After I have published all these posts about the WCVRI event in Nanchang (e.g. this one with the hands-on session on Huawei glasses or this one with our experience in exhibiting a game in this event), many people that have not been there have asked me if it is worth going there. So, I’m writing this short article to answer this question once for all.
Was it worth for us going to WCVRI? In the end, yes. We made 150-200 people try our game HitMotion:Reloaded, and now we are fixing the game to take in count all the feedback that we got. We have met old friends and we have created possibilities for new collaborations. I also got a new headset 😉 All of this was worth the long travel.
Can it be interesting for you? Well, it depends.
The first question you have to ask yourself is if you are interested in the Chinese market. Do you want to have Chinese customers, suppliers or partners? If the answer is no, then WCVRI is not interesting for you, because it is an event very China-oriented.
China is a very interesting market for VR, because the government is investing a lot in it. Someone asked me if it is ripe yet, and of course, it is not, exactly as in the rest of the world. There is more awareness for the tech than in the West, but consumers are not buying many VR headsets because the prices are too high. In the enterprise sector, instead, the interest in AR and VR is very high, and for instance, there are many startups that are succeeding in offering VR educational programs.
We took a game to the event, and on the first day of the expo, the one that was devoted to business relationships, we had various companies representatives coming at our booth and going away as soon as they saw we did just a game. Many of them were seeking for enterprise relations. In fact, there were some games, but most booths were showcasing hardware or enterprise solutions. Maybe if you have a game you want to promote big in China, other exhibitions like the ChinaJoy are more suitable.
Sunday, the first day open to consumers, we had our booth always full of people. Most of them were kids and girls, that were there to have fun. This was very good for us, so that we could have feedback on what we do, but it was not that good for other people looking for B2B customers: from my experience, most of the audience was made of young people that are not a business target at all in any case. As I have said, these students most probably have not the money to buy a VR headset, hence your product. This expo is a mix of B2B for the first day and B2C for the next three days.
So, your mileage may vary depending on what you are looking for. This seemed to me a place where you can shake some hands of business people and also have random people trying your product to have feedback.
China is also a very complicated market, where competitivity is insane and everything moves very fast. If you plan to do something there, you had better have a reliable local partner, if you don’t want to see your business crashing into a wall.
In this expo, you can find many Chinese business people, both in the booth and among the speakers. Many of the speakers are also Westerners living in China, people with which you may talk and make business in an easier way. So, if you are looking for a partner in China, this may be a good place to start, and to talk in English with people that are seeing China from the inside. People like Eloi Gerard, Nikk Mitchell, Gianluigi Perrone, and many others that I know from the XR Story group on WeChat are all people worth meeting… and many of them were at this event.
You may ask me how the event is big. Well, from the outside, when I read the news last year, it appeared bigger. I thought it was as big as the Gamescom. It is big, but not THAT big: there were 5 pavillions you could visit, and that’s good, but not comparable with monster events like CES or E3.
The number of people there was very good on Sunday, so-and-so on Monday, very little on Tuesday.
Again, if you’re looking for super-big events, this is not for you. If you are looking for a medium-big event, then this is perfect.
Being in China, this event has the advantage that it can give you some coverage in Asia, but most probably you won’t find members of the Western press (Upload, Road To VR, etc…), so you won’t be published in the magazines you usually read. But if you’re a member of the press yourself (like me), this means more opportunity to have exclusive news and contacts (like when I tried the Huawei VR glasses… there were no reviews written in English! I was like the first one writing it).
The Chinese government is investing a lot in Nanchang and the many building sites in the city are a proof of that. According to official sources, WCVRI featured “8 strategic cooperation framework agreements and 96 investment cooperation projects. The total contracted investment project amount is 65.256 billion yuan ($9B+)“. Wow, that’s an amazing amount of investments for virtual reality!
Personally, I have not become a billionaire at this expo… so I guess that most of the contracts signed were political ones. I heard about the local government buying lots of headsets and things like that to support the local development of VR. A piece of good news for Chinese companies for sure. If you manage to enter into this kind of business, then maybe you can sign these millionaire contracts as well, but it’s very difficut. If you, instead, like me, are not that important yet, you can just discuss future collaborations with the other people attending the expo.
The national political interest in this expo has been certified by various authorities like vice prime minister Liu He visiting the venue. But if you plan to go there to have a selfie with him, you had better know that Chinese people have very strict security rules when politicians are visiting. So the venue was closed and only selected people were able to be at the booth during this time (the big bosses of HTC, Huawei, etc…).
Politics have also released important statements about the commitment of China to VR. If you are interested in politics, you can read them here below.
ice prime minister Liu He pointed out:
1. In the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation represented by digital technology and life science, VR is one of the most active frontier fields, showing strong synergy in technology development, wide application range of products, and great potential for industrial development. Distinctive features.
2. To enter the healthy development of the VR industry, we must adhere to the demand-led development, focus on basic research and original ability, create a good development environment, vigorously strengthen education and personnel training, and actively carry out international exchanges and cooperation.
Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao said:
1. At present, a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation are gestating. The new generation of information technology and manufacturing industry represented by 5G, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are deeply integrated and become an important driving force for promoting the high-quality development of China’s economy.
2. China is one of the regions with the most active innovation and entrepreneurship, the highest market acceptance and the greatest development potential in the global virtual reality industry. The industrial development shows that the R&D and manufacturing system is basically formed, the user experience is greatly improved, the application resources are continuously enriched, and the pace of integration and innovation is accelerated.
3. Virtual reality is a master of the new generation of information technology and is recognized as the next slogan of the information industry. The global virtual reality industry is moving from a start-up period to a rapid growth period.
4. Cooperate with local governments to promote the construction of innovative carriers such as virtual reality manufacturing innovation centers, and accelerate the research and development and industrialization of common technologies in the industry.
5. Improve the industrial ecology, build public service systems such as technical services, test and verification, intellectual property protection, innovation incubation, and expand the integration with various industries.
6. Deepen open cooperation, carry out various forms of international exchanges and cooperation, and promote the interaction of resources such as technology, talents, and funds to achieve open sharing and mutual benefit.
This commitment translates also in a very big advantage: there are many free services for this exhibition. If you are selected as a speaker, you get free travel and accommodation, assistants to help you and sometimes also money to compensate you for your time. If you get a booth, it is free. We got a 9 square meters booth completely for free: in whatever other exhibition, it would have cost thousands of dollars. That’s another thing you have to take in mind when thinking about going or not: the govt subsidizes a lot of stuff…and for us, this was great, because we could exhibit our indie game in an important expo for just the money of the trip to China!
That’s all I have to say on the topic… depending on what are your goals, you may decide if it is worth a long trip to China or not. As I have said, personally I found it very useful, but you have to evaluate your personal case. And if you want to ask me for suggestions, feel free to ask in the comments or on my social media channels!