China Mobile Game Market
China (official name—the People’s Republic of China, PRC) is a state in East Asia and the most populous country in the world (more than 1.38 billion people, the majority being ethnic Chinese). It is the third largest country by land mass, after Russia and Canada. There are 56 nationalities living in the territory of China.
China is an economic superpower and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It has a leading space program, a nuclear arsenal, and the largest army in the world by number of service members.
In 2010, China overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy by nominal GDP. Since December 2014, China has been the world’s biggest economy in terms of GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity. China is the top global producer of many industrial goods, including cars, and has consumer demand to match. It is the largest exporter on the planet, dubbed “the world’s factory.” China holds more gold and foreign currency reserves than any other nation.
China has a long and almost unbroken history, as well as one of the world’s oldest and most complex writing systems. Until the 19th century, China was one of the most advanced nations in the world and the cultural center of East Asia. China’s influence on its neighbors continues to this day. It has given birth to many inventions that changed the course of human history, with four of the greatest being papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.
The rest of the world learned of China thanks to Marco Polo and his book “The Travels of Marco Polo.” The Chinese bestowed a gift upon the traveler, naming a bridge in Beijing after him. Marco Polo also somewhat inspired the Assassin’s Creed series from Ubisoft, but that is another story.
This is worth remembering when you’re developing an application that requires an Internet connection.In China, mobile Internet is expensive (USD 1.13 per 1 Mb with an average paycheck of USD 886), so the majority of people use Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet.
Many people use phones to make payments, practically not using cash at all. About 31.2% of population pays at least from time to time with smartphones. On average, one user of WeChat—the most popular messenger in the country—makes 55 transactions a month.
The most popular mobile payment system in China is Alipay, and the second most popular is WeChat Pay.
MOBILE GAMES MARKET IN CHINA
In 2016, the Chinese games market overtook the US market and became the largest in the world (for games on mobile platforms).
The majority of users prefer to play on their mobile phones, the second most popular platform is PC, and the third is tablet.
The main feature of the Chinese mobile games market is that nobody knows its real size. More precisely, the size of the iOS games market can be determined, but nobody knows how big the games market for Android platform is. The reason is the large number of stores for Android apps. Experts predict that in 2018 the Chinese will spend USD 16,253 billion on mobile games. By 2022, that number will reach USD 22,517 billion. The number of users in this period will increase from 422.2 million to 498.5 million. On average, a user will spend USD 38.49 on games in 2018 and USD 45.17 in 2022.
China is the largest games market in the world and will maintain this status for the foreseeable future
The average CPI for the country in 2017 for iOS was USD 1.75 (USD 2.49 in 2016), and for Android was USD 0.16 (USD 0.25 in 2016). The average CPI is USD 0.59, which is USD 0.27 less than in 2016.
The games development market in China began its growth with large MMORPGs, and it is in no small part thanks to Chinese players that the free-to-play model gained such broad popularity in this genre, and then successfully spread to the mobile market.
One interesting fact is that the sale of Xbox and PlayStation has only been allowed since 2015.
In most countries, apps are usually installed through App Store and Google Play, while in China there are over 300 application stores.
The Chinese state authorities require applications to be registered. To do this, the developer must register a juridical person, fill out the required documents, install the application on a mobile phone, and transfer it to officials. Three authorities are responsible for game publication. They are the Ministry of Culture, the CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China), and SAPPRFT (State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film & Television). After a check for illegal content (which can include pornographic materials or calls to violate the law), the application is given a number with which it can be registered in stores. Representatives of the development company do not have to do this personally, it is usually enough to find a representative in China.
According to our data, casual games without potentially dangerous content usually pass the check easily: the officials turn a blind eye and limit themselves to completing formal procedures. If the game has content that might cause questions (military actions, hints at erotic content), it is best to cut out a range of scenes or make changes to them if possible.
These rules are in force for Android games. Apple representatives must make an agreement with the Chinese government.
On April 10, 2019, the Chinese National Radio and Television Administration released a statement on how the game certification system will work. These are the basic points:
- The online-game ethics committee checks that projects adhere to national values.
- The number of licenses issued per year is limited. Experts from Nico Partners estimate that around 5,000 projects will be approved in 2019. However, various mahjong and poker simulators will not be allowed to enter the PRC market.
- The Chinese government is starting to tackle its citizens’ addiction to gaming. Publishers will be required to add systems to the projects, which limit the time spent in the game.
- Games must be historically accurate and promote Chinese culture.
- Changes in the certification rules will affect all games, including those based on HTML5. This means that the committee even approve those games embedded in social networks and instant messengers.
- When a registering project is part of a franchise, developers must specify this, otherwise government officials will consider it to have the same name as the existing game. A version number cannot be included in the title.
- There are allowances, as well: publishers no longer need to send the committee mobile devices with pre-installed games and a printed list of forbidden words. Digital copies will now suffice.
The highest grossing games from foreign developers as of April 2018 are Hearthstone (Blizzard Entertainment, USA), Summoners’ War: Sky Arena (Com2uS, South Korea), Gardenscapes, Homescapes, Township (Playrix, Ireland/Russia), Clash of Clans and Clash Royale (Supercell, Finland), PES Club Manager (Konami, Japan), CATS: Crash Arena Turbo Stars (ZeptoLab, Russia).
