The explosion in popularity of mobile games in the last five years has increased the global market size by an astounding rate. It’s easy to see why the Chinese market is enticing for game developers in the United States hoping to expand overseas - the US and China are two of the biggest markets for mobile games. However, the vastly different trends and habits of Chinese and American players make localizing to the Chinese market a difficult prospect. Developers need to know China’s mobile gaming preferences in order to succeed. Find out what makes the US and Chinese markets different, including preferences on art styles, gameplay and monetization.
China: Chinese players prefer cute, cartoonish characters. Traditional fantasy themes based on popular Chinese classic novels such as "Three Kingdoms" are among the most popular in China for games.
United States: US players prefer more realistic art styles instead of the exaggerated cartoonish art popular in Chinese mobile games. Traditional and new fantasy themes are both very popular.
China: Mid-core, hard-core, RPG, trading card and action games are the most popular game categories in terms of attracting revenue. Mid to hard-core PVP is the most popular among top grossing Chinese games. Successful Chinese mobile game developers usually like to combine collectible card games (the most popular game category) with another popular gameplay mechanic. For example, the insanely successful "Thunder Fighter" by Tencent grossed about $20 million monthly by combining a collectible card game and action arcade shooter.
United States: Casual games and mid-core games dominate the market in the US, followed closely by social games.
China: Chinese mobile games usually focus more on creating fast-paced rhythmical gameplay. Whether it's RPG, strategy or trading card games, developers often use rhythmical animations to hook early stage players. Chinese mobile games have a low 1-7 day retention rate so fast paced, rhythmical gameplay will have a better change at retaining impatient players.
United States: Western games focus on creating social games that connect players with their friends in a casual or mid-core gameplay. Casual games do a good job of hooking early stage players with amazing animation, as is the case with "Cookie Jam." However, mid-core and hard-core games still have a relatively slow rhythmical gameplay which can hurt retention rates by driving away impatient players.
China: Average Chinese average revenue per user (ARPU) is lower than the global industry average so Chinese game makers focus on designing a strong monetization system to offset the lower ARPU. Strong monetization design, including many in-app purchase (IAP) options, are embedded deeply into gameplay.
United States: US players have a high ARPU. Many games focus on building good gameplay rather than designing strong monetization.
China: Mid-Core to hard-Core PVP gameplay is essential in top grossing Chinese games. The largest percentage of mobile gamers in the Chinese market are male hard-core players. Chinese mobile games usually have strong PVP functionality to maximize ARPU.
United States: Casual to mid-core games are seen the most in the US's top grossing games. PVP gameplay usually stays in the casual to mid-core level with the exception of "Game of War." Casual social gameplay is found in the majority of PVP US games.
Spellgun is a mobile game publisher focusing on bringing western mobile games like "Angry Birds" and "Plants vs. Zombies" to China. Our team consists of game industry veterans from China and the United states, including James Zhang, Founder and CEO of Concept Art House and Jason Park, former GM of Perfect World. We are constantly observing mobile game industry trends in the United States and China and want to share these insights with you. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
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