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China’s Mobile Gaming Market 2015

China’s Mobile Gaming Market 2015

Updated Q4 2015. An overview of China’s mobile gaming market, content distribution, and consumers.

China is no longer just an up and coming gaming market, it is the world’s leader; In 2015 China will overtake the U.S. to be the largest gaming market in the world – not just on mobile (Newzoo, 2015). With the spotlight now on China, everyone is trying their best to understand it. To help guide that spotlight, we’ll look at some of the latest stats, highlight the major differences with Chinese consumers, and outline how the mobile marketplace is set up.

For those interested in tapping into the wildly expanding Chinese Market, also check out our post on how to publish your game in China.

China, The #1 Mobile Gaming Market

Higher revenue than the U.S. by year’s end.

Top countries by Mobile users

China has 3X smartphone users vs. US

The United States has always been the largest gaming market worldwide. With China’s general population being 4 times that of the U.S. (Worldbank, 2015), having 3 times the amount of smartphone users (eMarketer 2014), it is no wonder that the Chinese Market has had so much growth over the years.

Being at the forefront of developed nations, the U.S. market is nearing saturation, whereas the Chinese market is still growing at pace, in large part thanks to their massive population at various stages of development.


China will soon become the world’s largest mobile gaming Market by 2016 (Newzoo, 2015). Not only that, China is expected to overtake the U.S. and become the Total Games Industry’s largest market by 2015. However, the U.S. and Chinese markets are very different from one another. For many consumers, gaming started on mobile in China. Almost every device has at least one game installed and almost a third of the 550M+ smartphone consumers spend at least an hour a day gaming on mobile.

China will soon be the top Mobile market, though interestingly enough the consumers that make up that market are completely different from most other countries.

Chinese Gamers

Different cultures (e.g. console bans), different gamers.

Many Western consumers have early, fond memories of gaming around the TV, playing some sort of Mario game (Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart, Super Mario 64, etc.). In China, Mario was banned; more precisely, all console gaming was banned for a whopping 14 years. No consoles resulted in Chinese gaming appetites being satiated through arcades, PC gaming cafes, and most of all, mobile.

No consoles also meant that gamers in China weren’t raised on gamepads. This could very well be why the leading game-genre is Casual, followed by Card & Board (SkyMobi, 2014), whereby games classified as such generally don’t have virtual gamepads on mobile.

Apparently, everyone in China is a gamer – on average, every active mobile device has 5.6 games installed, which is a quarter of all apps installed (TalkingData , 2013). Of that 5.6 games, 78% of (or 4.4) games are Casual/Card/Board. Card also generates the most revenue, but alongside RPGs and MMORPGs; together, they account for 70% of mobile game revenues in China (Vungle, 2014). Though RPGs are lower in downloads, they are higher in revenue, likely due to Chinese PC gaming roots; many top RPGs are extensions from their PC counterparts. Clearly gaming thrives in China and appetites were spurred on mobile thanks to the lack of console.

China is a very different place for many other reasons as well. The Government utilizes more control over public content; you won’t see Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or even Google on Chinese web-browsers. The top social sites go by QZone, Weibo, WeChat, and many others that are focused on China. However, in the US, while 67% have a Social Media account, 91% of China’s online population are on Social Media (Tech in Asia, 2013).

Other key consumer differences to take note are connectivity and payment methods. Although Smartphone usage is high, network connectivity is suboptimal. While 74% do use WiFi when visiting app stores, only 48% are on WiFi during any gameplay. 24% are on 3G during gameplay, while 28% are still on 2G.

When it comes to prepaid-purchasing from app stores, the once popular Prepaid card is actually decreasing in popularity. 3rd-party online payment services now dominate all pre-paid transactions. AliPay, UniPay, and TenPay, together, make up  89% of all mobile prepaid transactions (TalkingData, 2014).

With console bans, website bans, connectivity issues and prepayment popularity, the Chinese gamer seems almost night and day with Western ones. One key difference in the mobile market place are the app Stores.

3rd Party App Stores Dominate

Few go to Apple/Google for apps in China.

Android has dominated Chinese mobile phones for the last few years, since Nokia/Symbian took its last breaths in 2012. Although, during that time period iOS gained roughly 10% of market-share reaching 26.1%, Android has 72% of the market (Digital Trends, 2015).

Unlike NA/EU, where the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store would reach the majority of users, China’s mobile app market is completely fragmented with dozens of 3rd party app stores. The large majority focused on Android; 81% of Android downloads are from 3rd party markets (TalkingData 2014).

Some of the top markets have something in common; Qihoo (360 Mobile Assistant) and Baidu (“Baidu Mobile Assistant) are actually the top search engines in China, taking a play from Google’s book. For anyone to publish content in China, it is critical to do so with top 3rd party markets as they dominate market share (consequently, E-Link can help with that).

Android is clearly the focus for mobile, but it could very well be the next big thing for console in China as well. After the console ban was lifted in 2014, Sony and Microsoft began shipping PS4’s and XBox One’s but saw poor sales. Arguably, Chinese consumers who spent almost a decade and a half without consoles failed to see the value proposition of a console at the price-tag of $700 USD – almost the equivalent of an average month’s income (Trading Economics, 2015). Entry-level, Android-based Set-Top Boxes might be the perfect introduction to console-gaming, especially with local developers already so well-versed with Android and the Chinese Market so connected to mobile.

China in Short

A summary of the mobile gaming market.

China will undoubtedly be the world’s largest gaming market quite soon, fueled by the largest population on earth, becoming more and more of a developed nation. The 14-year ban on consoles has fueled their hunger for gaming, largely on mobile, influenced by PC, with top Casual and RPG games leading in game revenues. It’s important to keep in mind as well that players have different habits, including social, connectivity, payments, among others. The mobile market is predominantly Android, fragmented by numerous app stores. It is quite a complex market to unlock, but one that has everyone’s attention due to sheer size.

If interested in publishing content in China, check out our guide to launch games in China or our Game Publishing Services.

Also, feel free to comment or contact us directly to pick our brain – info@elinkent.com.

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header image: flickr.com/galio