A few days ago, the elusive co-founder and CEO of Chinese developer miHoYo, Mr Cai Haoyu, attended a Zoom conference organized by the alumni club of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and talked about his company, most recently in the spotlight for the global success of Genshin Impact. Surprising everyone, he shared many details about his company and seen below are some of the highlights.
▶ Cai Haoyu claims the global popularity of Genshin Impact came as a surprise, with many schoolmates from located overseas contacting him to talk about the game or telling him their kids are playing Genshin Impact.
▶ Compared to just looking at graphical stats on user numbers, Cai Haoyu only recognized the scale of Genshin Impact’s popularity after realizing close relatives and classmates who have not kept in touch are part of the users.
▶ Revealed in a previous interview, Cai Haoyu admitted before Genshin’s Impact launch, he was afraid about not having people playing the game. He was also worried about people not liking the game content after launch.
▶ Many mistook Honkai Impact 3rd as miHoYo’s first mobile game in 2016, but the studio was actually founded in 2011 and the first product was “Fly Me to the Moon,” also a mobile title. However, due to the market conditions at that time, it was a Buy-to-Play title.
▶ Contrary to popular beliefs, there are really 2 Honkai Impact games before Honkai Impact 3rd.
▶ The first Honkai Impact game just took 1 year to develop, starting in 2012 and launching in 2013.
▶ miHoYo received its first angel investment after the launch of Honkai Impact, which was 10 million Chinese Yuan (around 1.5 million USD according to current exchange rate). This is also the only external investment which miHoYo has accepted until today.
▶ miHoYo did not spend much of the investment amount, and Honkai Impact was making a respectable annual revenue of 200 million Chinese Yuan (around 3 million USD according to current exchange rate).
▶ At this point of time, miHoYo only had “4, 5” employees including the 3 co-founders. Although Honkai Impact wasn’t “hitting expectations,” they decided to continue to purse the ACG (Anime, Comics, Games) route for their business strategy.
▶ The 3 co-founders split their roles in this manner: Cai Haoyu overseeing product direction, art, and technical needs; Luo Yuhao overseeing business development, growth, and forum; Liu Wei overseeing operations, human resource (hiring too), and the only customer service representative.
▶ Since then, miHoYo has always given an aura of “we do not need money,” accumulating in a rumor in December last year that the developer rejected a sizable investment from industry giant, Tencent.
▶ Cai Haoyu mentions the years 2012 and 2012 where the biggest changes took place in miHoYo.
▶ 2013 was deemed the toughest year for miHoYo due to unsuccessful products.
▶ For Honkai Impact 2, miHoYo took inspiration from Japan’s PUZZLE & DRAGONS in terms of business model, making it miHoYo’s “first truly successful product.”
▶ Starting from 2014, miHoYo started to launch new core products every 3 to 4 years, with a development mantra based on “something new, something exciting, something out of imagination.”
▶ In 2017, miHoYo canceled an in-development 3D title as it did not meet the development mantra. It was “something better” when compared to other games, but “did not wow players’ expectations.”
▶ In 2020, miHoYo had around 2400 employees, over 1000 more since 2019 (1390 employees).
▶ With the global launch of Genshin Impact in 2020, total revenue for miHoYo broke the 5 billion Chinese Yuan (around 775 million USD according to current exchange rate) milestone.
▶ With over 2000 employees now, Cai Haoyu attributed the success of miHoYo to 3 points: 1, Empower frontline employees to make decisions; 2, miHoYo’s products strengths are more “powerful” than management strengths; 3, miHoYo has few products, so there is little hassle to resolve cross-department issues.
▶ There are 700 employees on the Genshin Impact team.
▶ Other than the headquarters in China, miHoYo has offices in Japan, South Korea, and Canada. They are now planning to open offices in the United States and Singapore.
▶ The Japanese office opened in 2015, while the ones in South Korea and Canada opened after the launch of Genshin Impact. While core development will still take place in the China headquarters, miHoYo recognize the strength of AAA studios in the United States and Canada, hoping to build a development studio in the former.
▶ Cai Haoyu confirmed that development for Genshin Impact, up to the launch, cost miHoYo 100 million USD. However, it might cost the studio 200 million USD annually to operate the game.