‘First Publish Advantage’ – key to succeed in the app/mobile games market in China?

‘First Publish Advantage’ – key to succeed in the app/mobile games market in China? Companies strive to be the first in the market, sometimes even before the officially licensed game.

In China, when trends happen, it happens in waves. It is very rare that you will see just one company/product in a hot niche, as competitors rush to try and hitch a ride on the wave that is sweeping across the country

  • Shared bikes: Peak of 30+ companies, now down to 2 key players.
  • Sharing economy: After shared taxi, bikes and apartments, the sharing economy became a hot topic and companies were rushing into a variety of sharing economy niches such as clothes, umbrellas, phone chargers, basketballs, tissues, napping pods etc.

This trend is also the same in the gaming sector, when there is a rumor of a hot upcoming game, several game developers rush to create one themselves. Few examples as below (Note some games do not have official English names yet, the bolded games are ones with official IP for China region)

As can be seen from the above examples, companies without the official IP launch weeks if not months in advance before the official game, while for the official PUBG game, it has not even launched yet and there are already several games of the similar nature in the market! So how do the other companies know?

For all new games developed from scratch, these are typically quite under the radar, and thus mainly applies to mobile games based off existing PC games, of which the approximate process is as follows:

  1. Game companies vie for IP
  2. Those who do not get the IP know that another game developer is planning to develop such a game and already know the approximate gameplay from the PC version
  3. Without the official IP, the key ways companies can gain an upper hand is to either improve on the gameplay or to release their own non-IP version earlier than the official one, of which the latter is much more easily achievable.


Benefits of a First Publish Advantage

It is not to say that if you can publish first, you are guaranteed to come out top, the recipe for success will depend on a variety of other factors such as artistic style, operations, community, marketing, publishing resources etc. however games that launch earlier have a few clear advantages:

  • Piggyback on Hype – The news of successfully acquiring a specific IP generates some hype among the most dedicated gamers, while companies will often do a series of pre-launch promotions to grow this hype before the official launch. In addition, some players that are looking forward to this game care little towards the IP, but rather just want to play the game as soon as possible.
  • Retention – As the first game of its type in the market, gamers that are just there to ‘try out’ the game have already invested time and possibly money into the game, thus increasing their switching costs
  • First impression – as with most products, when it is the only existing one in the market, there is no direct comparison; as long as there are no major flaws, users are likely to give it more lax. When the subsequent similar products launch though, users are likely to be more critical, comparing it to the already existing product.

So is replicating successful PC games to the mobile environment is still profitable? Have you ever had similar experiences?

Sources: Fortune, Quartz, AppAnnie and various other google searches


If the China mobile gaming market may be something of interest to you, whether you are a developer, in operations, marketing etc. join the LinkedIn Group "Mobile Gaming - China" for more relevant posts in the future and a place to meet other likeminded individuals

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