A Brief Introduction into China’s Mobile Game Industry

A Brief Introduction into China’s Mobile Game Industry
This year is special as China begins the year of the monkey and begins the year as the biggest mobile game industry in the world. In this 4-part series, we’ll scratch the surface of the Chinese mobile game industry and share what you need to begin your journey to the east.
When I first came to work in China back in 2009, I came to visit a Shanghai museum in People’s Square on a cool fall weekend. The museum had some historical items of China and the history of the growth of Shanghai into the city it is today. On the top floor of the museum were various posters of propaganda on display that was used in the 1940s and 1950s by the government.
Most told people to work hard as the people’s China would defeat the capitalist west through increasing food production, better living, and by taking pride for their country.
I smiled a bit thinking it only took 50 years for this paper dragon to show its true power as it bellows the ovens of industry across the world. Today’s tech world has been greatly changed thanks in part to China being the “factory of the world”. But as the manufacturing industry begins to slow, new service industries and a maturing entertainment industry are moving to grow the economy.
Today, China’s mobile game industry has grown dramatically to become the biggest revenue generating country making an estimated $22.2 Billion in 2015 and $32.8 billion by 2018. Though this market is flourishing and actively enjoying mobile games, there is a lot to understand about the Chinese market.
China today has over 400 million gamers playing mobile games according to NewZoo (though according to the data from the government, it’s over 380 million gamers from 1.3 billion mobile households). This is the largest of any country in the world and continues to grow year after year.
The ability to purchase a mobile phone affordably (many quality low end phones costing about 700 to 1,000 CNY or about $105 to $150 USD) in China compared to laptops and PCs has increased helped bring more people the opportunity to access the digital world and play games during their time on the bus, after work or school, or when waiting in line.
Unnamed QQ Screenshot20160202111752
AppAnnie has seen this growth especially with iOS as downloads and revenue for apps in the iTunes store have gone up this past year. In their report “AppAnnie 2015 Retrospective”, they stated that China doubled iOS app revenue for 2015 compared to 2014 and that there was a 20% increase in iOS downloads. This is contributed to great sales of iPhone 6 that were seen after poor sales of iPhone 5s and 5c the previous year.
Android is still the number one as it owns 71.4% of the market compared to Apple’s 27.1% this past year according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.  Though many developers in China are making dual OS games and increasing using game engines like the free engine Cocos2d-x and Unity3D according to our numbers at TestBird.

Unnamed QQ Screenshot20160203144106From “TestBird’s 2015 China’s Mobile Game Compatibility Testing White Paper (Q1 & Q2)”
Please note, Unity3D went up to 39.3% by the end of 2015.


What are Chinese Gamers playing?

TestBird has tested over 17,500 games this past year and found the biggest trends included RPGs (both MMORPG and ARPG) and card collectable games to be the most popular genres with more casual games like puzzle and endless runners (ex. Temple Run) coming in next.

Unnamed QQ Screenshot20160203115601From “TestBird’s 2015 China’s Mobile Game Compatibility Testing White Paper (Q1 & Q2)”

Two genres that are very specific to China that found success in 2015 were elimination games (ex. Super Collapse) with Popstar being the top game and action shooters (ex. Galaga) for their  pick up and play games. 2016 already looks to be big with two major FPS games already out and MOBAs (ex. Vainglory) starting to appear on top 20 lists.
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Popstar 2 and Thunder Fighter
Chinese gamers are very hungry for games and on average try a new game every 3.48 days. Chinese gamers however are not as open to paying, so expect massive influx of gamers that don’t pay with some spending huge money. One developer commented to me that it needed 10 million DAU just to make their game profitable. But we’ll talk more about that later.
For more detailed information I recommend these two great resources
Metaps’ Mainland China Mobile App Market 101: What you need to know
Go-Globe’s Mobile Gaming in China Infographic

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