Interpret Weekly: Asia Entertainment 08/30/2021

20th Century Studios Emperor Motion Pictures / Tencent Pictures Dadi Film

With China’s summer blackout on foreign film releases over, Hollywood product is finally finding a place on Chinese screens again. Free Guy has been well received by filmgoers, though a spate of Delta variant outbreaks in the country has shuttered some 30 percent of local cinemas, taking a sizable bite out of potential earnings. The film scored 7.8/10 on reviews aggregator Douban and 9.1/10 on ticketing giant Maoyan, suggesting a long run in the upcoming weeks.

On Thursday, all entries related to Zhao on Chinese social media platforms were removed, her name was scrubbed from the credits of films and TV shows, and all content featuring her — including household TV series My Fair Princess with Zhao being the lead actress — was removed from major streaming sites. No official reason was given for her digital disappearance, but some state media did resurface historical allegations of financial impropriety and a number of other scandals. Most notably, in 2018, the Shanghai Stock Exchange banned Zhao and her husband Huang Youlong from acting as listed company executives for five years due to issues and irregularities related to a failed takeover bid in 2016. A close friend of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Zhao and her husband were early investors in Alibaba Pictures Group, buying a $400 million stake in 2015. Once China’s highest-profile billionaire, Ma’s star has dimmed after spectacularly falling out of favor with Beijing.

The Busan International Film Festival, Asia’s leading cinema event, is embracing the relentless rise of high-end TV series produced for streaming services. The event’s upcoming 26th edition will include the inaugural “On Screen Section,” showcasing “highly anticipated drama series on streaming platforms.”

Netflix has teamed up with South Korea’s largest cinema chain CJ CGV to give theatrical releases to seven Netflix Original movies. The Korean-language titles will be given a limited 13-day run (Sept. 1-12, 2021) in 80 CGV multiplexes. The initiative, branded as “NetFic,” is the latest effort by the film industry to stimulate the box office in Korea, where the exhibition and distribution sectors in Korea have been badly shaken by the impact of COVID-19. Audiences have been slow to return to in-person screenings and many high-profile film releases have been postponed or canceled as a result.

The new regulation, announced by the National Press and Publication Administration, will ban minors from playing video games entirely between Monday and Thursday. On the other three days of the week, and on public holidays, they will only be permitted to play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. The announcement didn’t offer a specific age for minors, but previous regulations targeting younger video gamers have drawn the line at 18 years old.

The new rule is likely to be felt through China’s online gaming industry. The measure comes as the Chinese government seeks to rein in China’s technology industry, a campaign that has ignited a trillion-dollar selloff in Chinese equities and hit a range of businesses, including for-profit education providers, ride-hailing services, and e-commerce platforms.

The company said that Pico Interactive’s software and hardware, as well as its talent and expertise, will support ByteDance’s “entry to the VR space and long-term investment in this emerging field.” The deal is estimated by the sources to be worth close to $772 million. Pico was founded in 2015 by Henry Zhou Hongwei, employing 300 people with offices in China, the US, Spain, South Korea, and Japan. The company completed its B and B+ round of financing in March, raising $67.23 million.

It is a strategy game and has been developed through a partnership between NetEase and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. It will be available in Europe, America, Oceania, and Southeast Asia.

NetEase is in final negotiations to poach Yakuza franchise creator Toshihiro Nagoshi from Sega. The hire would mark the biggest coup in a contest between NetEase and close rival Tencent to scoop up video game talent and assets in Japan, made more urgent by slowing growth and regulatory pressure at home. Nagoshi, who developed and helms one of Sega’s most successful action series, is expected to set up his own team and create new games, though he hasn’t signed a final contract and his duties have yet to be finalized.

Tencent will be uniting their esports scene for the first time next year with the Arena of Valor World Cup (AWC) 2022. The announcement was made right before the final of the 2021 Honor of Kings World Champion Cup. Tencent has said that the prize pool for the competition will be more than $8 million. Honor of Kings and Arena of Valor are separate games with several overlapping mechanics. To solve this problem, the AWC will be played in a “brand-new esports version” with a hero pool from both games to ensure a fair competitive environment.

