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Things to know about Chinese games market

While China becomes the #1 market in the world and many people want to release their games in China, there are many things you might not know and would like to read are in this blog.

Numbers behind numbers

Why does Chinese game market matter? According to the report from Newzoo, Chinese games market is the largest in the world with estimated revenues of $26.4 billion in 2017. While PC/MMO is the most popular and domain segment which accounts for almost half of all revenue, mobile segment is the fastest growing and most talked about gaming segment in China. However, statics above are objective and you can see detailed charts in Newzoo or other websites. As a Chinese gamer and a gaming student studying in Canada, I would like to explain the truth beneath numbers and try to break some stereotypes with my opinions.

 

CHINESE GAMES MARKET 2016  infograph from Newzoo

As key facts shown, 71% of the online population are gamers and 36% of them spend money. However, the number of average money spent cannot reflect the truth behind it. $122 per paying gamer per year is a decent number, but what if I tell you that it is actually a heavy polarization when it comes to the amount of money spent. For example, I have heard people discussed how a Chinese gamer spent more than $10,000 on one game because he/she wants to be the top player in it, but it is obvious that much more spenders only spend much less money on game, to even the average amount of $122. In a 100-player case, if one player spend $10,000, the other 99 players only spend $22 on average. To summary it, there are two significant groups of gamers, while most of them spend few money on games to play casually, a small but important group of players tend to spend much more than others to remain top rankings in games. Even in GameAnalytics, the complex charts can only tell that Chinese games are harder to convert from free-to-play to spenders while spenders will be more likely purchase the most expensive items in the shop. These charts would not reveal the truth that spenders are separated in two main parts, which game companies should notice it and adjust their marketing strategies facing Chinese market.

E-Sports and Other Gaming Culture

I hope you were not flooded by all those competitive e-sports and their analyze articles. I would not be surprised if my mom told me that she ranks 1st in her neighbourhood in Do Your Housework game one day. Competition makes players crazy, and drives them into endless vortex of spending money.

E-sport is also very popular in China, too. From League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone to Gwent, there are tournaments for all-level players to participate in and win prize and glory. You might not be able to see many Chinese gamers discuss games on reddit, share their gaming experience on YouTube, or stream their competitive games on Twitch, but these all happen in other Chinese websites due to Internet Censorship in China, by which they can hardly connect to those western websites we used to know. If you watch the championship of League of Legends or Dota 2, you will know that I did not overestimate Chinese gamers.

A Chinese meme about "All Games Bundle" with Half Life 3 T-shirt.

Chinese gamers love Steam as you do, also love to make memes about Gabriel as you love. My point is, Chinese gamers love games as gamers from other countries do. Do not judge all Chinese gamers by being harassed by small groups of troll. I mean, trolls are everywhere, you just notice them first. Mostly, Chinese gamers are normal gamers and they like the same games as you do, as casual as Dark Souls, as hardcore as Animal Crossing. Yes, no typo here. Some Chinese players want to collect ALL furniture in Animal Crossing which is not easier than Dark Souls, while Dark Souls is too popular that many Chinese streamers rather try the naked speedrun than regular adventure.

Screenshots of the comments of Football Manager 2017 on Steam, Chinese gamers were trying to help other gamers with an error.

Sorry, Chinese gamers are really good at math, but not all of them. It is funny that my classmates teased me while I was playing Hearthstone because I am Asian and I am supposed to be good at math games. I am sad to tell you the truth, not all Chinese are mathematician, and I am bad at ping-pong. In other words, not all Chinese gamers are Chinese gold-farmers or cheaters, either. Do not let the minority group of people ruin your expression of Chinese gamers. As the left screenshot shows above, a Chinese gamer shared his solution in both English and Chinese to a game error to help other gamers whoever has the same error. However, you could see massive negative comment on Football Manager 2017 that people complained about the lack of Chinese language option. You might think it is unnecessary or even harassment. The truth is, the game company promised to include Chinese in the game before releasing, and broke his promise, more than once. All gamers want to be respected, while Chinese gamers are part of world gamers.

Censorship and opinion trend

Let us not talk about politics. It is just game and gamer! However, you always want your game launch successfully with the least effort on localization. Let us say, you are not making a war game in which China is the evil side and your characters are going to battle against Chinese. Instead, you just create a funny fantastic RPG with magic and sword, dragon and beast. I am sure even you made chopsticks as weapon, Chinese gamers would still embrace the game. Fantastic games are unreal and we understand it. I also believe that you would not make an Asian background game while most characters look like Fu Manchu, because it is an extreme and improper example of Asians. However, having a big boss looks like Fu Manchu is another story and acceptable.

The images of Fu Manchu (left) and Bruce Lee (right) are quite different

How about sexualization, superstition number, or other taboos? Before we going deep in these questions, let me briefly introduce the Internet Censorship in China. It is set to protect nation’s glory and social order. For example, Command & Conquer: Generals – Zero Hour was banned for "smearing the image of China and the Chinese army". We cannot really blame the censorship on this one because it would bring bad impression of country and army to children. Put yourself in my shoes then it is not hard to understand. When it comes to detailed in-game content, the principles of censorship turns unclear. For example, when WoW relaunched in China in 2009 for wrapping up, the skeletal and bloody art were all changed. It means offensive and violent to show bare bones, red blood, or bodies. To pass censorship, it covered bodies, changed blood color from red to dark red and hided all the bones with flesh, tomb or sacks.

 

A body was covered by so many stuffs that you can barely know it was a dead body. WoW Archivist: WoW in China, an uncensored history

Skeletons and bones were turned into sacks or covered by clothings to protect gamers' mental health World of Warcraft Changed for China

To be honest, even my grandma feels fine when she saw the skeleton in games, maybe because I am 24 this year and she did not need to worry about me. For other grandmas, they must worry about their grandchildren when they are 3 instead of 24.

When it comes to sexualization, it is another big topic worth multiple articles and years of research. Here I just want to tell you a fun fact. When Overwatch released in summer 2016, the trend of opinion on the game in China were complaining about how Blizzard made Mei as an super overweight female character, while another Asian female character D.VA is quite cute and at least a normal girl. As time goes by, gamers started notice the details on Mei’s custom and she is not that fat in early concepts. We are getting more comfortable with this overpower character now. Freeze! Don’t Move!!

Mei from Overwatch, whose custom patterns are full of Chinese cultural elements.

There are many other taboos that I could not explain them all. The point is treating Chinese gaming market as fair as other country, and listening to the voice from gamers. You will be all fine.

Conclusion

China has a large gaming market with so much opportunities and challenge. Chinese gamers appreciate every kind of good games from all over the world. If you want to make your game sucessful in China, please be nice and listen to gamers' voice! It is always good that preparing Chinese language options for us to enjoy your games without language barrier. If you want to make sure everything would be fine, also feel free to cooperate with local company for better localization to avoid the censorship. I am sure that if you open your mind to opinions from local people and respect their wills, sooner or later you would get paid off.

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