Home HiPiHi – A Virtual World Born in China

HiPiHi – A Virtual World Born in China

though SecondLife has attracted a lot of attention in
China and the first millionaire from SecondLife
is Chinese
, this western virtual world has still not been officially
launched in China. But the rapidly growing Chinese Internet apparently could not wait for
it. Last week a Chinese virtual world was launched, named HiPiHi.
It’s a SecondLife-like 3D virtual world and it started a limited beta test last week. We had a very nice talk with HiPiHi’s founders, Hui Xu (CEO) and Xinhua Liu, to find out more about this new Chinese
virtual world.

HiPiHi was founded in Beijing in October 2005
as a privately held company funded by GCIG. HiPiHi is the only
Chinese virtual world and probably only the second company worldwide after SecondLife
to offer a truly collaborative, immersive and open-ended experience for users to create, inhabit and govern a new world of their own design.

HiPiHi Team

HiPiHi is very young, only 1.5 years old, and its private beta test
just started a few days ago. People might feel it is just a business strategy to
copy SecondLife, just as there are over 200 hundred video-sharing sites
declaring themselves as Chinese YouTubes. However, unlike most of these startups, the HiPiHi management team is very experienced in
this market.

Hui Xu, the founder and CEO of HiPiHi, was the General Manager of MyWeb China and was nominated as one of the “Top Ten China Internet Heros” in 1999. Hui was also the chairman and CEO of JingQi XiShu Co. Ltd,
which became one of the most successful e-commerce site in 2000. Xuewei Rao, the Director & COO of HiPiHi, founded Iscreate Communications Co. Ltd in 2000 and was also the vice-president of
the Guangdong High-Tech Chamber of Commerce. Its vice-president, Tracy Ji, was the PR director of ZhaoPin.com –
the leading provider of online career and recruitment resource in China.  Another founder, Xinhua Liu, was the vice-president of 3721.com (a leading software development company acquired by Yahoo in 2003) and also the co-founder of “EMBA Club International”.  

The HiPiHi World

The Chinese Internet is still not mature and web 2.0 is just heating
up here. We asked Hui and Xinhua why they started an online virtual reality. Hui Xu said
that while most users will treat HiPiHi as another 3D game, he said
they are aiming to build a complete 3D visual background which reflects different environments in the real world.
It also provides users with a powerful creation engine and tools, which helps
users to create their own world step by step. Hui explained that before the full
public beta, they are going to invite around 100,000 users to be the original residents of
the HiPiHi world. 

There are four phases involved in the current private test. Note that these four phases reflect Chinese mythical events, but for better understanding here we are translating it into the corresponding Biblical story of God’s creation of the world in 7
days. They are:

Phase 1 – In the beginning God created heaven and the earth = the tools for rendering the terrain, hills, fields, terraces, water, flora etc are introduced.

Phase 2 – God created Adam and Eve and the human race using the image of
Himself = the tools for creating more detailed avatars are introduced.

Phase 3 – God created all earthly things = the tools for creating all sorts of objects are introduced.

Phase 4 – The Mirage = the economic system and social system are established.

Hui commented:

“Every phase is given a distinctive theme, in the hope of guiding users in the creation of the virtual world. This arrangement mirrors the real evolution of human society, from barbarians to civilized society. We want to let the users experience the course of civilization, instead of forcing most of our arbitrary creations down their throat from the get-go, which will
surely confuse them.”

HiPiHi and SecondLife

HiPiHi has obtained lots of media coverage, most of which inevitably link it
to Linden Labs’ SecondLife – a few of them even call it a clone of SecondLife.
We asked Hui for his thoughts on that:

“When we started discussing the HiPiHi back to 2005, actually we had no idea about
SecondLife. SecondLife came to international attention in late 2006, then we
studied it and found out we are both working towards a similar direction.
It is absolutely a misunderstanding of virtual worlds if people think HiPiHi is a copycat of SecondLife. The virtual world is not just a 3D environment, but a complicated social system including the property policy, financial policy etc. HiPiHi is born in China,
[so] we really hope it can embrace our own culture”.

Xinhua also added that “according to the CNNIC’s report (Jan,2007), over 70% of Chinese netizens
are under 30 years old, but the average age of SecondLife is reported to be 32.
Chinese users have different interests and views on the Internet market. HiPiHi and SecondLife can learn from each other, but
neither of us can simply copy the culture from the other”.

The Future of HiPiHi

Discussing the future of HiPiHi, Hui Xu told us: 

“We have invited many sociologists and economists to sit down with our technicians to discuss the future of HiPiHi. We are working hard to improve our 3D environment, and we do hope we can create a perfect
society – a shared and fair world which will finally embrace the various cultures of the real world”.

On the economics, while SecondLife created its Linden Dollar, it
may’ve been the Chinese Internet giant Tencent QQ which first introduced
a virtual currency – Q Coin.
It has been reported that the China government may restrict the usage of
virtual currencies, because of concerns about undermining the nation’s financial system.
So we asked Hui Xu if HiPiHi is going to introduce its own currency
– and if so how it would work. Hui said that “[certainly] we have considered this, but it is still too early to finalize this topic. We have to take
all sorts of factors – inside and outside of HiPiHi – into account and we will introduce it when the virtual world is ready for


HiPiHi is very young, but it is very special [to Chinese users] and also unique in the massive Chinese Internet market.
I had a chance to pay a visit to the HiPiHi world, and it was actually a very nice experience.

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