Sex sells at computer gaming trade show
August 2, 2010, 1:30 pm TWN
SHANGHAI -- At the door to a major computer game expo in Shanghai, visitors are greeted by columns of Chinese girls in white boots and miniskirts, the name of a computer parts maker emblazoned on their chests.
A bit farther on, amid the blaring music and pulsing lights, 40 more models in bikini shorts, tiny tanktops and hard hats shill for an online security company, handing out small locks in boxes designed to resemble condom packs.
Government regulations announced in July barring online gaming companies from using sex to promote their products had little impact at ChinaJoy, the country's largest annual digital entertainment exhibition which ends Sunday.
"The most eye-catching part of the exhibition is the show girls," said Feng Gong, senior director for Internet portal Zol.com.cn, which is owned by U.S. broadcaster CBS Corporation.
"The pretty girls and products complement each other and the combination is just perfect," said Feng, whose company is sponsoring a Miss ChinaJoy pageant, which allows website users to vote for their favorite booth model.
Video games taking a backseat to show girls is a phenomenon at exhibitions across Asia, but participants say China is taking it to a new level.
"I've been to shows in Japan and Korea before, they don't have as many show girls," said Jay Jiang, a marketing planning director for Shanda Games.
"For foreign companies, it's more about exhibiting products. Often a senior executive will make a product presentation, but we invite players onstage to compete with the show girls," he said.
The NASDAQ-listed company said it had more models than any other exhibitor at its TV game show-inspired booth where 100 girls sat surrounded by flashing lights, waiting to join contests such as who can blow a vuvuzela the loudest.
Duanmu Wenlin, a top executive for China Mobile's game division, said China's IT industry was a relatively open business environment and — as a woman — she saw nothing wrong with using models to promote games.