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Mostar: Breaking into the Chinese Mobile Space

With 449 million mobile subscribers and the number predicted to rise, China is a market that can't be ignored. In this exclusive Games On Deck editorial, Ozura Mobile's Li Ling See discusses their entry into the market with Mostar, China's first tournament based mobile gaming community portal.

Title China will see a significant rise in mobile subscribers between 2007 and 2011, adding as many as 160 million new subscribers, according to a study by IDC Research.

The study also reported that there were 449 million Chinese mobile subscribers by the end of 2006, more than the populations of Japan and the U.S. combined. It predicts that the number of Chinese mobile subscribers will rise by 11% to more than 500 million this year and it will continue to grow to 660 million by 2010, increasing 24%.

Attracted by such a huge potential and thriving mobile market, massive publishers, developers and aggregators have indeed approached and invested in the market.

"However, China is a different market. To commit yourself into this huge market despite the influx of mobile game developers and publishers, you really have to stand out from the others - either your titles are branded or your games are so unique that no one has ever done it before. Otherwise your existence in this lucrative market will be insignificant," said Ozura Mobile's Chief Marketing Officer, HE Mah, when he shared his thought recently on Mostar deployment.

Mostar (http://www.mostar.cn), developed by Ozura through its partnership with Chinabyte, is China's first and exclusive tournament based mobile gaming community portal. It offers not only standalone and multiplayer games but also tournament games where users can play and challenge their skills with the. The top 10 gamers at the end of the tournament period have the opportunity to win prizes.

Mostar
Mostar

A Partnership is Struck

Ozura Mobile entered an exclusive distribution partnership with Chinabyte in April 2006.
However, recently when Mah proposed Ozura's newly released games to ChinaByte, he was informed that Monternet (China Mobile's mobile internet system) had closed new game submission for the following six months due to restructuring in its mobile content platform.

"Due to this unexpected situation, most of the service providers in China started to look for new distribution channel such as off-deck portals instead of solely relying on Monternet to launch mobile games in China," explained Mah. "That was when Chinabyte asked us about our proprietary FunlogiX engine after reading news on our deployment with Maxis, AIS, Indosat and XL."

As well as Ozura's previous deployments of tournament based mobile game community portals for mobile operators, Sistem Televisyen Malaysia Berhad (TV3) - Malaysia's largest free-to-air television was also included in Ozura's deployment profiles. Ozura had also developed tournament games for Maxis, DiGi and Celcom.

"Our deployment experience with these mobile operators and partners has been excellent and successful. So far, they've been very satisfied with FunlogiX and our maintenance effort. Since ChinaByte had been searching for new distribution channel, it was the right time for us to propose Ozura's FunlogiX. With our accumulation of experience, I was absolutely confident that Ozura was ready for such a big market like China."

As a result, Ozura and ChinaByte entered a strategic partnership to offer a brand new mobile gaming experience to the market.

The Chinese Market

The Chinese mobile games market is complicated yet interesting. All content providers have to submit their mobile games in Monternet via the local service providers. The evaluation process and testing usually take 3 to 6 months.

Unlike other countries in the region, the Chinese market has a higher level of awareness in mobile games. "I'd traveled to China and studied that the acceptance level towards mobile games. The market in China is relatively stable. I was glad that both ChinaByte and Ozura have similar minds: we agree that mobile gaming market will boom from the year 2007 onwards," said Mah.

"Although the rollout of 3G has been delayed, the market for rich mobile content on current 2.5G is quite good. Nevertheless, the mobile gaming market is certainly not saturated. There is so much potential in this growing industry," continued Mah.

In order for any games to be accepted in China, they have to be localized to Chinese to meet requirements. ChinaByte offered to translate the game text and graphics so Ozura could localize the games.

"We have already distributed games and mobile entertainment services in other gaming portals through hundreds of partners. With our reach to millions of unique mobile phone users, we're able to identify which games and features are implemented correctly, and then make necessary adaptation before distributing the titles in China."

Unlike some of the countries where individualism is emphasized, Chinese live collectively. There is healthy proportion of them utilizing WAP to interact with the others and the market showed an encouraging response towards community portals.

Taking these factor into consideration, the introduction of Mostar meets the consumers' need where interactivity and mobility are transformed from traditional gaming options and users are able to meet, share and exchange their thoughts and opinion in this community portal.


Deploying the System

The deployment commencement was efficient and effective as this was Ozura's sixth deployment of tournament based community portals with clients. The implementation of tournament and multiplayer features, gift shop, and forum went well except for SMS and WAP charging.

It is challenging to get a universal shortcode which can be used across all provinces in China.  [Editor's note: A shortcode is a special telephone number which is used to address SMS and MMS messages from mobile phones, and are often charged at higher rates than normal messages to pay for downloads.]  If different shortcodes are used in different provinces, it can create confusion to the users and more marketing cost will be incurred.

To overcome this barrier, virtual money charging system was introduced in Mostar. The virtual money is called "M coin" and serves as prepaid credit for users to download their desired mobile games and enjoy the entertainment services offered in Mostar. Users are able to purchase or top up their preferred amount of M coins via WAP. M coins are then saved into their accounts.

In the next phase of Mostar, M coins will also be purchased via scratch cards, IVR (Interactive Voice Response), credit cards and bank cards.

"M coin offers flexibilities in transactions and the implementation of this new charging system has showed that our FunlogiX is very flexible in terms of customization to meet different clients' requirements."

"In terms of language, we do understand Chinese. However, most of our correspondences with ChinaByte were communicated in English. Sometimes, we did encounter minor miscommunication that resulted in prolonging the process of deployment. Nevertheless, we managed to get everything back on track even when we were behind schedule."

Mah suggested that it would have been better to discuss and communicate with ChinaByte in Mandarin.

"When you do business in any foreign country and if you're able to speak their language, they are more comfortable when dealing with you. When we flew our guys to China to perform user acceptance test, ChinaByte was very helpful and we managed to speed up the process due to zero language barrier."

Both Ozura and ChinaByte carried out user acceptance tests together. Ozura retained full control over the technical side of the entire platform whilst ChinaByte voluntarily offered their assistance in terms of minor changes to charging and localization.

To provide content for Mostar, Ozura developed a branded mobile game based on Korean entertainment icon, Jang Nara, who is to perform all her songs in Chinese at her concert at the Beijing Exhibition Theater on June 8 and 9. The mobile game Nara Loves You will be made available first on Mostar.

Screen
Nara Loves You

"We're now working with Chinatec, a Chinese based mobile content provider engaged in multi-lateral mobile game licensing authorizing across Asia, in order to acquire more licenses to launch branded content in Mostar. Chinatec has lined up numerous celebrities activities throughout the years and we have geared up ourselves to launch these branded games in conjunction with their advertisement and promotion," told Mah.

Moving Forward

The deployment of Mostar has strengthened Ozura's portfolio and it is intriguing for Ozura to gain valuable insights to the most populous country in the world. The experience was totally different compared with the previous deployment in Indonesia and Malaysia.

China, being one of the largest mobile markets around, has a potentially high mobile subscriber growth rate forecasted. If 1% of the country's total population of 1.3 billion subscribed to Mostar, that would already be more than enough.

Moving on, Ozura is scheduled to release FunlogiX 2.0 in the fourth quarter this year with more added features.

"Currently, there are two deployments of tournament based mobile gaming community portals undergoing ,and there are a few enquiries on FunlogiX. We're looking to expand out business out from Asia Pacific in the coming years and capture and maintain as a slot as one of the top three mobile game developers in Asia Pacific," concluded Mah.

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