The Chinese mobile game market has been evolving and growing exponentially for years. Mobile game revenues in China are to surpass $3b in 2014. It's easy to think of expanding a game's reach into China, but the Chinese market is a siren: it looks nice enough, but unless you know how to navigate around a cacophony of roadblocks, you won't get anywhere. Making it in China requires heavy engagement at every step of the value chain. Jason Park, Concept Art House/Spellgun VP of Operations, illustrates the difficulties in his Casual Connect keynote.
Importing a game from one country to another is not as simple as translating and releasing it. A company has to localize and culturalize their game, since Chinese audiences do not respond to the same gameplay mechanics and monetization frameworks. The localization of a game includes art and tutorial redesign, integrating a new payment channel, and overhauling the UI. That way, Chinese consumers feel more comfortable with the intrinsic Chinese game model.
Distributing the game is equally difficult, since China's mobile market functions entirely differently. Android dominates the Chinese market, with Android selling 4 phones to 1 iPhone. Google Play's ban from China opens the market for a slew of third-party app stores. Over 200 app stores compete for business, some which target specific demographics, such as people in rural areas with slower connections. However, the decentralization of this service takes a financial toll, as members of the distribution chain require a cut of a publisher's revenue. At the end of the day, mobile game companies only net a portion of their gross sales due to transaction and channel fees. Games also have to be careful with the channels they choose, since being too exclusive leads to more piracy as other channels are forced to remain competitive. Every company has to ensure that their IP is protected from rampant piracy, and take down illegal ports of the game.
The last hurdle is promoting the game. With the amount of new games that come out regularly, it becomes easy to fade into the noise. Gaining traction in a fast-paced environment like that requires marketing the product in a way that is natively Chinese. Using China's fascination with pop stars, shows and other televised media is vital to anchoring a game for the consumers. A game’s life cycle is shorter in China than in the US, so gaining traction quickly is vital.
It's clear that Western companies looking to expand into the Chinese market need a publishing partner to ease the transition and localization effort. See how Spellgun can help publish your game in China, helping you avoid all the aforementioned difficulties.
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