Those mobile game developers hoping to break the Chinese market should take into consideration a huge variety of factors or else risk a commercial disaster.
So says Chris Hanage, general manager at Papaya Mobile. The company has had plenty of experience with cracking the Chinese mobile game market, and today at Develop Conference, Hanage shared the most important elements that studios should watch out for.
It's estimated that the Chinese mobile game market will be worth around $3.6 billion by the end of 2017, so understandably many developers are looking to jump on-board now.
Monetization is a significant issue, given the sheer number of differing billing channels there are in China. SMS billing in particular dominates the other channels, and so a game that doesn't support SMS billing in China is a game that is destined to fail.
As an example, Hanage described a Western publisher that Papaya Mobile worked with to bring a "very successful Western free-to-play game" to China (the name of the game and publisher were omitted.)
Although Papaya believed that it was going to be a giant success in China, it turned out to be "a commercial disaster." A big part of this was that the game had no SMS billing support, meaning that 99 percent of players chose to pirate the in-app purchases instead of paying.
But the file size for the game was also much too large, which put off a lot of players. In the end, the translation to the Chinese market "was a big mistake," he says.
Elsewhere, app store fragmentation is also a huge sticking point. There are a large number of "third market" app stores -- i.e. app stores outside of the iOS App Store and Google Play -- and these are the most important, says Hanage, as they drive the most traffic.
But there are so many different app stores, that traffic is spread far and wide. 360 is the biggest app store in China, but there's also the Hiapk Market and Goapk Market, both of which receive 20,000+ downloads a day. More exist beneath these too.
There's also the issues of cultural barriers, localization, IP copying, and piracy that Western developers should keep in mind when porting games over to the Chinese market. In general, Western developers bringing games over to China can expect to earn around 10 percent of the revenue you can expect in the U.S. right now, claims Hanage.