to China, which eventually led to a lucrative exclusivity deal with popular Chinese game Genshin Impact outside of the China Hero Project. Little known before its 2019 release, it became one of the world’s highest-grossing games.

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Reuters reported last month that Sony’s success with Genshin Impact has prompted Microsoft to aggressively woo Chinese game developers with big licensing deals.

To accelerate its expansion, Sony announced that it has created a “China Game Production” team to oversee games made in China. The Shanghai branch of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), a subsidiary of Sony, now employs more than 100 people after entering China in 2014.

Tatsuo Eguchi, president of SIE Shanghai, said the success of Genshin Impact convinced Sony management that Chinese games were important, adding that Sony was devoting more resources than ever. He also said that Sony’s partnership with Genshin Impact developer miHoYO is continuing.

Sony sells PlayStation (PS) consoles in China, where people have traditionally preferred to play mobile games.

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It has sold more than 3.5 million PS4 consoles in China, and SIE CEO Jim Ryan said it has sold around 670,000 PS5 units since its launch in China in May 2021.

Eguchi said that Sony’s goal is to sell twice as many PS5 consoles as it did for the PS4, and believed that the Chinese hero project could help achieve that goal.

“We want gamers around the world to better understand the creativity that comes from China. It has always been my dream to make game consoles a part of Chinese people’s daily entertainment,” he said.

($1 = 7.1388 Chinese Yuan Renminbi)

Reported by Josh Ye; Edited by Alexander Smith and Louise Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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