About Contributor

C. Custer

I'm a guy who writes stuff, mostly about technology and video games in China. I also made a documentary film about child trafficking. You can follow me on Twitter as @ChinaGeeks.
My biggest concern with the idea of online grocery shopping is that when it comes to meat, fruit, and veggies, I want to see the selection and pick which ones I buy based on how they look. Obviously there are lots of groceries you can sell in other categories anyway, but I wonder: how do Honestbee and other online grocers deal with this? Is there a difference in what people would buy at a corner grocery vs. the groceries they're buying online?

Commented 4 hours ago on

Food fight: New challengers spice up Singapore’s online grocery war
Very interesting. At first I thought three hours a day was ridiculously high, but then I realized how much I use my own phone, even for stuff like watching TV and movies even though I have an actual television in the house. How are data costs in India, though? Here, to put in this kind of heavy use you'd definitely need home wifi, otherwise the data charges would bankrupt you.

Commented 4 hours ago on

150 million Indians are on their smartphones nearly 3 hours a day. Here’s what they’re up to
Sadly this kind of thing isn't an issue for most startups (because they die first) but definitely helpful info for those that make it this far

Commented 4 hours ago on

How startups can save their employees from the nasty side of M&As
Yikes, I didn't even realize that was from a year ago! It was linked in a different WSJ piece that was from 2015 so I didn't think to check the date. That said, people definitely are doing this in light of the recent news. As I mentioned on the podcast, that's what led me to do this and write the article on Sunday in the first place: the "China unbans game consoles" news was all over reddit and I saw a bunch of comments like "time to buy Sony stock!" and things like that. That's why I felt I needed to do it on a Sunday rather than wait until Monday - I wanted to make sure our readers weren't rushing out to do that, too!

Commented 3 hours ago on

TiA podcast: the truth about game consoles in China (with Iain Garner of Haogamers)
Right, and I'm saying it's not really "revenue share". Teachers get a flat hourly fee of about $10/hour.

Commented 1 day ago on

Cambly, an English-learning app focused on actual conversation, is spreading like wildfire in Asia
There's not really any revenue share model, "teachers" just get a flat fee (about $10/hour). As far as payment...China/Japan/Korea are pretty digital friendly! Those are the only Asian languages it's localized in so far.

Commented 1 day ago on

Cambly, an English-learning app focused on actual conversation, is spreading like wildfire in Asia
Well certainly you need the basics first, but I don't think Cambly is trying to be a one-stop solution to learning from beginner to fluent. Asia has hundreds of millions of people who studied English for years in school, so they have a solid base already, but they lack people that they can actually go out and talk to. That kind of speaking practice is important for taking that final step from "book smart" to "actually fluent" and I think that's who Cambly is trying to serve.

Commented 1 day ago on

Cambly, an English-learning app focused on actual conversation, is spreading like wildfire in Asia
I haven't been able to find anything other than this acquisition; it橘子 for example lists this as the only funding event. Hard to know if that's accurate or just an oversight though. You're not asking because you guys funded it, are you?

Commented 2 days ago on

Ctrip buys train ticket app Suanya for US$16M
To be totally frank, I think microconsoles make no sense. They're too casual to attract hardcore gamers, but too hardcore (in terms of cost, in terms of stuff you need to set up, etc.) for most casual gamers to bother with. Most people, if they're interested in a console at all, prefer to just save up for the "real thing," so to speak. That - I think - is why Ouya sales were so poor. I don't look too kindly on Alibaba's console aspirations either. For example I wrote this last year: https://www.techinasia.com/alibaba-game-consoles-terrible-terrible-idea/ Since then Alibaba has invested in Ouya, but I think that's a terrible pairing - a microconsole that has already essentially failed teaming up with a company that has zero experience with gaming and zero valuable IP to help make the console more appealing in China. Granted Alibaba does have a ton of money, but I still think it's a very long shot. If a Chinese company is going to produce a successful game console, my guess is it will be Tencent, who already has the IP and the in with gamers to at least TRY to make it work. Even then, I wouldn't bet on success unless they can get some of China's most popular MMOs playing on the console.

