9 Things You Didn’t Know About the Mobile Game Market in China

By Renee Matsalla, Senior Marketing Manager
Tuesday, July 26, 2016 / 3 min read

Mobile games in China

It’s that time of year when China Joy — the largest gaming exhibition in China (and possibly the world) — heats up. The best companies in gaming converge in Shanghai to showcase new innovations, meet, greet and play, and mobile definitely takes center stage.

But as we’ve learned, there are lots of misconceptions about making and monetizing games in the Chinese market. And while it is definitely complex, there’s no better way to tackle a complex challenge than by being informed. So get up to speed on all things mobile gaming in China, with nine of the most interesting industry facts below: 

1) The market is massive

Okay, this might not come as a surprise … you’ve likely heard that the Chinese gaming market is massive. But how big is it?

According to DataEye, nearly 400 million people in China played mobile games in 2015.

This means there are more mobile gamers in China than people the USA.

2) A massive market means big revenue potential

According to App Annie and 9to5Mac, China has surpassed the U.S., and is now the #1 country in the iOS App Store Games category for revenue. As Games account for 75% of global iOS revenue, China is truly dominating.

3) Mobile games in China enjoy global success

When asking Fyber’s APAC team about top games in China, they emphasized that most top games have a global presence, and are played by users all around the world. For example, Castle Clash and Clash of Lords 2 by IGG, Clash of Kings by Elex Group, and Taichi Panda by Snail Games have made localized versions for China that led to major household success. When you look closely at the top ranking apps and games in China, you’ll find that many are adaptations of classics such as famous comics, novels or movies that have strong associations with popular culture.

4) There are hundreds of app stores

Android devices are hugely popular in China, but Google Play was late to enter the market. Therefore, AppLift reports an ecosystem of over 200 different app stores — making it essential to partner with a local game publisher if you want to distribute your app in China.

5) Move over Beijing — Chengdu is the new mobile hub

Big mobile publishers are predominantly located in Beijing, Shanghi, or Shenzhen, but many mobile game developers are actually in Chengdu. Chengdu is a large city of over four million people, but is less expensive than China’s other major cities. According to China.org.cn, the southwestern city also has government and a talented workforce to bolster mobile development. Hence, major events such as Global Mobile Game Developers Conference are located here.

6) A complex web of regulations and censorship

Being based in Berlin, Fyber employees often complain about German bureaucracy. There is a line to stand in, a form to fill out, and time to wait for almost anything (4 weeks wait to get internet access!?) … But with mobile games in China, the regulations and censorship take on a whole new level.

ZhugeEx explained that mobile apps are regulated and censored by the SAPPRFT (The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film & Television), CAC (The Cyberspace administration of China), and the MOC (Ministry of Culture). As of earlier this year, all apps will need approval from the SAPPRFT before appearing in the app store.

What does that mean? To get approved, you must fill out a mountain of paperwork, load your game into an Android and iOS phone, and send this package to the SAPPRFT at least 20 days before your launch. Sound complex? This is the just simplified process. The standard process can take up to 3 months.

7) Want to monetize an app in China? Go F2P

According to TestDroid.com, Chinese gamers are very reluctant to purchase a mobile game before testing. Therefore, a free-to-play business model is suitable in China so users can download freely without paying up front. However, this leads to a lot of non-paying users who must be monetized with in-app purchases (IAP) or ads.

8) Ads = a growing monetization channel for mobile games in China

TestDroid.com also expressed that Chinese players spend more time in apps than other countries. This makes China a good market for ad monetization as more time in-app = more impressions = more money. Thus, App Developer Magazine reports that there was a 1000% increase in mobile ad spending in China in 2016. However, like in most markets, Chinese mobile game users prefer user-friendly and engaging ad formats. The fact that many games are adaptations of classics has made video ads the most powerful medium to immediately engage with gamers and trigger their interests.

However, like in most markets, Chinese mobile game users prefer user-friendly and engaging ad formats. The fact that many games are adaptations of classics has made video ads the most powerful medium to immediately engage with gamers and trigger their interests. 

9) Want to work with Chinese partners? You’d better get personal!

Every sales professional knows that building relationships is key, but in China, this adage is taken to the next level. According to Fyber’s APAC team, it is important to get to know your customer personally and who they are as people. Without this, a business partnership is impossible. To keep in touch, ensure you use some of the most popular social media apps in China, such as QQ (832 million monthly active users) and WeChat (549 million MAU).

We’ll see you at Chinajoy!

Fyber’s APAC team will be in Shanghai for China Joy and you can find us at B736 – Hall W3. Want to meet our team? Shoot us an email at [email protected].

You can also learn how we helped Melsoft Games monetize Toy Defense 2 players in China in this case study.