01 Jul How to Publish Your Game in China
Updated Q4 2015. An overview of how to publish your mobile game in China.
In 2015, China will overtake the U.S. to be the largest mobile gaming market globally in terms of revenue, as well as the largest overall gaming market (Newzoo, 2015). China will be a $5.5 billion market, whereas the US will hit $4.5 billion (Niko Partners, 2015). Everyone is looking to get their content into China, and many are discovering how difficult that can be; Apple is eclipsed by Google, and the Google Play Store has issues with China.
It’s amazing how rapidly China has developed. Having taken a very different path to becoming a developed nation, the Chinese market is extremely different than any Western nation. We’ll look at the basic requirements of releasing a mobile game in China, the distribution channels, and the sorts of preparation required to target local gamers/consumers.
For an overview about the Chinese Mobile Market, check out our post on China’s Mobile Gaming Market 2015.
Basic requirements to enter the Chinese market
For various legal reasons, if you wish to publish your game in China, you will need to set up as a local corporation in order to have your game/app published yourself in China. To get the proper licenses, the company needs to be Chinese owned (though there are reports on ways around this). Another major hurdle is that only Chinese corporations are able to receive payment from the local app stores (more on local app stores later); that means you can’t even receive in-app purchase revenues unless you’re a Chinese corporation. Setting up a Chinese corporation is no simple business. The process can add weeks, even months to set up.
That is often why you’ll see games published by different companies in China versus their NA/EU counterparts. There are many other reasons that we’ll go over as well. E-Link Entertainment, of course, offers content publishing in China; we are partnered with a company on the ground in China to publish any content there with relative ease.
App Store Landscape
Dominated by dozens of 3rd party Android app stores
Not long ago, Symbian and Nokia devices dominated the world, and the Chinese mobile market. By 2012, Android rapidly claimed the majority of market-share. Today, Android absolutely dominates the mobile market at 74%, with the remainder predominantly iOS (Statista, 2015). It’s now a two-horse race, with Apple slowly gaining momentum against Android’s commanding presence.
The Chinese mobile app market is quite unique. Unlike most countries where all that’s needed is to tick a box to have your game released on Google Play or the Apple App Store locally to be successful, there are dozens of 3rd-party, Chinese app stores for players to discover new games. For Chinese Apple users, 65% of gamers download their games from the Apple App Store. Android is the key to success with its dominant market share, but only 11% download games from the Google Play Store (TalkingData, 2014) and the Play Store shouldn’t even be available there! 80% get games from 3rd party stores. Getting on Android, 3rd party app stores is critical.
There are countless 3rd-party app stores that completely fragment the app ecosystem. The top 3rd party app stores listed here.
The top search engine in China is Baidu (70% market-share), followed by Qihoo 360 (China Internet Watch, 2015). Not surprisingly, like Google they run two top app stores, 360 Mobile Assistant and the Baidu Mobile Assistant.
Success in China is only fathomable through distribution with 3rd party app stores. Much like Apple and Google though, merely having your game available on these app stores isn’t enough, you need support from the platform. E-Link is set up to put your game directly in front of the top app stores to see if they are deemed worthy or not of direct publishing and marketing support.
Preparing Your Game
Catering to the Chinese consumer, more than just language
If your game did well in other countries, that’s a good sign but there will always be some degree of preparation needed for the Chinese market. Through culture, history, habits, behavior, background, and numerous other factors, games need to be catered to maximize success, and that’s especially true for China.
An obvious change for Chinese market preparation would be to translate all the language of a game into Chinese (simplified, and even traditional). However, Localization goes much further than that, content needs to be culturalized, more than just a straight translation. For example, references to mythologies, colloquialisms, history, culture, and more, all need to be altered to cater to the Chinese audience. Imagine playing a foreign game that was half-translated to English by Google translate, it makes it tough to want to play.
Until recently, there was a ban on console games for 14 years in China. That drastically altered gaming behaviour, as PC and mobile gaming exploded. That has strong implications as to why the top revenue-generating games are Card, RPG, and MMORPG, (i.e. less console-type games) which account for 70% of gaming revenue on mobile in China (Vungle, 2014). Chinese gamers will likely not respond to complex virtual gamepad controls, since they were never primed with physical console gamepads.
Another interesting behavior to note is monetization over time per play session. On average, the 5th minute of gameplay seems to be the sweet-spot, before the willingness to pay diminishes.
With China soon to be the world’s #1 revenue generating country in gaming, you would think that that would imply consumers having the latest hardware to play with the strongest internet infrastructures. That is far from the truth; 28% of connections during gameplay are on 2G, with 24% on 3G; WiFi makes up the remaining 48% (TalkingData 2015). When it comes to connections for downloads, over 50% have no WiFi and rely on cell networks (SkyMobi, 2014).
Today’s games in Western markets are becoming more and more online-dependent, which would deter gamers by large quantities in China. Almost half of downloads fail when file-size hits 50MB (Clash of Clans is 47MB).
Therefore, while western games are becoming more and more online, it’s important to think the opposite when optimizing for China.
Imagine a world where Facebook, Twitter, or Google don’t existed. That world is China. All those social integrations will be broken and confusing for Chinese audiences. Instead, you have the likes of QZone (712M users) and Tencent Weibo (507M users). For more Social Network stats, see Tech in Asia’s infographic.
When Crossy Road first launched, video ads alone made $3 million in 3 months (VentureBeat, 2015). In China, with such online-connectivity challenges, relying on video ads alone wouldn’t suffice. The market is even more Free-to-Play dominant than NA/EU so a paid app wouldn’t be viable either.
In-app purchases can be a challenge as well. While Western developers are used to dealing directly with Apple/Google/WP/Amazon/etc. for IAP remuneration, consumers in China have multiple methods of payments for mobile content. 3rd party payment methods are mainstream, lead by Alipay and Unipay, with prepaid and service cards on the decline. Enabling 3rd party payment methods is critical, in addition to culturalizing IAP content where relevant.
The key to monetization in China is really to hold multiple keys; it requires tapping into both advertising and IAPs with the F2P model. Although advertising may seem to be a concern with connectivity challenges, Vungle reports that most smartphone owners have no problems clicking them. They also report Video and coupon ads do best by quite a margin (Vungle, 2015).
Take on China with E-Link
Many have the expertise, few have the right connections
Publishing a mobile game in China is a tricky business. Having to set up a local company, getting the attention of the top Chinese Android App Stores in a foreign land, and the significant amount of preparation all lead to the common recommendation of why it is beneficial to work with a local Chinese publisher when it comes to publishing content. They can help take on your game, help with all the preparations needed for the game to do well in China, and publish it on Chinese app stores.
And of course, E-Link is also set up as a local Chinese mobile games publisher. In addition to relieving you from having to jump through bureaucratic hoops, E-Link is directly connected with top 3rd-party app stores in China. If your game is strong enough, your game will be more than just featured, it will receive full Marketing support as well. E-Link specializes in Chinese Market preparation, with industry veterans who can rate your game and help make recommendations; E-Link is also set up to offer supplemental developers to make those changes if need be.
For an overview of the Chinese Mobile Market, see our post.
header image: appbackr.com