Commented 2 days ago on

No, China did not just legalize game consoles
There are local consoles, but none has been able to attract a real audience. For example, you can look back through our archives at my coverage of Eedoo (/tag/eedoo) to see one of the more serious efforts at making a Chinese game console, and how poorly it worked out in the end. I think the only way it could happen is if somebody like Tencent did it, and they were able to port some of the most popular MMOs onto it. There would still be no way to play MOBA games, so China's most popular game by a mile (LoL) is still out, but if you could play games like WoW, Blade & Soul, and CrossFire on a console that might tempt some Chinese players. I don't see that happening anytime soon though.

Commented 2 days ago on

No, China did not just legalize game consoles
Well financially speaking, PCs in internet cafes (and their offline precursors) were the only viable option for the majority of China's youth when gaming was getting started in China. Most people didn't have the money up front for a console. And once they were on PCs, I think they took the same routes a lot of Western gamers did, like: * Warcraft > Starcraft > Warcraft III > Warcraft III DotA mod> LoL or Dota 2 * Warcraft > Starcraft > Warcraft III > WoW > one of many other popular MMOs * CrossFire > CrossFire > CrossFire > still CrossFire (how are people STILL playing this?) And since none of those games or game genres work well on consoles, there was never any real impetus to go back for most gamers. Even now that many more could afford them, why bother spending that money if you're still having fun in LoL or WoW or Blade & Soul or one of a billion other popular PC games that aren't available on consoles. It's worth pointing out also that none of these games are games you really can "win." They're either competitive games you play against others (LoL, Dota, CrossFire) or they're MMOs you can progress in for years and years. If you look at the top-selling console games, a lot of them are big "story" single-player experiences, or "fun" multiplayer experiences rather than games tuned for serious, esports-style competitive play. But once you're playing a game like that, that IS competitive or an MMO, a lot, I think you're more likely to keep playing it, because you've invested time in either leveling your character and getting loot (MMOs) or learning the complex systems and strategies of the game (MOBAs) and you don't want to waste that. (Also, because these games are about eternal progression (MMO) or strategy (CrossFire, MOBAs), they don't really get old.) Now, why did they come to like those genres in the first place? Why didn't they get into more single-player story focused games? I'm just speculating but I think one reason is localization (or lack thereof). It's one thing to localize a game like Starcraft in Chinese (or understand it in English). But those long story-driven games with hours and hours of voice-acted NPC dialogue and such? That's way more work, and I think most game devs didn't bother with Chinese. So part of the reason would just be that Starcraft and Warcraft, because they were huge, were available in Chinese (and because of their nature were easier to understand anyway). Whereas something like Monkey Island (which was popular with PC games in the West) or Duke Nukem or whatever wasn't going to be available in Chinese, or comprehensible to anyone who didn't speak good English. So TLDR my feeling is that it started for economic reasons (5 RMB for an hour in 网吧 is cheap, 3000 RMB for console is not), and then has continued just because of the taste China's hardcore gamers subsequently developed in terms of game genres, probably due in part to what was big enough to be available, and what was the easiest for Chinese gamers to understand.

Commented 2 days ago on

No, China did not just legalize game consoles
They say the criteria is just how good the game is. If you've got a great game, they're interested. So they say, anyway.

