Cracking The Chinese Game Market: 20 Top Tips To Get Chummy With The Chinese Gamers

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Game App Developers Why China Should Be On Your Radar?

It is no secret that the game market is slowing down in the West. Admittedly, Japan, China, and India are the rising stars of the gaming world.

In fact, the number of Chinese gamers has already surpassed the number of American Citizens. According to Newzoo, the Chinese gaming market would be churning out a revenue worth US$7.7 billion in 2016, while the U.S. will be running closely behind with $7.3 billion. So, as a Game App Developer, no matter what, China should be your target for the forthcoming year.

Agreeing with China’s unhindered dominance in the gaming world, Peter Warman, co-founder, and chief executive of Newzoo said: “The fastest growth in mobile games is happening in China and the surrounding Southeast Asian market.”

China U.S. Gaming

China to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest mobile gaming market by 2016

China Gaming Industry

Of the total game revenue of $22.2 billion in 2015, the mobile game apps contributed nearly $6.1 billion

Without Further Ado, Top Reasons Why The Chinese Game Market Is So Fertile?

For one thing, it’s because of its sheer population size, which is almost 4 times that of the U.S. Another thing is, it has 3 times more smartphone users than the U.S. And more importantly, the 14-year ban on consoles has fueled the hunger for games like never before. Furthermore, the spike in games has also contributed to the recent success of the iPhone 6 and 6+ here.

Top 20 Tips On How To Localize your Game App For China Market

1. Character Considerations

Target the local Chinese language. That’s it! Right? Wrong. Chinese, for your information, follow two different sets of characters, specifically, when it comes to written communication. So, you really need to sit down and decide, which of the two best suits your game temperament. Is it Simplified Chinese? Or, the Traditional Chinese? Simplified Chinese characters are used in mainland China and Singapore, on the other hand, traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the overseas Chinese market.

Much as developers ballyhoo about the simplified approach, a tinge of traditionality has its own magic. So if, as a game developer, if you could balance both, nothing like it. So, devs do keep the Character thing in mind, if China market is on your radar.

2. Text Size Considerations

Chinese and English have one thing in common: Both are compact languages. But then, the Chinese is more complicated given that the sentences come in short strings or the characters are square-shaped. So it’s crucial for the developers to keep the Chinese fonts in larger sizes. To cut to the chase, the vertical spacing in Chinese should be more than in the English version. Horizontally, it won’t cause much trouble given that the former appears shorter than the latter.

3. Content Considerations

Plain text is completely despised by the Chinese. A potpourri of idioms, internet slang, and formulaic expressions could help catch the fancy of gamers.

4. Category Considerations

chinese mobile games revenue genre

As per the ‘China Gaming Industry Report,’ published in March 2015, the top three mobile game categories that are minting yuan include Action (ACT), Role Playing Games (RPG), and Simulation Games (SLG). It has largely been observed, by the app industry experts, these genres fetch higher LTVs and longer life cycles. So, if you intend to make a spectacular entry in the Chinese market, target these three genres. Plus, it’s said that free-to-play games are catching fire and by 2017 it’s said to blanket almost 80% of the Chinese market.

5. Bitmap Font Considerations

Font issues would have to be confronted, every step of the way when it comes to China market. For starters, the Chinese language consists of no fewer than 80,000 characters. And, the best bit about this is the fact that if you have a working knowledge of at least 5000- 6000 words you would be considered as average Chinese literate. And, if you could make out at least 2000 Chinese words, you could, at least, confidently, flip through the Chinese magazines.

However, the game apps come with different gameplay altogether. To put it more explicitly, games are backed by bitmap fonts, which cause memory problems. The conventional approach is to first scan the translated text and then extract the required Chinese characters onto a larger bitmap, which then is used as a reference point.

However, there’s a hamartia (fatal flaw) – the above strategy won’t work for dynamic texts. Huh! Don’t sweat! Try using the font format provided by the OS, provided it’s available.

6. Translation Considerations

Huh! Opting for the literal translation of your gaming text? Nope. Don’t do it. Because literal translation could turn suicidal for your apps. Um…haven’t you heard of those legendary Jesuit Missionaries who had literally transcribed the name of Jesus in Chinese, using consonant characters. The outcome: 亿 鼠 (Ie Shu – a hundred million mice).

The bottom line: Rope in a native speaker to translate the name of the game, in addition to, the names of other gamers. They’d come with a more sensible translation.

7. Location- specific Considerations

Once your app is done, in terms of translation and all, don’t be in a hurry to launch it. Get it checked all across China. Cover every nook and cranny. Be it North or Central, or West, or South-east, or the South of China, get your apps proofread from each of these places. Because a northerner won’t probably understand the word “哈 喽” and probably only a Westerner could discover the joke behind 吃葡萄不吐葡萄皮,不吃葡萄倒吐葡萄皮.

8. 3rd Party App Store Considerations

top app stores in China

Make no mistake. Tunes and Google Play may be the lording over other app stores in almost all countries, but not in China. China’s app market is unique. As you can see from the image, it’s Myapp that’s the no. 1 app store in China. Likewise, you have over 300 app stores here. So, iTunes and Google Play store is out of the picture here. And, for that matter, Google Play doesn’t support in-app purchases in China. So, don’t forget, to forge relationships with third-party app stores in China for better app monetization.

