5 Facts that Every Mobile Developer should Know about China

Yesterday, on the pages of the Gamasutra portal, Henry Fong, executive director of Yodo1, a Chinese publisher that helps Western publishers enter the Celestial market, spoke in detail about what the Chinese gaming application market is today.  

Below is a translation of the original text.China is one of the largest iOS/Android gaming markets, but many Western developers still have, let’s say, mixed feelings about it.

As the executive director of the company Yodo1, which publishes its projects in the West, but is based in China, I want to share five theses that I always mention when meeting with my colleagues from the USA and Europe.

1. The majority of paid game downloads in the Chinese App Store account for Western projectsDespite the fact that China has all the conditions for the sale and distribution of local games, and they are quite successfully sold and distributed, most of the paid downloads fall on Western titles.

For example, at the moment Plants vs Zombies from EA takes the first place in the gaming top of paid games, and Fruit Ninja is on the second. In fact, 8 out of 10 top games are made in the West. This demonstrates the strongest interest in them from Chinese users.

Be that as it may, note that I said “paid” downloads, as this leads us to the following thesis.

2. The Chinese don’t like to buy games, but they spend a lot in themWhile a number of paid iOS/Android games attract a solid share of Chinese players, this share is no more than a grain of the Chinese mobile market.

The fact is that the Chinese are reluctant to buy the whole game. They prefer to play f2p projects. More precisely, they are trying a huge number of similar projects. And as soon as they like one of them, they start investing substantial amounts in it through IAP.

At the moment, all 10 games in the Chinese top box office App Store are free. According to unofficial industrial sources, top f2p games in the smartphone version earn $1-2 million per month on IAP alone: twice as much as they earned six months ago. But why do the Chinese spend so much on them?

3. Chinese players not only buy virtual content, but also brag about itIn the West, players usually do not like to brag about the premium things they bought to get a certain bonus in the game.

They prefer to demonstrate that they have achieved results thanks to their skills and a long game.

In China, everything is completely different. Chinese players brag about their purchases, they like to show each other that they “can now”. This is quite consistent with the current concept of ostentatious consumption in the new China, when luxury goods play the role of symbols of high status.

Designers may well use this in projects. To do this, it is enough to implement a mechanism that will make it easy to demonstrate IAP to other players, for example, by adding the ability to place some bonuses on the user’s avatar.

Yes, there is another game mechanic that needs to be taken into account in Chinese games and that can be well monetized, namely things and abilities that only guild leaders can buy and give to other members. This behavior is quite consistent with the Chinese cultural paradigm, which consists in the fact that the “Boss” pays for his subordinates. And this is a great way for rich players to acquire additional in-game social status.

4. MMO is popular in ChinaWhile the MMO for most Western developers is mainly a PC, in China a whole army of users are playing similar projects on mobile devices.

MMO ports on iOS/Android like 3 Kingdoms have millions of users, so it’s not surprising that 10 out of 10 top–grossing games in the Chinese App Store are MMO or projects very close to them in spirit.

Yes, Chinese fans of the same World of Warcraft (and there are a lot of them in the Middle Kingdom) are increasingly switching to smartphones.  

5. The Chinese mobile gaming market is still the “last frontier”, but Western developers have the opportunity to protect themselves on itThe Chinese market also has problems: it is extremely fragmented, it is difficult to navigate in it.

There are more than 100 Android stores in it alone. And piracy is blooming and smelling here. Be that as it may, there are ways to protect both your content and your income.

For example, knowing that most mobile games in China are monetized using the f2p scheme, you can link the identification of passwords and IAP payments to an external server. In this case, even if hackers break into the client and bypass the Apple in-game purchase protocol, they will not be able to bypass you.

If you do not go into such technical details, then cooperation with a local company will save you from many problems. Chinese app stores are more likely to listen to the order to stop illegal actions on the part of “their own” than Western developers.

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