Sony has revealed they are bringing back their China Hero Project.
Originally unveiled in 2017, Sony’s China Hero Project was basically an incubator, where Sony handpicked independent video game projects in China to fund, with the end goal being to publish these games on Sony’s platforms.
The most successful so far among the games in the project is F.I.S.T. Forged In Shadow Torch, a Metroidvania with a unique anthropomorphic steampunk theme. F.I.S.T. Forged In Shadow Torch was published on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, and even Steam. Many other games under the program had more impressive demos and trailers, but F.I.S.T. Forged In Shadow Torch was the one that got finished and published, and it is already a minor hit.
Interestingly, the biggest success Sony found in China was not with a game they funded under the program, but Genshin Impact, a surprise hit from Chinese game developer Mihoyo. Sony discovered and recognized that Genshin Impact would get huge early on, and so they signed Mihoyo to an exclusivity contract that shut out Xbox consoles from getting a port. So far, Genshin Impact has also been available on iOS, Android, and Windows. Mihoyo is apparently still at work on a Nintendo Switch port, so this deal did not remove Nintendo’s platform from getting these games.
Of course, Genshin Impact’s success has gotten Microsoft’s attention. They themselves have announced plans to find Chinese games to license themselves. While Microsoft hasn’t revealed a project like Sony’s China Hero Project, they could very much find the next Genshin Impact themselves.
Of course, it also ties in to Microsoft’s bigger ambitions to enter mobile gaming. We know they are looking at Activision Blizzard’s mobile games, such as Diablo Immortal, to raise their profile in the space. The kind of game they are looking for in China, will be a free-to-play project like Genshin Impact, and it potentially also be something they could bring to mobile themselves.
Sony’s plans are to invest 1 million yuan, or $ 140,080, for each game they find. They have also committed to publishing two games that are under the program, namely Lost Soul Aside and Convallaria.
Sony has so far funded 17 games under the project, in 2017 and then 2019 respectively. The program did briefly halt because of the pandemic, but Sony’s director of China game production, Bao Bo, stated that “The scale of the third season will far exceed the previous two.”
Whoever loses in this little tete-a-tete between the console platforms, gamers, as well as the Chinese video game industry, wins. Some fans may want to see PlayStation or Xbox to win, but really, we should all be cheering for China’s game studios.