On August 25, Netmarble launched action RPG mobile game Marvel Future Revolution in some 240 countries, including Korea, and early signs were positive as the game shot to No. 1 on the RPG charts on Apple’s App Store in 78 countries, based on prerelease downloads that were made available August 24.

NCSoft, which relies heavily on its long-running Lineage franchise, launched Blade & Soul 2 on August 26, marking a new addition to its game portfolio, though it’s received a lukewarm response so far. The game is a sequel to Blade & Soul, a fantasy martial-arts RPG that was released in 2012.

NCSoft has unveiled Lineage W, the latest addition to its best-selling MMORPG franchise, strategically developed as a single build for worldwide players and cross-platform play on PC and consoles.

Merlin Entertainments on Thursday began construction in China of a Legoland theme park and resort that it says will be the world’s largest. The resort on the Dapeng Peninsula, on the eastern edge of Southern Chinese mega-city Shenzhen, is set to cover 580,000 square meters and will cost $1.08 billion to build. The park is due to open in 2024, with nine themed areas, over 100 interactive rides, shows, and attractions. It will be exclusively operated by Merlin Entertainments, with Hazens Holdings as its local partner.

NCSoft said on August 23that it signed a memorandum of understanding with Sony Music Entertainment Korea to allow artists behind the label to participate in its K-pop fan community platform Universe. Universe is a platform that supports a variety of fun activities for K-pop fans across the world by allowing them to interact with their beloved artists as well as other fans. A total of 22 artists joined the platform operating in 134 countries.

South Korea’s home-grown app market One Store will launch global services next year by actively attracting popular game apps from big publishers and developers such as Blizzard and Nexon with a goal of more than quadrupling its revenue by 2025.

Nintendo Switch game Fitness Boxing is getting an anime adaptation in Japan this October. The new Fitness Boxing anime will consist of 12 five-minute comedy shorts, airing weekly in Japan from October 1. The episodes will reportedly chronicle the daily lives of the virtual coaches, with the game’s original voice cast returning to reprise their popular instructor roles for the upcoming anime series.

China plans to propose new rules that would ban companies with large amounts of sensitive consumer data from going public in the U.S. In recent weeks, officials from China’s stock regulator have told some companies and international investors that the new rules would prohibit internet firms holding a swath of user-related data from listing abroad. The regulators said that the rules target companies seeking foreign initial public offerings via units incorporated outside the country.

China is seeking to tighten oversight of the algorithms technology companies use to drive their business, issuing far-reaching draft rules in Beijing’s latest move to crackdown on its internet sector. The Cyberspace Administration of China said last Friday that companies must abide by business ethics and principles of fairness and should not set up algorithm models that entice users to spend large amounts of money or spend money in a way that may disrupt public order. The guidelines include a proposal that users be given the option to easily turn off algorithm recommendation services, giving consumers a greater say over an area of the internet that has also been the target of authorities in the United States and Europe.

Hong Kong, once the most vibrant and creative film production hub in East Asia, is set to institute tougher censorship and production laws for new films released in the city as well as retroactively vet films previously cleared for release for breaches of the territory’s national security law. The new censorship rules give Hong Kong’s censor wider powers and also increases the maximum penalty for unauthorized screenings to three years in prison and a $128,000 fine.

The government has decided to abolish the game curfew for children, 10 years after the controversial rule was established, as the outdated law is not having any positive effect and does not reflect changes in the gaming environment, relevant ministries said. The “shutdown system,” which bans children under 16 from playing online computer games from midnight to 6 am, was introduced to encourage children to get enough sleep and protect their health, as game addiction was becoming a social problem. But its effectiveness has been questioned continuously and criticism has been made that it excessively infringes on the choices of young people, along with protests from game companies.