Monetizing Your Mobile Games in China

App Monetization in China

China’s mobile gaming is a monster opportunity. The size of the mobile market allures every western gaming developer to monetize their games in this market. However game monetization in China can still be difficult without a right process and good resources, even though you have great culturalization and integrations.

Today we are going to talk about how to monetize your games in China – the business model, promotion and marketing, and the need for a publisher.

The Business Model of Your Games

Free-to-Play (F2P) and Pay-to-Play are the two most widely used business models in mobile gaming industry. No matter which one you are after, you probably have seen the success in the western markets.

Free-to-Play vs. Pay-to-Play

However, Chinese gamers are more cautious on the quality and content of the game. Given that, a F2P business model might be more suitable for targeting the Chinese gamers. Under this model, you are able to expand your Chinese user base quickly and your game can easily pull in more people to try out your games with zero cost to download and start playing. Of course, a bad situation might be that the majority of Chinese active users will always be free gamers. But revenue will likely increase significantly as different players can spend different amounts of money depending on their engagement with your game.

Talking about F2P, there are three types of model that you need to think about, a.k.a In-App Purchase (IAP), Affiliate Marketing, and Freemium. While the effectiveness of each type really depends on your game genre, Chinese gamers are more likely to go through in-app purchases in consideration of a much longer time spent on games.

Mins Spent on App Category in China

Minutes Spent Per Day Per App Category Feb 2015
Amongst users of each type of app on 1 billion devices in China

Although in-app ads do create more impressions when gamers spend more time in games every day, almost no one likes to be exposed to in-app ads every now and then, especially at the moment they are really involved in the game.

All in all, despite having some demographic and behavioral differences than Western gamers Chinese counterparts seem to have a similar preferences to the payment and business model of mobile games. The successful approach you use in your country can be very much likely used in China as well. Even so, it is suggested that you should put a great deal of thoughts on the business model of your games for a distinct market.

Promoting and Marketing Your Games

The chaotic Android ecosystem in China makes it overwhelming when you compete in a super-packed market. Without proper promotion and marketing, your mobile games won’t get much visibility and appreciable amount of downloads. Of course, you need to know how to build a kick-ass game that can generate millions of downloads.

Promoting Your Games in China

Ad Networks and Analytics

When it comes to app paid promotion, Admob and Tapjoy are no longer your best choices for China’s mobile gaming market. They do not work well and can’t really assure you a good performance in China. Put in another way, you also need a local app promotion channel to get your games go viral.

Some of the ad networks in China that you should look at are Domob, Casee, YeahMobi, Avazu, Youmi, Madhouse, etc. For app analytics, Baidu and Umeng are two good platforms.

Social Media and Online Community

As Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are all blocked in China, you need to leverage the local social networks services. Below are some states and SNS that you can’t miss for spreading your games.

  • QQ: 832 million monthly active users (MAU)
  • WeChat: 549 million MAU
  • Sina Weibo: 198 million MAU
  • Renren: 4.2 million MAU

Other great channels that can be fully utilized are Douban and Zhihu, a Quora like Q&A website. Obviously, you need a local Chinese talent dedicated to work on social media and online community promotion.

Must-to-Attend Events

While GDC is the event that leads the way of mobile gaming industry in the West, GDC China is the event where you want to get insights of how mobile gaming is changing and developing in China. It provides sessions about how to bring mobile games from west to east and forums for international games to discover and explore opportunities in China.

Another annual gaming event you could expect is Chinajoy – China International Digital Entertainment Expo. As a booming industry, mobile gaming exhibitors have proliferated and surpassed the traditional PC exhibitors in the past few years. Compared to formal development talks at GDC China, Chinajoy is a casual show that is targeted towards gaming lovers or gamers.

Cooperation with a Local Publisher

To secure success in China, you probably need a partnership with a local publisher.

Basically, a local publisher will assist from end to end – culturalizing the content for the market, integrating with third-party platforms, distributing it to the right places and monetizing your game. They know how to better tailor the Chinese gamers with Chinese local elements, what popular slangs are widely used at the moment, and where the game should be promoted.

Work with a Publisher in China

A smaller game developer will certainly get the most benefits from the cooperation with local publisher. While larger companies can market yourself, some gaming giants have established the partnership with Chinese publishers to win a share of revenue in this lucrative market.

  • Last year Supercell cooperated with Kunlun to publish the Android version of Boom Beach (海岛奇兵) in Chinese Android market.
  • Similarly, Tencent brought’s Candy Crush Saga (糖果传奇) to its own gaming platform. As Tencent owns two biggest social networks in China, Candy Crush Saga has a big chance to get more impressions from Chinese users.
  • Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft (炉石传说) was published by NetEase in China.
  • Etc.

Besides these publishers, other well-known publishing brands are 360, iDreamSky, Chukong, Longtu, etc. Before you go to China, it is better to talk with as many as publishers, get an idea of the results they can generate and decide from there.

Wrapping Up

China’s mobile gaming market is huge, but more complicated. It requires you to get more understanding on the market and patience for reaping fruity results. Your business model, marketing ability, and assistance from publisher all have a great impact on the final success of your games. Think about your strategy, scrutinize the market, and talk with a trustful publisher.

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