With over a billion potential gamers, many brands are taking part in the action and have increasingly talented developers to call upon to dominate the Chinese gaming industry. We’ve watched mobile gaming become a mainstream consumer activity where app developers themselves have become household names and even WeChat mini games have amassed nearly half a billion users. China’s gaming market is expected to grow from $30.8 billion in 2018 to $41.5 billion in 2023 with the number of PC and mobile gamers increasing to 767 million players.
The majority of the mobile game users in China are young, mostly living in first and second-tier cities, and almost half of them are female. These are a group of consumers who enjoy spending money online and don’t mind paying a decent amount of money on a quality mobile game. Launching and localizing a mobile game for these users isn’t that hard, but you need to know what you’re doing and you have to stay up to date with Chinese gaming regulations. We’ve listed a few important things you should know before diving head first into the Chinese gaming scene.
Stay on top of mobile gaming trends
The 9 month gaming license freeze in 2018 hurt the Chinese market, providing the U.S. with the opportunity to overtake China as the world’s largest gaming market for the first time since 2015. The freeze stemmed from combatting gaming addiction and to change around regulations. Since the freeze ended, gaming stocks have surged and Chinese gaming demands have continued to be constant.
The average gaming age is 31 years old with females making up 41% of the gaming population. Chinese gamers favor playing multiplayer (16%), shooting (16%), card (13%) and puzzle games (11%). Both male and female gamers make gaming purchases of equipment, character skins, characters and memberships for better visibility and skills. It’s also worth taking note of player stickiness with the biggest penetrations being 13% of gamers playing for 2 weeks – 1 month, 20% playing for 1-3 months and 16% playing for 3-6 months.
Be aware of restrictions & censorship
The mobile gaming market in China can be difficult to penetrate if you don’t have an understanding of the local restrictions and regulations. For example, there is no Google Play Store, all Google products have been blocked in mainland China since 2010. In 2016, the Chinese government made it mandatory for every game to get reviewed by the state administration before it can get uploaded to any Chinese app store, which can be time consuming and quite costly for smaller companies. These are a few of the many local restrictions that foreign companies have to face, so it may be beneficial to work with a local partner. This can be very helpful with localization, game design and marketing to Chinese consumers.
Build mobile games for the local audience
Your mobile gaming efforts won’t go far if you don’t localize your game with Chinese culture in mind. Games with political messages and ones that have excessive violence will automatically get denied. Recently, the government has put a ban on Mahjong and poker, titles based on China’s imperial past, and games that feature blood or corpses due to the rising concern of young people getting exposed to violence and gambling.
Games with a more localized theme usually get better exposure than games with only a Western theme as they are more relatable to Chinese gamers. The best gaming content includes cultural references. A literal translation is just not enough, as many phrases and references in China are linked to history and myths. Gamers in China tend to gravitate towards vivid graphics and user interfaces than compared to their Western gamer counterparts. Characters, songs, visuals and storyline are all good avenues in which you can achieve this so it is definitely recommended that you put some thought into ways you can develop your mobile game to mimic this in order to give your game a good chance to resonate with Chinese gamers.
Understand China’s App Stores
Apple has become quite popular in China, but Android is still the most preferred operating system for Chinese gamers. However, Google Play is still inaccessible due to the regulation laws in China. There are still a multitude of Chinese app stores that you can choose from to launch your game. China has over 200 app stores with some of the most notable ones being 360 mobile assistants, Baidu mobile assistant, Myapp, Huawei app store and the MIUI app store. Each store has its own set of rules and regulations, so it’s worth taking the time to learn how each one operates and which ones will be the most beneficial for connecting with your target audience. Many successful mobile gaming companies have marketed their game on several app stores in order to target a wider audience and increase the popularity.
Utilize WeChat Mini Games
WeChat mini games are used the same way as WeChat mini programs. Mini games are a great way to show a glimpse of your native game before inviting users to download the native app. The size and influence of WeChat also makes it easy for your mini game to go viral. By having a mini program makes it highly discoverable by users and offers clear advantages in terms of reach and gameplay experience. These games are made to be lightweight and speedy, which are ideal for brand promotion. Users can check their rankings in a game against their WeChat friends or invite even more friends to play. While mini games are still in their early stage, developers are convinced at how their appeal will continue to go mainstream and continue to rise in the gaming industry.
China is currently the second largest gaming market in the world next to the United States and can be a tough industry to rise to the very top, but with the right tools and a game localized for the market, the rewards and potential brand exposure can be huge. Tapping into the Chinese gaming market is certainly worth attempting as long as you invest time into really understanding your audience and the rules regarding censorship and approval.