Different Ways to Monetize in China’s Moble Game Market

Different Ways to Monetize in China’s Moble Game Market
Monetizaion of the Chinese market is extremely different from how developers in America make their money. Yet the history of Freemium gaming originates from China’s ingenuity to try new pricing models due to a long history of pirated games for the PC and Console market.
As PC MMORPGs began to become popular in China, the idea of paying for memberships, upgrade payments, and custom costumes were used to entice players to pay towards a game. Today these methods have moved into the mobile space. The biggest advice many have given me about Chinese gamers is to keep gamers engaged and happy with their experience every time they enter your game.

Who’s paying for your game?

When we talk about Chinese gamers, we have to first talk about grouping them into three common payment groups: Whales (who love your game and buy things from every update or of every necessity), Dolphins (Those who enjoy playing the game, but aren’t prepared to place huge money into a game), and minnows (players who pay once or never have paid for a free game).
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GameAnalytics took a look last year at where revenue was coming from and found the same results many in China already knew. Whales own the industry. You’ll find that hundreds of thousands of players might enjoy your game, but the ARPU will be very low, compared to a very large ARPPU. So be prepared to pamper your whales to get more from them.

Pay To Win

A classic example of monetization is the “pay to win” method like in the game MT Online, a card collecting game that was popular in China through 2012 – 2013. Just as Hearthstone is having issues with gamers needed cards only available for purchase to win games, MT Online had the same issue. But Chinese players accepted the idea that purchasing of cards was a strategy to win as some even bought cards exceeding $100 to show off to other players that they are wealth as power or as the only way to upgrade to the top of the leaderboard.
This has been the case for other games in China as the idea of “pay to win” and now “pay for a chance to win” are seen as fun to the average Chinese player. This may be highly controversial to the western game player, but it’s part of the culture of China.


VIP rewards have been a staple of Chinese games for ever and not well implemented in the west. VIP allows gamers to pay for a monthly or yearly membership to the game allowing for free gifts, special rooms for chat and play, and daily rewards.
Some have levels of VIP from VIP1 – VIP9 or higher based on the daily rewards you receive. This allows Chinese developers an easier idea of cash flow and gave pride to some players as the roamed the game or battle others.

Mobile ads

Mainstays of micro-transactions used to purchase Gems for rare items or to replenish energy are very well known and quite common as well as advertisements in the game. Two common ways to advertise are common banner/pre-/post-roll ads or in-app marketplaces that allow players to see recommended games that they might also like playing.
With many talking about video advertisements, it’s hard to say that this is smart for developers to use in China. Though more are coming to have 3G or 4G capable phones, The idea of “all you can eat” gaming is not available in China as apposed to Taiwan. In fact there were large issues with download size in the early years of the industry due to the pricing of mobile data. So it’s best to wait it out or apply the use of video ads during Wi-Fi gaming.
 If you are entering China and need direction or compatibility testing of your game among the hundreds of phones sold in China, TestBird can help you. Contact us at Intlsales@TestBird.com 

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