Gaming Market China 2022

2022: The Gaming Market in China

The Gaming market in China is full of surprises, opportunities, and challenges. As of 2021, it is the largest in the world, with 706 million gamers generating a whopping US$46.6bn. It is also, however, among the most regulated. There are occasional months-long holds on approving new game licenses, controls on the number of hours certain individuals may play, and strict content supervision. The good news is that in April of this year, a nine-month-long freeze on new approvals was lifted. The market is predicted to grow to include 883 million gamers by 2026, with average revenue per user rising from $64.44 to $75.60. Opportunity is thus ripe, for those who can successfully navigate these complex waters. This article will shed light on the current state of play, and how to best market games in China.

  • 706 million gamers
  • US$46.6bn industry
  • 59% of gamers play on mobile devices
  • Annual growth rate of 17%

 

What do Chinese gamers play?

Almost two-thirds of gamers in China play on mobile devices. Consoles and PCs are popular, but their overall share of the market has been decreasing year on year for the last decade or so. The boom in access to high-end mobile phones, and the ease with which mobile gaming can be fitted around everyday life, makes mobile gaming by far the number one choice in the Gaming Market.

 

China mobile gaming market

Source: researchandmarkets.com

 

MOBAs & Battle Royales

Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, and Battle Royale games, are among the most popular in China. Domestically developed MOBA Honor of Kings, first released in 2015, remains the most popular android game on the market and is currently the highest grossing mobile game of all time. In the top ten are also Peacekeeper Elite (the Chinese version of PUBG), League of Legends, and, until 2021 when it exited the Chinese gaming market, Fortnite was hugely popular. These games are more popular among male users than female users.

 

China gaming market demography

Source: Mobvista

Puzzle games

Puzzle games are the favoured choice of female gamers in China. Many of these involve multiplayer modes, where it’s possible to solve puzzles with friends or randomly matched users. At the time of writing, simple match-3 puzzle game Anipop is the second-most successful game on the market.

 

MMORPGs (Massive multiplayer online roleplaying games)

Together with MOBAs and shooters, MMORPGs account for 49% of all revenue in the Chinese gaming market. Popular titles include Dungeon Fighter Online, Fantasy Westward Journey and JX Online 3. Tencent’s answer to World of Warcraft, Moonlight Blade, made $50bn on Apple’s iOS in its first week alone.

 

favorite mobile game genres gaming market china

Source: Mobvista

 

RTS

While real time strategy (RTS) games have traditionally been played primarily by PC users, they have found their way to mobile gamers in China over recent years. Familiar titles such as Rise of Kingdoms and Clash Royale are popular, but recently they’ve been surpassed by Alibaba-developed Three Kingdoms Tactics, which is and RTS combined with roleplay elements. In 2021, it became the 5th top grossing game on the iOS app store.

 

Open-world RPG

The metaverse is quickly taking hold in China. As of April 2022, there have already been 16,000 metaverse-related trademarks filed for in the country. Tencent has announced a joint venture with Roblox, to develop a heavily metaverse-leaning repertoire of games and interconnected services. Games like Genshin Impact, which grossed US$1bn in just six months after its release, point to a huge demand just waiting to be satisfied. Watch this space.

 

Top 10 Android games, March 22. Source: newzoo.com

 

What makes Chinese gamers tick?

Competition

Chinese players love to play against each other. Of the top-10 list in China, all pit players against friends or randomly matched users. On the one hand, this is reflected by committed gamers and their fans. The size of the esports industry in China is testament to this fact – it has become the largest esports industry in the world, and according to the Global Times, is currently growing at an eye-watering rate of 130% year-on-year. On the other hand, it is reflected in the popularity of casually competitive games, such as puzzles and mah-jong.

 

A good balance between free and paid content

In-app purchases and add-ons are the way to go in China. Chinese users love to customize their gaming experience; the tradition of creating personal avatars started with QQ Show in the early 2000s, and is now deeply embedded in the culture. Gamers in China first want to try a game and see if it fits them, and then they’re perfectly happy to invest in personalizing the experience to their tastes once they’re onboard. Charging up-front for a game is not the wisest choice.

 

Avatars created in QQ Show. Source: thediplomat.com

 

Daily Rewards

This is a tried-and-true method anywhere in the world. In the words of Fortune, ‘China’s gaming market was built on free and addictive games.’ The goal here is to increase ‘stickiness,’ by offering rewards for logging in frequently, or, as is frequently seen in Chinese mobile games, rewarding playtime. Rewards may take the form of customization options, or even digital collectibles.

 

How to plan for bringing a game to the Chinese market

Localization

First and foremost, the most important thing for any games company looking to enter the market is to engage in thorough localization. It is simply not sufficient to directly translate all dialogue, menus and interactions. Local experts know how Chinese gamers expect to see UIs laid out, how to control pacing, and endless other variables that are impacted heavily by culture.

 

Dragon’s Nest User Interface. Source: FASRPLANET

 

ICP License

ICP licenses are a must for any company attempting to do basically anything online in China. At their most basic, they grant permission to operate a website. But specialized ICP licenses are also required for conducting transactions, and, vitally, for entering a game onto Chinese app stores.

 

Pre-registration Incentives

The Chinese online world is driven by hype. Combine digital marketing campaigns with giveaways and exclusive previews to build a player base that’s ready and waiting to go, once the launch date arrives.

 

 

Social Media Marketing

  • Use WeChat, Weibo and Douyin to build hype around game development and release.
  • Enlist the help of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to build positive brand association, and get the game’s name out there.
  • Utilize platforms that are most relevant to your target demographics. For example, for a game that’s angled towards female users, consider a campaign on Xiaohongshu.

 

Baidu SEO & Paid Advertising

The most popular search engine in China, Baidu, offers a great opportunity to be seen. It’s important to understand how its algorithms differ from those of Google’s; for example, there is a content value-rating system, alongside more traditional SEO mechanics. There is also a decent array of paid advertising options available, an overview of which can be found in our article here.

 

Sekkei Studio

Relying on local expertise to register, localize and promote a game in China is a necessary step. The market entry strategy can literally make or break a Game. That’s why in Sekkei Studio, our 13 years of experience allow us to understand the Ins and Outs of the market from legal, cultural and digital perspectives. This allows us to provide a tailor made strategy that will guarantee a smooth entry and a performance based success rate for your game in China. Reach out to us to explore the potential of your game in China.

 

Hamza Ouarit

Marketing Consultant and General Manager of Sekkei Studio, a 13 years old digital marketing agency in Shanghai, Paris and Hong Kong. Hamza has been helping brands, corporations, and governments with their China Digital Marketing strategies and contributes actively to seminars and conferences.

Promoting overseas schools to Chinese students

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