Business Development Manager
Mobile gaming is a competitive space, especially in China where there are over 300 app stores that sell Android apps alone. And while hits like Candy Crush or Temple Run don’t come around often, there are steps that game developers can take to stand out in the crowded market. Ethan Collins, business development manager at Beijing-based game publisher Yodo1, spoke with eMarketer’s Man-Chung Cheung about the app distribution challenge in China and how to tackle it.
eMarketer: What are some of the challenges associated with penetrating China’s mobile gaming market?
Ethan Collins: Monetization is a challenge. Because there are so many stores that sell Android apps, the marketplace is fragmented and few ad networks exist. As a result, game developers need to rely on monetization through in-app purchases and microtransactions. Top players in China will drop tens of thousands of dollars in-app without blinking an eye, so games should provide VIP services that cater to this demographic.
eMarketer: Does the fragmentation of the app marketplace make it challenging to launch new games?
Collins: Distribution is a big component of success. However, because there are so many marketplaces, game developers have to target Android app stores that have the biggest reach first, and later integrate the SDKs [software development kits] and payment keys required for other app stores. For example, we had to launch Rodeo Stampede across more than 60 Android app stores in China.
“Because there are so many marketplaces, game developers have to target Android app stores that have the biggest reach first.”
eMarketer: What else can developers do to ensure the success of a mobile game in China?
Collins: Chinese players need to be guided thoroughly through a game’s mechanics. The key to retaining them is using rewards and handholding during the first 30 minutes of gameplay to keep them engaged.
Cultural content, such as Chinese characters and environments, also plays a huge role in attracting players. For example, in an update to our Rodeo Stampede game, we replaced traditional zoo animals with a rideable dragon.
eMarketer: What mistakes do companies make when launching a mobile game in China?
Collins: Developers with proven track records in Western markets are mistaken if they expect their games to naturally perform well in China. The tastes and preferences of Chinese gamers vary, and it’s important to find a partner who understands the culture and market to make the game work.
“Developers with proven track records in Western markets are mistaken if they expect their games to naturally perform well in China.”
eMarketer: Have any Western gaming companies found success in China?
Collins: The Chinese online game market is highly competitive and dominated primarily by home-developed multiplay online battle arena [MOBA] and massively multiplayer online [MMO] games. However, there are exceptions. Finland-based Supercell broke into the market and achieved success with Clash of Clans and Clash Royale.
eMarketer: On the flipside, Tencent is expected to take its Honor of Kings game overseas. How can it ensure the game’s success?
Collins: Tencent needs to attract a core audience using a varied marketing approach. The Chinese version of Honor of Kings is very similar to League of Legends, which is another mobile game. Finding YouTubers, Twitch streamers and other influencers that are strong supporters of the League of Legends brand and getting them to support Honor of Kings will be crucial to the game’s success.
Localized content is important to Western players as well, and it’s important to design characters with Western audiences in mind to attract players. Honor of Kings has an ecclectic cast of characters that attracts people of all ages and genders in China. Making sure that there is a similar, broad appeal for Western players will be key to virality and growth overseas.