Lo and behold, Song Shihua had indeed figured out Duan Qianji's thinking.
Why else had Silver Wing splurged on and built such a massive team for its virtual idol project last year?
On one hand, it wanted to prove itself by producing a quality virtual idol. On the other, from a business perspective, the label also had its eye on the "Battle of the Century" endorsement deal.
The production studio behind "Battle of the Century," Fiery Bird, released just one game every 10 years. Each game lasted for 10 years. It was a snobbish company, but at the same time, it was a force to be reckoned with.
Fiery Bird had been founded 100 years ago. Word was that the founder was a plane maker. Its first game revolved around spaceships. It was a huge global hit. It had never dropped out of the industry's annual poll of top three games in the 10 years since its release. Ten years later, Fiery Bird released its second game, which became as big of a hit as its predecessor.
Duan Qianji didn't care about anything else. She wasn't a gamer. What she did know was that Fiery Bird's previous release nine years ago, "Myth," earned a profit in the tens of billions.
No one knew the exact number, but it couldn't have been less than 100 billion. And that covered profits from the game alone and didn't include earnings from related merchandise. Still, the main chunk of income alone had many competitors jealous. Everyone wanted a piece of the action. Not to mention every single celebrity affiliated with Fiery Bird in the past century had become a big star on a global scale.
Among the Big Three, why did people think that Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment were stronger companies than Silver Wing? Virtual idols were the main reason. In terms of real idols, Silver Wing didn't fall short, but when it came to virtual idols, Silver Wing did indeed pale in comparison. Both Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment had landed Fiery Bird endorsement deals in the past. That was why, in terms of global influence, Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment were superior to Silver Wing.
Virtual idols were a critical line of business that Duan Qianji always wanted to improve. Silver Wing had to produce a successful enough virtual idol to resolve its predicament.
But Duan Qianji had never revealed her thinking to Glifetz, or to anyone else for that matter. Maybe some of her colleagues had guessed what she was up to, but they'd stayed mum because they lacked confidence. Silver Wing had never produced a virtual idol popular enough to be a contender for the endorsement deal.
It just so happened that Fiery Bird was at the end of a 10-year cycle. They had announced the name and setting of their new title last year—"Battle of the Century," set against the backdrop of the Period of Destruction. Duan Qianji had learned through her sources that the budget for "Battle of the Century" was even larger than the one for "Myth." From a businessman's perspective, the more you invested, the great the returns you expected.
It was obvious that Tongshan True Entertainment was positioning Mi Yu—a virtual idol adored by youngsters—as a candidate for the endorsement deal. The virtual idol produced by the Silver Media team led by Glifetz last year, like Mi Yu, was also a female virtual idol with pretty looks and a seductive body. Unfortunately, it hadn't been embraced by the market. Of course, this also had to do with interference by Tongshan True Entertainment, but the failure of the project couldn't be attributed to underhanded maneuvers by their competitors alone. The inherent problems of the project were the key.
Mi Yu was already a big hit and her popularity had no sign of fading. The market didn't need a similar virtual idol. That was why Neon Culture's new virtual idol, in contrast to Mi Yu, sported a playful, lively, and adorable look.
The failure of last year's project had put an end to Duan Qianji's aspirations. Naturally, she wasn't happy about it. Why else was Zu Wen so afraid of Duan Qianji? Because the tantrum she'd thrown last year was so scary. No one forgot what went down.
And just when Duan Qianji had given up on virtual idol production and the race for the Fiery Bird endorsement deal, she stumbled upon Fang Zhao's Polar Light. That rekindled her competitive spirit. She even gave Fang Zhao free rein to launch an epic series over the strong objections of Flying Pegasus.
As long as Polar Light became a hit, money was not an issue. If the 50 million she budgeted wasn't enough, she would divert funds from other departments.
Special perks were OK too. Bringing a dog to work? That was nothing. A private gym? No problem.
Gaming equipment? As long as the second movement was a hit, she would build a gaming room right away.
The timing of Fang Zhao's appearance was so serendipitous, so terrific.
Now that they had a shot, she was counting on Fang Zhao's performance.
On the 50th floor of Silver Wing Tower, even though the second movement had been recorded, no one ventured out, so as to prevent leaks and for various other reasons. They rested on the 50th floor instead. Besides, they had everything they needed there. You could work out and you could game. You wouldn't get bored. Come Nov. 1, when the second movement was officially released, they could storm out and party. The prerequisite being that the second chapter was a success. If not, forget about partying—they could be out of work.
"'Divine Punishment' had hit 10 million downloads. The second chapter should do well too." Zu Wen wasn't in the mood to game. All he did every day was monitor the download figures for "Divine Punishment" to psych himself up. They were going to make it. A bonus and gaming equipment—the two things he cared about most—were riding on the second movement.
How could you explain the fact that the first chapter, "Divine Punishment," had managed to break the 10 million mark? Not every person who downloaded the song was a fan of epics. Some were followers, and others saw a good deal. But regardless of the reasoning, it had been a long, long time since a newcomer's debut had hit 10 million downloads.
The media was all over the milestone, but industry insiders thought it was a bad strategic move.
Having chosen to release the song publicly, Silver Wing could no longer command high royalties for placing it in movies or video games. Plus, a public release seemed to cheapen the song's status. Still, these insiders had to admit that they were surprised to see "Divine Punishment" surpass 10 million downloads.
There had been epic songs that received wide releases before, but their numbers hovered around 1 million downloads. In an impatient, fast-paced world, not many people were willing to slow down and truly appreciate a sophisticated piece of music.
But pieces like this typically found a more suitable home.
Quality scores were critical to certain video games, ads, and movies with large-scale scenes that couldn't be carried by more earthly tunes. Hence, epic or quasi-epic pieces filled the void. Composers often earned millions or tens of millions through these commissions. Over time, this genre carved a rarefied niche.
Epic music had never been associated with a single virtual idol, not even in the golden era of virtual idols, the Reg Era. That was why Polar Light's debut had sparked plenty of discussion and drawn attention.
The right timing, the right company, and the right combination of people—the stars had aligned for Fang Zhao. If he were missing any of these factors, he never would have achieved such success.
Regardless of whose side you were on, whether you were a fan or critic of Silver Wing's strategy, everyone was glued to the calendar, waiting for Nov. 1 to arrive.
After skimming the label's marketing plan for November, Chu Guang, who had dropped to No. 4 on the New Pioneers Chart, was dumbfounded. Again?
Hey, wasn't Fang Zhao's debut a series?
Chu Guang had a hunch he was about to fall out of the top five.