chinese video game

‘Yi Xian’ Won Best Indie Video Game: Meet the Masterminds Behind It

Industry giants like Tencent have been paying more attention to indie video games in recent years

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Beatrice Tamagno Headshot
1:55 PM HKT, Thu August 25, 2022 1 mins read

Organized by the Tencent Institute of Games, ‘Gamers Without Borders’ (GWB) is an annual competition that recognizes outstanding independent video games by both Chinese and international developers. On August 17, the gaming platform announced the cream of the crop in the domestic section.

The Chinese title that took home this year’s gold medal is Yi Xian: The Cultivation Card Game, developed by Darksun Studio, a team of nine based in Hangzhou, East China.

“The recognition we have received from GWB is very important, because feedback is necessary when developing a game independently,” shares Zi Xiao, CEO of Darksun Studio, who also explained that participating in the contest gave him and his team the opportunity to receive advice and support from industry professionals.

“And, of course, the cash prize is really helpful,” laughs Zi.

Darksun Studio’s new game is unique in that it combines the gameplay of deck-building games (DBG) — where players have to make the best out of the skills provided by their deck of cards — with player-versus-player (PvP) games. This makes it more life-like compared to other video games where players are pitched against AI.

Yi Xian was published by GameraGames, an indie video game incubator that has fast become a respected name in China.

Several of their titles, including Room 301, Building 6, racked up awards at the 2022 GWB. The winner of the Social Value Award, Room 301, Building 6 places gamers in the shoes of an Alzheimer’s patient and promotes greater understanding and awareness of the brain disorder.

The company, which was founded by a group of passionate gamers in 2018, helps indie developers publish their games in China as well as abroad.

“We do everything from marketing to beta testing and localization,” CEO Leaf Song tells RADII, before adding, “We want everybody to experience the beauty of China’s indie games.”

Instead of following a profit-driven model, GameraGames only publishes titles that appeal to its team members.

“There are plenty of different factors that make an indie game successful, but ultimately, it is a combination of a good idea and strong promotion,” muses Song.

According to both Song and Zi, the rise of small gaming companies like GameraGames has prompted industry giants like Tencent to pay more attention to indie video games. Both entrepreneurs agree that China’s indie gaming landscape has greatly evolved.

However, independent developers like Zi still face challenges. “The hardest part is getting a game approved,” sighs the developer, referring to China’s strict regulatory framework, which only allows a limited number of new titles to get approved annually.

‘Yi Xian’ has just moved out of its beta testing phase and will be available to download on Steam by the end of the year.

Cover image courtesy of Darksun

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