China’s internet cafés are facing change, beset by the effects of COVID-19, a shift to mobile gaming and improved domestic broadband connections – and today the window closes on public submissions on their future, solicited by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Internet cafés had become a social venue for gamers, whether players of team-based games such as League of Legends or simply fans wanting to watch professional tournaments. But a recent survey by Niko Partners found that 57% of internet café users did not plan to return to the venues after the pandemic is over.

While many cafes have closed or changed use during the pandemic, e-sports remains one of the services the government envisages them continuing to offer, alongside others such as remote learning, business training, community education and tourism promotion, GamerSky reported, and with more regulation than at present.

The Niko Partners report charts several other factors affecting the future of cafés, including the rapid rise in mobile gaming over the past five years as 4G became widespread; and with 5G smartphones accounting for more than 60% of smartphones shipped during July 2020, up from 26% in January 2020, it’s a trend that will continue to grow.

At the same time, there has been a steady rise in the use of PC and console games as the number of broadband users with a fibre to the home/office (FTTH) connection has increased tenfold since 2013; 88% of gamers in China now consider gaming when they purchase a new PC, according to Niko.

“Most casual and web game players have already moved to smartphones from PC,” Niko partners president Lisa Cosmas Hanson told GamesBeat.

“Mobile games are offering more core experiences and many of them are adapted from popular PC games,” she explained, adding that while “mobile is eating into PC games, it is also bringing people back to PC games by having the same title available on both platforms”.

Meanwhile, she believes that “internet cafes will remain popular in China and will evolve as the business need dictates.

“There will be a utilitarian purpose to internet cafes in many cities for a long while, but by and large they serve the purpose of faster, better computers and connections in a social setting among like-minded gamers.”

Sourced from Niko Partners, GamerSky, GamesBeat; additional content by WARC staffa