5 MIN READ
How Hero Academy went big in China
Henry Fong, CEO of Chinese game publisher Yodo1, discusses the lengths that Hero Academy studio Robot Entertainment went to in order to make its game a commercial success in China.
Henry Fong is the CEO and founder of Yodo1, a Chinese game publisher that has helped Western companies like Robot Entertainment and Digital Chocolate localize and distribute games for the Chinese market. Hero Academy from Robot Entertainment is a huge hit with U.S. and European iOS gamers. But even though China was the second biggest market for Hero Academy by downloads, it was still only reaching a fraction of China's potential iOS audience. After partnering with Robot Entertainment to create and release a new Chinese version of the game, we went through Hero Academy point by point, and identified several likely problems it was having here:We also created a Hero Academy mini site on our consumer page, with game info, overview, customer service resources, and course, a link to the game’s App Store listing. We added a forum, so players could share game tips, talk smack with each other, and brag about their in-game upgrades (Chinese gamers love to do that). Since we wanted to give Hero Academy a AAA-style launch in China, we turned our Jiang Hu team into cosplay characters, and unleashed them on the China Joy conference -- sort of like the E3 of China.
We even created a wacky Chinese-language viral video around the game, sort of our own spin on the popular Dollar Shave Club ad from a few months ago.
OK, I'm not the best actor in the world, but the real goal here was to tell the Chinese audience that Hero Academy was a major title, with a huge marketing campaign behind it. To help us on that front, Robot Entertainment CEO Patrick Hudson flew out from Texas to join us for China Joy in Shanghai, and participate at local press appearances.
The overall results were hugely gratifying: Within 48 hours of launch, the Chinese version of Hero Academy made the Top 10 list in free games, and Top 25 iPhone apps overall. Even better, this new Chinese version of the game was downloaded more in its first 3 weeks on the market than the original, non-localized version attracted in its first 8 months in China.
"Western mobile game developers must recognize that China is a very unique market," as Hudson puts it to me now. "And, because of its size and growth, it needs a unique strategy and approach for success. You can’t expect your game to be accepted in China the same way it may be in the West."
We learned some lessons too: Though we originally thought the Jiang Hu heroic team would be a priority content update for the Chinese gamers, we quickly learned this wasn't the case, since all of the current Western teams (Council, Dark Elves, Dwarves and Tribes) were also viewed as new content by the Chinese players. And so instead of asking for a new Jiang Hu team, they wanted more features that let them compete and socialize with other players, such as leaderboards, leveling mechanics, and a quick game mode.
As the game continues gaining fans in China, we think they'll start embracing the Chinese heroes and the other new content that we're adding to the game. But it goes to show you how global the world of gaming has already become. And with just the right tweaks here and there, it's possible to get the East and West to love and play the same games.