Gaming markets can vary. What may work in one particular market doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily fly in another. While some competitive games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and World of Warcraft might have global appeal, they are the exceptions, not the rule.
Not even the mobile gaming market, which is a beast over in China, is an exception to this. But with such a big audience, Western developers are up for taking on the challenge. They just need to figure out what experiences are in highest demand.
For instance, TechInAsia recently reported on the continuing success on The Legend of Mir Mobile. The game still manages to earn anywhere between $92 to $107 million (in U.S. dollars) on a monthly basis, based on massive-multiplayer online (MMO) action. But here’s the thing–it’s not a recent release. In fact, the game is over 15 years old, continuing to be a popular draw after all this time. A lot of mobile developers would be satisfied just having a fifth of that popularity.
“The Legend of Mir Mobile capitalizes on the nostalgia of China’s early PC gamers, the people who were playing this game on PC in Internet cafes 15 years ago,” said Shanda Games vice-chair Zhu Xiaojing, speaking with Sina Tech. “Many of those gamers are now adults with white-collar jobs. They may or may not still be hardcore PC gamers, but virtually all of them own smartphones, and being able to play what many consider a classic game from their youth on a phone is too tempting to pass up. And of course, their enthusiasm has helped attract a whole new generation of players to the game as well.”
How a game is marketed is also very crucial, as something that works well on the Western market may not do so in China, and vice versa, depending on the diverse gaming audience. In a previous interview, Glu Mobile president Niccolo de Masi noted that the company has to tweak certain things to make a game experience work. For instance, Western shooters aren’t that popular in China, and a Chinese brand won’t always find stateside success. But the right partnership and strategy could change that. We Fire, which is a hit overseas, won’t be brought over in its original form. Instead, the game engine will be transformed into something else. “A Western consumer will not know that this is We Fire. They will know it as Frontline Commando or Contract Killer,” de Masi stated.
Simon Hade, co-founder and COO of Space Ape, also expressed similar logic with bringing games over. “Mobile game companies cannot just localize language and launch their game in the West successfully. While features like Gacha [collectible characters] are becoming more widely adopted in the West, games from Asia generally do not directly translate. In order to successfully bring a game to the West, you must invest resources, which takes time and money. The companies and games that invest well will have a better chance to create a top 20 game.
“We’re seeing more and more Chinese game mechanics translating to the West,” he added. “It’s still the case that China, Korea and Japan are each very different markets and a lot of the charts are dominated by local players addressing local tastes. However, it’s feeling more and more like the concepts that work in China are easier to adapt for the West (e.g. Game of War). One big difference is around the pace of content. Chinese players consume content very quickly, and your monetization needs to reflect that behavior in order to make a game viable.”
But there’s still that possibility of connecting with certain content, as Newzoo CEO and co-founder Peter Warman previously noted. “Every global player has an interest in China in some way. It can be as consumer market or as a country that provides new partnerships and investments. From a Newzoo perspective, our partnership with leading Chinese big data company TalkingData is crucial for us to be a true global player. We spoke at their corporate event in Beijing a couple weeks ago that attracted over 2,000 people giving us a unique entry into the market. This is in addition to having data on 800 million iOS and Android smart devices used every month that provides unique insights to Western companies with an interest in the Chinese mobile landscape. I expect there will be a lot more consolidation of Western and Chinese game companies over the coming years.”
As both the Chinese and American mobile game markets continue to thrive with billions of dollars ever year, changes could come to better adapt marketing content for certain games, which could also include development level changes, depending on the games that are being considered.
For now, companies are looking to find new ways to become the next the 15-year old hit, like Legend of Mir Mobile.