02 Oct How to Build a Player Base for Your Mobile Game
Mobile gaming in China has become the leading force in games revenue and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, Newzoo, a leader in market intelligence and analysis, forecasts that year on year, mobile gaming will continue to widen the gap in terms of overall revenue for a specific platform within the Chinese gaming market.
With the large market share and tangible revenue prospects, many companies are looking to get in on the gold rush, which has led to an oversaturated market that is filled with games offering similar experiences to the same target audiences.
With so much noise in the marketplace, how can you stand out and set yourself apart from the competition. In this market, you can’t always rely on the cream to rise to the top, you have to make certain steps to ensure your game’s success and longevity. Let’s take a look at the 4 key steps you should consider when looking to promote your mobile game in the Chinese marketplace.
Step 1: Know your Marketplace!
There are over 20 different app stores to choose from in China and it’s worth noting that Android is the dominant operating system in the region. Do your research and know which app store is best suited to your game. Look at the store’s audience and the types of games that seem to be popular among users.
There are four main app stores: Tencent, 360, MIUI (Xiaomi), and Baidu. Each store will have their own style of promotion and algorithms for surfacing games to the top. You can apply to have your game featured in the store and to do so isn’t a difficult process. If successful, your game will be visible across millions of smartphones across China.
Beyond knowing your app stores, you need to ensure that your game is set up for the Chinese market. Is your game designed to allow for micro-transactions in a foreign market? Can your game take payments from Alipay? Does it have WeChat and other social media functionality? Installing software development kits (SDKs) can provide convenient local payment solutions, social sharing, and simple to use login systems.
Step 2: Know Your Audience & Localize Your Content!
Buying patterns, popular genres, and user behaviours will differ between regions and you should plan for this in your game content and in your ad campaigns. What worked in the West won’t necessarily work in the East. China has its own style, taste and culture. Beyond localizing the language to be understandable, you need to ensure that it’s not culturally insensitive. You don’t want to offend your new audience with what they may consider rude or inappropriate content.
Looking at popular genres in China, TalkingData revealed that card games, board games and RPGs had the highest rate of daily/monthly active users in 2016.
Image source – https://www.talkingdata.com/
It’s popular within these games to have events, sales, and promotions to try and improve player retention. Players in the region are more likely to participate in these events/sales than your average Western player and are more willing to purchase items for in-game benefits or cosmetic upgrades that can boost their social status within the game.
It’s also worth noting that mobile gamers in China are more active than Western gamers, they take in more content and as such, you should account for that within your game. Try to provide consistent updates and keep your players engaged. Simply porting the game over and replicating your Western marketing strategies will not work here.
Similarly, you should look to re-skin your games aesthetic to appeal to Chinese audiences. This should include culturally appropriate imagery, app logo design, music, humor, and colour pallette.
Step 3: Buy Users!
The easiest way to acquire new users is to buy them. Buying advertising space on app stores like MyApp, 360, Xiaomi and Baidu can ensure that your game is seen by a large section of your game’s target audience.
Placement on the app store is key and as mentioned above, each store handles their store differently. When buying ads, carefully monitor how much you spend on average for every user and compared this figure against your incoming revenue to ensure that you’re making an acceptable return on investment (ROI).
You should also consider advertising on the web and across various social networking sites. Sites like Qzone, created by Tencent, offer an effective platform to advertise mobile games to a younger audiences that is more inclined to download and play your games on their mobile device.
Games like Honor of Kings, have consistently topped the mobile charts in terms of revenue and installs. It’s success has been attributed to its ad campaigns on platforms like WeChat. Advertising to a user base of over 800 million people, the game attracted a diverse range of gamers, so much so that in a recent study by Jiguang, it was noted that the majority of the players were female (54.1%).
In the Western marketplace, many companies promote their product/services via Google AdWords. In China, however, you’d have better success advertising on sites like Baidu, which is seen as being the “Google” of China. Use your localization data and keyword research to inform your ad structure on this platform.
One of the bigger trends of 2016 was the rise of live streaming in China. Many people choose to live stream their day to day routines, provide tutorials, dance, and sing. There is also a growing market for streamers that play video games while interacting with their community. These live streamers develop fan followings and have become “influencers” that can greatly boost a games success.
Video streaming sites like Panda.tv and Huya, allow users to stream game content to large audiences. Working with influencers and having them review or play your game on their stream could be a great way to promote your product to your target audience. This method of advertising could greatly encourage new downloads of your game once viewers see their favorite streamer enjoying it.
Image source – http://www.huya.com/2027169706
As with anything marketing related, make sure you’ve done your research on the streamer, their content, and their audience. Finding a streamer that enjoys games similar to yours will increase the likelihood of a positive experience for them and their viewers. In general, the higher their follower count, the more you can expect to pay for their “influence” but with so many streamers out there, you should be able to find one within your budget.
Step 4: Keep Your Users!
Now that you have users playing your game, it’s important that you keep them! User retention is one of the harder things to accomplish when launching a new game. To help you manage this task, we would recommend downloading an SDK that can track user behaviours and patterns.
See when and where people fall off or lose interest and see where they spend the most time/money. Use this information to improve the gameplay experience and to build more meaningful ad content for your game. These SDK’s can also be used to assess the lifetime value (LTV) of your users and this should influence how much money you’re willing to spend on acquiring new ones.
Outside of SDKs, you should visit forums and message boards to see what people are saying about your game. Use these platform as an opportunity to respond to players criticisms and feedback, answer any questions they have, and provide further information about future updates and patches for your game. Taking the time to listen to your community and reacting to their feedback, will help develop brand loyalty, which could encourage future downloads and install of your next project.
- Familiarize yourself with the storefronts
- Include Chinese payment methods and social media functionality
- Localize your content to appeal to your new target audience
- Invest in paid user acquisition on the appropriate channels
- Track user behaviour and use it to iterate on your games design and marketing
- Asses the LTV of the uses and adjust your marketing spend accordingly