Commented 6 days ago on

NetEase announces new fund to support global indie game devs
I guess, but that's kind of a straw man, isn't it? Nobody's arguing that hackers are going to cause more road deaths than bad drivers. I suspect that car hacking will cause very few deaths at all, but it has the potential to cause a lot of *other* issues that aren't currently very possible. Moreover, the concerns about hacking aren't just about the hacking of self-driving cars. If hacking is possible for some car models now (and it's only going to get worse) there's going to be a big window where the vast majority of people are driving themselves and self-driving cars aren't the norm but hacking can still happen. So humans can still cause their road deaths, and hackers can ALSO cause additional issues. The problem with that tweet is that it treats it like a zero sum game, and it isn't at all. It's not one or the other. I can be concerned about how hackable cars are becoming AND be concerned about assholes on the road who put my life at risk by not knowing how to drive. Both of those are valid concerns, and while one is a greater risk to my life than the other (statistically), that doesn't invalidate all other concerns. I mean, by that same logic, you could say it's ridiculous for people to worry about road accidents because heart disease is FAR more likely to kill you. Statistics are meaningless to the individual though. The fact that lots of people who aren't me died in road deaths in the pre-Google Car era isn't going to be of any consolation to me if it's MY car that gets hacked.

Commented 6 days ago on

This is why I’m scared of the smart car era
I don't know, I don't buy the "Alibaba is only the platform" argument at all. I think that's just an easy cop-out to avoid responsibility. There are plenty of fakes that are extremely obvious. Sure, I guess, Alibaba could be sued by a vendor for taking them down...but that vendor would lose the court case pretty much immediately, waste a bunch of money on legal fees, and would probably be open to counter-suit from Alibaba for wasting their time. What evidence could a knockoff vendor even bring to indicate their products are licensed? I have a hard time imagining any circumstance where the judge doesn't immediately throw out the suit or rule totally in favor of Alibaba.

Commented 6 days ago on

Criticized for counterfeit sales, Alibaba slams AFAA for not speaking good enough Chinese
Ebay DOES have a French interface though, so LV could easily log on and file a report themselves. It also has a Chinese interface. This is basically all the AAFA is asking for. And it's one thing if Alibaba's a China-only company, but Alibaba is now a global company listed in the United States, and increasingly with all kinds of operations outside of China. There's really no excuse for one of it's most major platforms to be only available in Chinese and not even have an English-language reporting page (which, let's be honest, would take Alibaba very little time to make) when so many companies have been complaining about knockoffs on Taobao for so long. If nothing else, why not just add the English page to shut them up?

Commented 6 days ago on

Criticized for counterfeit sales, Alibaba slams AFAA for not speaking good enough Chinese
Yeah, never use the 12306 site or app. They're garbage. Suanya is good and there are other good third-party apps as well I believe. I've been saying for years the government should just hand their train ticket business over to a private company like Alibaba that actually knows how to sell things online in a way that isn't awful, but they still haven't (although Alibaba IS helping them now).

Commented 6 days ago on

Ctrip buys train ticket app Suanya for US$16M
I imagine at this point they'll settle for temporary spotlight in the news cycle to be honest. At the end of the day, nobody but Alibaba or the Chinese government really has the power to totally fix this issue, so I would guess they're just hoping now that Alibaba is US-listed they will be able to shame them into it more easily using the media.

Commented 6 days ago on

Criticized for counterfeit sales, Alibaba slams AFAA for not speaking good enough Chinese
Yeah I agree. I thought we might see Xiaomi or somebody like it bring something new to the table, but the results have been very lackluster so far

Commented 7 days ago on

None of China’s virtual telecom operators are making money
I think the issue is that they DON'T want to export their stuff to another market. They just don't want other people selling things using their name and brand in another market. Like, if you've got a brand in your home country called Balkan, is it cool for me to start selling products with your name and logo, that look the same as your products, in some other country? Should you really have to learn MY language just to keep that from happening?

Commented 7 days ago on

Criticized for counterfeit sales, Alibaba slams AFAA for not speaking good enough Chinese
Maybe. But don't forget that it doesn't have to compete directly or start from scratch, it can simply buy up a competing or promising new player like Jet.com and put the full force of its financial and marketing prowess behind that. Americans do have trust issues when it comes to Chinese companies, but not so much so that they're going to avoid good deals. If Alibaba had some kind of set-up in the US and offered deals like the ones it has on Singles Day in China, people would flock to it regardless.

Commented 2 weeks ago on

Amazon Prime Day disappointment highlights Alibaba’s superiority