Odds are that you’ve never even heard of Snail Games or its free-to-play massively multiplayer online title Age of Wushu. This is expected, as Snail Games, also known as Suzhou Snail Electronic Co. Ltd., is based in China and Age of Wushu hasn’t been released in the States yet, but it may soon be one of the biggest games in the world. Let’s just cover the whole backstory, shall we?
In June of last year, a closed beta test commenced in China for an MMO titled Age of Wulin (this is not a separate game, it’s just that in China they have a different title for what we know as Age of Wushu). The game, while undeniably a member of the MMO genre, is based heavily on Wuxia, the traditional genre of Chinese tales that feature heroes with amazing, often superhuman martial arts skills. The film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the most easily accessible examples of the genre available to Western audiences (at least to the mainstream – the style is instantly recognizable to fans of “kung fu films,” of course), but the Wuxia tradition dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Traditionally,Wuxia tales are found in literature, but people fighting with awesome martial arts is such a popular concept that Wuxia has spread to films, television, theater and – as Snail Games will attest – video games.
Alright, now that you’re all caught up on what Age of Wushu is, we ought to explain why you should care. First, Age of Wushu is reportedly a quality MMO and it has already been compared to EVE Online, but with hand-to-hand fighting replacing laser-toting spacecraft. Second, we’re not that far from seeing an American release of Age of Wushu. Snail Games USA issued an announcement this morning heralding the game’s upcoming release. “Based on player feedback and data from the second closed beta, we have decided to revise the launch timing to Spring 2013. This will allow us to better address community feedback and continue to update the game,” the company claims. “When a more precise update on the release timing is available, we will share that information.”
And third, Age of Wushu is among the first of a coming wave of games made in China, then exported to the West. Chinese gamers are currently the largest online gaming user base in the world by a long shot, but Chinese-made titles are rarely exported outside the Asian market. As China’s market becomes more global, Chinese developers are looking to expand. The publisher Tencent may not yet be well known in the West, but it is one of the biggest game publishers in the world and recently invested heavily in Epic Games, makers of the Gears of War franchise, and purchased Riot Games, makers of League of Legends. Others like Shanda, Kongzhong, The9, and many more are eyeing similar moves. Age of Wushu isn’t the first game created in China for a global market, but it is one of the biggest. If it can keep the Chinese base happy and find success elsewhere, there’s no reason to think it won’t soon be one of the biggest games in the world.
Once released, Age of Wushu will follow modern the MMO tradition and offer players the chance to enjoy the game for free. Of course, we expect Snail Games to monetize the title with extraneous aesthetic bonuses and in-game pets that cost real-world money, but that’s de rigueur at this point.
You can find all kinds of additional information on Age of Wushu at the game’s official website.