Over the past year, China’s mobile game market grew a staggering 280%, casting a shadow over the US’ growth rate of 81%. It comes as no surprise - China has 600 million smartphone users, and 92% of all people aged 18 to 30 use smartphones. The mobile game market may be still new to the Chinese consumer, but the mobile gaming ecosystem is a new staple to Chinese consumption.

Out of all Android mobile gamers, approximately 35% play casual games, while 65% engage in more immersive games, ranging from mid to hardcore levels. With the advent of affordable, faster smart devices, users are transitioning into midcore games. Now, Chinese gamers spend an average of 32 minutes playing games daily. According to TalkingData, a Chinese data analysis firm, 15% of all Chinese mobile gamers spend more than 2 hours on games daily, and 48% spend half an hour to two hours. Tencent, China’s largest internet company, launched a game center across their popular social platforms WeChat and QQ, gaining 570m users in 3 months. The question asked by mobile game developers now is what do these people want to play? The answer: Action RPGs.

Culturally, China is predisposed to Action RPG games; on a PC, the genre dominates every other kind of game by a massive margin. However, because of sub-par hardware and slow connections prominent in many parts of China, ARPGs were too taxing to make it big on mobile devices. Multiplayer PVP-based games in particular take up too much bandwidth in rural areas, despite being popular on other platforms. Because of those factors, most of the hit games on the Chinese market were trading card games with an RPG element, which would be easy on graphics and bandwidth, even in PVP modes. With recent hardware and software upgrades in mobile devices, other genres such as racing and battle arena games have also been gaining momentum, but nothing has seen the same growth as Action RPGs.

Most of the surge in popularity comes from users upgrading their hardware and software, but a small fraction comes from the introduction of sturdier social functions and monetization models. With stronger backbones for social features provided by major Chinese media conglomerates, social functions have become a necessity in games. Gifting other players in-game items and being able to message friends in-game become vital since Chinese users place such a high importance on sharing their gaming experience with their friends and family.

The market is still young, and growing pains are expected when evolution is happening so quickly. Even so, the Chinese mobile gaming market is abundant with opportunity, and the exponential growth only adds to the high payoff of success.