China’s fragmented mobile distribution channels, complex localization requirements and payment integration complications, bringing a western game to China can feel daunting. This is where partnering with publishers can help. 

Channels in China

With Google Play having virtually no play in the Chinese market, Android users rely on a fragmented app store ecosystem to install games and other apps. There are 200+ app stores to choose from but chief among them are 360, Tencent, and Baidu. Most traffic is generated by these distribution giants and they're key to reaching China's 1.29 billion smartphone users.  Developers must distribute their mobile games with these app stores to have any hope of getting noticed in the Chinese market.

Even when a game distributed on these major app stores, developers must compete against thousands of other games. The best way to get noticed in China is to be featured on the app stores themselves. Channels have complete control on which games are featured on their app stores and these features can be negotiated directly with the channels themselves.

Needless to say, having a good working relationship with channels can make or break a game in China. 

NewZoo / Feb 2015

Challenges Western Developers Face With Channels

Channels are powerful partners to game developers looking to distribute to China’s massive mobile install base but they're also complex and can be hard to work with directly. Companies with a mastery of marketing to US mobile users shouldn’t assume they’ll be able to conquer the Chinese market using the same strategies. Many developers don’t have the connections or insight into the Chinese market necessary to directly work with channels.

Not only is work with channels complex, it's time consuming. It's advantageous to have a presence with many channels at once. Developers must spend a lot of time and resources to manage each relationship with several of China's 200+ mobile channels. Working with so many channels simultaneously is time consuming and difficult for developers.

Developers working directly with channels must also negotiate directly with channels for promotions and features in the app stores - the best way to get noticed in the Chinese market. Most western developers have too little negotiating power of experience to gain an app store feature. 

Working With a Publisher Can Help

Luckily, game developers can partner with publishers and use their expertise and experience with the Chinese mobile market to succeed. Publishers, like Spellgun, can leverage their relationships with channels to get faster response times, user feedback, first hand market research, faster billing times, and negotiate more favorable deals.

Publishers have already established relationships with channels. For example, mobile game publisher Talkweb has a strong relationship and a long history of working with major channels like 360, Tencent and Baidu. On top of that, Talkweb, a former SMS business, has over 10 years working with mobile carriers, another great resource for distributing and promoting mobile game, especially single player games. Mobile carriers are capable of reaching even more potential players by promoting via SMS. Not many other Chinese companies can leverage relationships with both channels and mobile carriers.

Crazy Maiji 2 featured in Chinese App Stores

Publishers like Talkweb, and Spellgun (Talkweb's only North American partner) have tons of experience publishing successful games in China, giving them leverage for negotiating features and other promotions with channels on behalf of game developers. Talkweb has successfully published Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies 1&2 - all of which were featured in several app stores. Recently, Spellgun published Crazy Maiji 2, also featured by multiple channels at launch. Publishers know how to navigate the mobile market, work with channels and get the most out of your game’s debut in China.

About Spellgun

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. For more information about the Chinese market or publishing your game in China, please contact us at developer@spellgun.com.