Since last week, a 13-minute gameplay video of a game called ‘Black Myth: Wu Kong’ has left an unforgettable impression on Chinese and the Western audiences. The attention has been due not only to the game’s high-quality, but also because it is designed by an unknown Chinese independent game studio called Game Science Studio, which does not belong to either of China’s largest game publishers, Tencent and NetEase.
Wu Kong is an action-adventure game inspired by a 16th-century Chinese novel written by Ming Dynasty author Cheng’en Wu. His novel, Journey To The West, is considered to be one of China’s four masterpieces, alongside Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, and A Dream in Red Mansions.
Wu Kong’s full name is Wukong Sun, who is well-known in China as the Monkey King. The story is based on his journey from a monkey to a hero, eventually becoming Buddha. The television and film series have become iconic cultural symbols in the memory of most Chinese people. The story serves as the inspiration for one of the classic comic characters, Son Goku from Dragon Ball. In Valve’s iconic game and esports title Dota 2, Wu Kong is one of the in-game heroes.
After the gameplay video of Wu Kong was posted online, it immediately went viral on Chinese platforms Bilibili, Kuaishou, Weibo, ByteDance’s Douyin and Toutiao, as well as Western platforms such as YouTube and Twitter. On Youtube, the video has been watched 850K times and has amassed up to 320K likes with only 275 dislikes. On Bilibili the video has been watched 23.3M times, at the time of writing.
Following the massive traffic on the internet, Qi Yang, co-founder of Game Science Studio, stated on his Weibo that Game Science Studio has been preparing this game for five years, and pleaded for “big gaming companies please stop poaching our employees.”
In fact, the game is still in development, and the independent developer desperately needs game design talent to join the team. Yang acknowledged that one of the main reasons the studio decided to post the gameplay video on the internet was to recruit new talent. The studio has 30 members, and some of them are former Tencent Games employees, including Ji Feng, co-founder and CEO of the studio. He joined Tencent in 2008, and was in charge of an online game called “Dou Zhan Shen”. The game was closed down in 2015, one year after Feng left Tencent.
In China’s gaming sector, Tencent is close to monopolizing the industry, owning 53.38% of the market, over three times as much as NetEase, with its 15.23%. Tencent’s success is due not only to its full or part ownership of gaming developers around the world, including Riot Games and Epic Games, but also its possession of various distribution channels such as WeChat and QQ in China.