9. Number Considerations

Yep! You need to play safe with numbers as well, given that the Chinese numbering system is diametrically different from the English system.

Below is a conversion table between the English and Chinese number systems, which will help you clear all your confusion.

Chinese vs English number gradation

So, you can see for yourself that the regular English gradation is not followed in China. Therefore, it’s imperative to bear this in mind while incorporating numbers in the game.

10. Art Style Considerations

When it comes to localizing a game app for China, developers need to whittle it down to two main art styles:

Cute But Stylish

Cute characters and stylized art wield greater power in the Chinese casual game market. So, it’s a commonplace to find game characters with 3:1 or 4:1 body proportion in China. So if, for some rhyme or reason, you are planning to add some realistic character style for your app, just drop the idea. Because it won’t work here.

cute characters in chinese games

Realistic Art

But, if you really like the idea of realistic characters so much so that dropping is out of question for you, in that case, target the hard-core mobile games. There you are free to come up with good-lookin’ sexy female characters, to be used as bait to attract male players. Warning: This style is strictly meant for hard-core games played by hard-core players

realistic characters in chinese games

11. Copyright Considerations

China follows strict copyright policies. So, you’d be heavily penalized if you are found using unlicensed content or pictures. So, get all your documents perfectly translated, notarized, and even approved by the Bureau of Copyright Protection, before using them in your app.

12. 3rd party Considerations

If you plan to embed the links of third-party service providers, think twice. It’s because they won’t work properly in China and in all probability. For instance, if you want to download a 25 KB webpage, you might as well end up spending ages on it.

So, it’s always better to rope in local service providers instead.

13. Payment Essentials

Go by the local payment channels, such as Alipay, PayEase, and more. Why? Simple: You cannot use the services of international payment aggregators.

14. Internet Essentials

Install your internet servers in countries that are located closer to China markets such as Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore or South Korea. Europe, USA or Russia is not considered ideal for installing your servers.

15. User-generated Content Essentials

Does your user have the flexibility to generate content in your app? Yes? Good point! But then you need to keep a check on this user-generated content as well. If you don’t fulfill this basic requirement you could go to jail.

16. Game Play Considerations

The Chinese Game market is lumbered with uncountable clones and copies of popular games. So if you could manage to conjure some out-of-the-box app with some really amazing gameplay, bet, you’d have the gamers’ attention, fully. Puzzle game sensation 2048 was a blockbuster success because it was different. So, bet on innovative gameplay if, you intend to add that ever-eluding virality to your app.

It would not only help add and retain more Chinese players, it would also push players to make more in-app purchases.

17. Social Media Considerations

Chat apps are a big hit in the Chinese market, not to mention social media apps. Nope. We ain’t talking about Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube here. For your information, they are banned in China. WeChat and Weibo are in, given that they are China-focused. WeChat, which started as a copy of WhatsApp, has 73% active Chinese users, while Weibo had about 212M users, as of Q2 2015. So, if you want your game apps to attract those brilliant downloads, integrate chat apps and social media features into your app.

For instance, Fruit Ninja has joined hands with iDreamSky and has also integrated the WeChat feature. This helps players connect with other gamers, and also participate in a centralized competition system based around their WeChat buddies.

Social Media Friendly games

Localized Fruit Ninja integrates with WeChat in China (Source: iDreamSky)

18. Customization Considerations

Chinese being die-hard game enthusiasts won’t mind paying through their noses for in-app purchases.

But then, you need to sell the right stuff in, in-app purchases. As in, it should consist of tools that help the gamers on the customizing front. For instance, gamers love to create personalized characters with unique outfits. So, if you can provide them with tools that help with that, it would be great.

For instance, GunZ Dash has set up a lot of personalization items in its in-app purchase thing. There is an assortment of characters, pets, and items to pick and choose from.

game customization

19. Publisher Considerations

As you know by now, the Chinese gaming market is pretty unusual. But when it comes to selecting publishers, there are set standards. For one, only opt for familiar brands. So, if you have made up your mind to market your game app in China, join hands only with top game app publishers such as iDreamSky. The company optimizes third-party games and delivers it to users through proprietary distribution channels, In-game cross-promotion, and payment operators.

20. IOS Considerations

Android is a confusing mess, given that Android developers need to join hands with middlemen to make their games commercially viable. IOS, on the contrary, is free from such hassles. IOS Developers can easily reach tons of consumers, thanks to iPhone 6 and iPhone6 + growing popularity in China.

Over to you now:

Have I missed out on any of the indispensable points? Yes? Go ahead. Add them in the comment box below. We’d love to hear them all. And, yes, don’t forget to reach us for all your game app development and marketing needs. Ciao

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Siften Halwai

In addition to serving as a Content Writer & Content Marketing Strategist, Siften Halwai is a certified Cambridge English: Business Vantage (BEC Vantage) who empowers to create content that his targeted audience loves to read and engage with. His IT educational background and years of writing experience have given him a broad base for various content formats. Also, he’s a great cook, always ready to explore food, cultures, and adventures.


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