As urban elites in Shanghai and Beijing totter under intense peer competition, rising living costs, and new regulatory hurdles for business, China’s gaming entrepreneurs are turning to Chengdu’s vibrant yet laid-back culture to stake out a new home.
Many Chinese in the gaming sector moved from Shanghai to Chengdu last year due to increasing financial strain and Beijing’s regulatory crackdowns, according to Caijing, a Chinese investigative reporting outlet.
- Known for its laid-back, progressive culture, Chengdu has become exceptionally attractive to China’s skilled workers in recent years. It was voted the happiest city in China for 12 consecutive years, and living costs are low. Most importantly, regulations remain lax.
- “In terms of public support, Chengdu is very surprising,” Tián Hǎibó 田海博, the founder of a gaming company, told Caijing. Tian received 500,000 yuan ($58,000) of investment from the city at a time when Beijing is cracking down on similar companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
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The context: The capital of Sichuan Province has become a sanctuary for Chinese millennials and Gen Zers fleeing the social, psychological, and legal pressures of the coasts. The city’s population is growing steadily at roughly 2% annually while many other cities have seen a growth plateau.
- Chengdu is the third-most-popular destination for entrepreneurial overseas returnees, behind Beijing and Shanghai. The city’s viability as the next Chinese “Silicon Valley” has been accelerated by China’s structural reforms, as well as Chengdu’s talent recruitment initiatives such as its annual Golden Panda Awards.
- Chengdu’s gaming studios are known for their talent in the Japan-inspired anime subgenre known as èrcìyuán (二次元游戏, literally, 2D gaming). Chengdu-made games in this subgenre include Date Alive’s Fairy Resurrection (约战：精灵再临) and On My Reincarnation Into a Slime (关于我转生变成史莱姆这件事儿) based on a Japanese novel by the same name.
- There were 2,474 game-related companies in Chengdu as of December 2019, behind Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Shanghai. Guangzhou has close to 40,000 companies in the gaming sector.
The takeaway: The relatively more liberal and progressive city is becoming an innovative testing ground for a number of industries, including education, public infrastructure, and now hi-tech. With relatively low living costs and an influx of skilled workers from the coasts, Chengdu is an anomaly in a country beset by bloated real estate prices and demographic woes.