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Big challenges: The whys behind Kabam's Chinese deal

Last month, the free-to-play mobile mid-core studio announced a huge investment by China's Alibaba -- necessary for growth, COO Kent Wakeford says in a new interview.
"But Asia is the world’s largest base of handsets, of smartphones and tablets. It is the largest revenue for gaming revenue, much larger than North America, and it is growing at a much faster rate."
- Kabam COO Kent Wakeford The challenges -- even perils -- of getting access to the Chinese mobile market are becoming well known. There's massive fragmentation in its Android app stores, and culturalization is extremely tricky. Those are far from the only challenges, either -- there are many others. In a new interview with Re/code, Kabam COO Kent Wakeford lays out the case for partnering up to enter the market, rather than trying to go it alone. That's why Kabam has turned to a partnership with Chinese internet giant Alibaba, which invested $120 million in the San Francisco-based mobile developer in exchange for a seat on its board and the ability to distribute its games in China. The first Kabam game to head East will be its Lord of the Rings card game. What does Kabam get out of the deal, beside access to a huge user base? "Alibaba will help us integrate with other app stores across the board, not just their own," Wakeford says. Alibaba also understands Chinese user behavior better than Kabam: "Where do they spend money, what mechanics do they spend more time on?" Wakeford asks.

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