Even with its global popularity, Monster Hunter can’t be played online on the scale some people may want. Capcom’s RPG is – even after nearly a decade of soaring popularity in Japan and a growing cult following in the US and Europe – still an intimate affair. Small groups can play Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate online with one another on Wii U, Monster Hunter 3 on Wii, or even larger groups in Monster Hunter Frontier on Xbox 360 and PC, but that latter game is only available in Japan and Korea. When will the rest of the world get some sweet, massively multiplayer Monster Hunter?
China, at least, is about to get a Monster Hunter MMO. Capcom has teamed up with Chinese gaming giant Tencent to make Monster Hunter Online, a brand new MMO set in the Monster Hunter world that’s only planned for China as of now. The audience isn’t the only thing unusual about this particular Monster Hunter game. It will also be the first game in the series not built with Capcom’s own tools. It will be built on Crytek’s CryEngine 3, the same tech powering Crysis 3.
While there’s still no word on whether or not the game will be opened up to players around the world, the Chinese version will begin beta testing in June.
Monster Hunter Online is just the latest example of Tencent co-opting the premiere gaming franchise of a culture and adapting it for an online edition tailor made for the Chinese market. Activision announced a similar partnership with the company in July 2012 for the game Call of Duty Online. Developed by Raven Software and Activision Shanghai, the free-to-play spin off of the billion dollar shooter franchise remains a Chinese exclusive.
There’s a good reason that Tencent develops these wholly online versions of series popular in Japan and the US, though: That’s how to make money in the growing Chinese gaming market. “I think this year, the Chinese online game market will be about $8 billion,” said Tencent executive vice president David Wallerstein last summer, “And the global market for online games is about $15 billion. So it’s roughly half.”