In contrast to the rest of the world, China has many of its own application stores for Android, the overall number of which exceeds 100.
The 10 most popular Android application markets (according to Newzoo, February 2018):
It is usually recommended to release Android applications on the Chinese market through a publisher or make independent agreements with the 10–20 most popular stores. Otherwise, after your application is published in one store, it will immediately appear in the others, but without in-app purchases.
The most popular mobile operating system in China is Android (72.07% of users), with iOS coming in second (26.96%).
Among search systems, Baidu is far in the lead (84.32% of the market), with Shenma in second place and Sogou in third place. The global giant Google has only 0.59% market share for search requests in the country.
The most popular manufacturer of mobile devices is Apple (22.83%), with Huawei in second place (19.05%) and Oppo in third place (11.09%).
The most popular social networks in China are WeChat, QQ, and Sina Weibo. Users visit social networks to see what’s new with their friends, share information, or update their status. About 26.3% of QQ users and 22.6% of Sina Weibo users play online games through the application.
WHO PLAYS MOBILE GAMES IN CHINA?
Players most often download the following games:
Recently, it has been difficult to track Chinese preferences in game genres. The highest grossing includes MMORPGs, racing simulators, and quest games. As is characteristic, all the games in the top 10 were released by Chinese developers.
It can be said that from a gameplay point of view, the Chinese do not feel the sense of striving to prove their superiority in the game that is so prevalent among western gamers. This means Chinese mobile gamers do not enjoy challenges, but something more relaxing instead, and they have a particular weakness for casual games and RPGs.
Unlike western gamers, the Chinese prefer cartoonish graphics featuring bobblehead characters instead of realistic graphics.
The Chinese do not react very well to promotions within games, although they do like to show off their status (e.g. that they are VIP users) and boast that they can afford to drop USD 10,000 on game purchases for all the other players to see.
Among mobile games players, 65.6% are men and 34.4% are women.
Not so long ago (in 2012), the most profitable mobile games in Chinese stores were western games. Now the situation is opposite: almost all successful games on the Chinese market were developed by local developers. Among the hundreds of developers of the most profitable games on the Chinese mobile market are such leading global companies as Blizzard Entertainment, Supercell, Gameloft, and EA (directly or through a local publisher). It is particularly worth noting the success of a developer from Vologda, Playrix. In spite of all the advice on the need to find a local publisher, they managed to release on the Chinese market independently and achieved success (the leaderboards for the highest grossing projects include three games from Playrix).
The top games for Android as of February 2018:
Top games for iOS:
As of now, the largest games company in the world by revenue is the Chinese company Tencent.
China has around 250 mobile games publishers, 50 of which are major companies.
Below is a list of the 9 largest publishers and mobile games developers for the Chinese market by revenue (according to App Annie):
- Alibaba Group
- Happy Elements
- 37 games
LOCALIZATION INTO CHINESE
Chinese is a language or language branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family consisting of language varieties that are mutually intelligible to different extents. Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, with 1.3 billion speakers (982 million native speakers, according to 2016 figures). It has two forms of writing: simplified and traditional.
When localizing mobile apps, simplified Chinese is used for mainland China and Singapore and traditional Chinese is used for Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is also important to be aware of lexical differences—various game terminology is used across these areas.
When it comes to voiceover, it is essential to consider that Chinese has 10 distinct dialect groups: the northern Mandarin super group, Jin, Huizhou, Wu, Xiang, Gan, Hakka, Yue, Pinghua, and the Min super group. For countries listed in our report, the northern super group may be used as a guide for China (as it is the most widely spoken—over 800 million), Yue may be used for Hong Kong (and Macau, not included in the report), and regional features should be taken into account for Taiwan (partly recognized as the Republic of China) and Singapore.
The table below shows the writing and dialects of Chinese used for each region.
|Country or region
Special attention should be paid to in-game texts not translated into Chinese. There is some evidence that recently enacted laws prohibit the use of English and other languages (this is not quite accurate, but it is how the law has been interpreted) and violation may result in an app being banned in China.
Chinese, like English, is relatively compact and Chinese words have even fewer characters than English ones. However, Chinese words are more complex, so the font must be larger. This requires bigger vertical spacing between lines than in English. Written horizontally, even in large font, a Chinese text is slightly shorter than its English counterpart.
The main problem when localizing into Chinese is fonts. Chinese has approximately 80,000 characters. A person with average reading skills understands 5000-6000 characters, but 2000 characters are sufficient for understanding most texts. If bitmap fonts are used in a game, this may use too much memory. This problem is usually solved by scanning the translated text and outputting all unique Chinese characters in a large bitmap image, and then using this as a font reference. This means that memory will only be spent on actually used characters. However, this method does not work for dynamic text (such as names entered by the player) because the player may use characters not supported by the bitmap. Another approach is to use the font provided by the operating system if available.
What we know from our research:
- 27% of Chinese players will stop playing a game if they spot punctuation or grammar errors
- Players are willing to pay more for high-quality localization
- Chinese players want to provide feedback about localization errors, but don’t know how to do that
- They do not like the use of swear words