ChinaJoy 2016, the country’s largest gaming trade show, opened in Shanghai on July 28. But unlike previous years, the gaming-oriented trade show featured an expanded focus that brought together games, movies, animation, literature and music.
It’s a concept that organizers brand as “pan entertainment.”
“The industry scale is far larger than it was 10 years ago, when ChinaJoy was almost exclusively for the game industry. Now we are seeing film and television businesses, publishers, music labels and resorts attending,” said Perfect World Games president Zhang Yunfan.
Marketing to Fandoms
Pan entertainment, a new concept in recent years, refers to Internet companies that serve the fandom market with complete intellectual property offerings. Simply put, it’s an array of products that puts a popular story, character, game or anything with a large fan following into multiple media channels.
The concept was pitched by Cheng Wu, vice president of Tencent, in 2011. By 2014, “pan entertainment” was a focus of the Ministry of Culture, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and other central ministries and commissions.
“The essence of pan entertainment is the fandom economy. To make it work, you need to make the most of intellectual property by producing comic and game derivatives,” said Qin Zhiyong, CEO of Shanghai Access Bright.
Currently, pan entertainment has focused on four modes of delivery: game, film and TV animation, literature and derivative goods. For Chinese manufacturers, games have been the most successful thus far.
The Value of IP
No matter how popular a character or story may be, its financial potential depends on its impact.
“Pan entertainment is basically a network used to capture fans. Most successful cases originate from popular novels like The Journey of Flower, Nirvana in Fire and Silent Separation. When a novel becomes popular enough, it catches the attention of film and television companies,” Qin said.
Silent Separation has continued to sell well for a decade. Before it was adapted for the screen, the book topped many wish lists for new TV dramas.
The novel The Journey of Flower was less influential than Silent Separation. Instead, The Journey of Flower found popularity as TV drama, launching the career of actress Zanilia Zhao.
Average viewership was 2.21 percent, breaking ratings records for Chinese TV that week. When the show became available for online streaming, it drew 400 million clicks, again breaking online playback records for a single day.
Before the concept of pan entertainment it was hard for a property to have such a broad impact. But influential novels, games or online dramas adapted for TV have been immensely profitable.
The growing mobile gaming market is also becoming an important channel for IP sales. As of June 2015, the capacity of China’s mobile gaming market reached 20.9 billion yuan, with year-on-year growth of 67.2 percent.
The strong spillover capability of high-quality properties is what makes it possible to cross media.
“The entertainment factors have no borders like Internet platforms. We can be in any industry and realize the integration of all business models,” said Wang Zhonglei, CEO of Huayi Bros.
However, too many products may upset the value of an intellectual property.
“In our view, pan entertainment is a hoodlum industry. People suddenly discover the value of intellectual property and want to spread it into every area,”, said NetEase founder and CEO Ding Lei in a speech on July 27.
“There are companies who don’t understand the industry persuading investors who don’t understand the product to invest hundreds of millions of yuan to build contents without any real inputs,” Ding said.
Linekong Interactive Group CEO Wang Feng also expressed his own thinking. “Today, the game market talks about intellectual property like it’s the only way to survive. But every unsuccessful company is doing this,” he said. “Not all IP can be successful in the market.”
To attract a fan to open his or her wallet, the reader must be moved by the story’s creativity.
Cheng said the popularity of mobile Internet is removing even more obstacles to content creation. Moreover, the boundaries between the creators and consumers are breaking down as everyone can become a creator.
When a player of League of legends was about to graduate, he wrote a novel The Challenge of League of Legends, which drew a billion clicks and annual income of tens of millions of yuan.
The pan entertainment approach may grow and spread to clothing, food, housing, transportation, entertainment and education products, Cheng said.
“Pan entertainment connects multiple product domains while sneaking around many of the ‘industry rules’ for each. The only standard is whether the fans like your idea,” Cheng said.