As difficult as the Chinese mobile market is to break into, there are several successful Western games in China today. Let’s take a closer look at the key factors behind the success of these western games and what developers should keep in mind when considering moving overseas.
According to China Gaming Industry Report by CGIGC (March, 2015), the top three mobile game genres in terms of revenue are: Action (ACT), Role Playing Games (RPG), and Simulation Games (SLG). Games in these genres have higher LTVs and longer life cycle. Western games within these genres have an advantage in the Chinese mobile market.
The Chinese market is full of clones and copies of popular games. When a game with unique mechanics - like puzzle game sensation 2048 - appears, it is easier to capture the attention of players. Unique games with innovative gameplay are more likely to gain viral popularity in China.
Chinese players value the ability to make friends and show off to their friends in-game. This is one of the most important mechanics in successful Chinese mobiles games. Games with social mechanics built into the game perform better in terms of acquiring and retaining Chinese players. A drive for players to be better than their friends also increases in-app purchases monetization models, as players buy the best items to show off to their friends.
Compared to new IPs, well-known comics, classic novels, and martial arts stories are seen more often in Chinese mobile games. There are hundreds of games set in the famous Three Kingdoms story alone. Top-performing Chinese mobile games also draw inspiration from popular TV dramas and movies.Western developers can easily fall into the trap of trying to create excitement for their own IPs, instead of picking a tried and true traditional Chinese theme. An inside knowledge of popular culture trends in China is essential for successful game localization.
When localizing a Western game to succeed in China, there are two main art styles that developers can choose from:
Chinese players like cute characters and stylized art. Most players in the Chinese market prefer 3:1 or 4:1 body proportion over a more realistic art style - making cute an ideal art style for more casual games. Take a look at the screenshots below, featuring four popular Chinese games with four different art styles, with one common theme - they all include cute characters.
Realistic art is more suitable for hard-core players, particularly male players in China. Realistic mobile game art and marketing art for hard-core mobile games is often features sexy female characters, seeking to attract male players to play the game. This kind of realistic art is not suitable for casual games or games seeking to attract a broader audience.
Spellgun, a division of Concept Art House, is the exclusive North American partner of Talkweb. Spellgun is the most complete solution for North American game companies wishing to launch their products into the Chinese mobile market. Spellgun provides North American developers access to a San Francisco based licensing and support team, a 100+ Shanghai based localization office, distribution partnerships with all leadingChina operators, and local marketing, user support and operations in all 29 Chinese provinces through Talkweb.
Concept Art House/Spellgun's founder and CEO, James Zhang, has a long history of speaking at GamesBeat and this year is no exception.
Concept Art House/Spellgun team hosted over 90 meetings, explored the expo floor, sat in on numerous talks at GDC 2017.