Bat­tle lines are drawn for for­eign brands

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By CHINA DAILY

For­eign game com­pa­nies face a bruis­ing bat­tle in try­ing to tempt Chi­nese play­ers.

While they have a global ap­proach from day one, over­seas op­er­a­tors can find it dif­fi­cult to crack the tough­est mar­ket in the world.

With a user base of 600 mil­lion, China has the most lo­cal­ized gam­ing sec­tor in the world.

Up to 93 per­cent of money spent by do­mes­tic play­ers on Ap­ple’s iOS app store goes di­rectly to Chi­nese-de­vel­oped games, a re­port by Lon­don­based ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Atomico showed.

There are gen­er­ally just two ways suc­cess­ful West­ern games take off in China, ac­cord­ing to Ey­lon Aviv, part­ner­ship man­ager for ironSource, an Is­raeli mo­bile app mon­e­ti­za­tion com­pany in Bei­jing.

“Ei­ther they quickly bring it (the game) over here or they make a copy, and the copy is a lit­tle more China-ori­ented,” Aviv said. “If they’re not quick enough, then it (the op­por­tu­nity) is gone”.

Af­ter part­ner­ing with King, the Euro­pean de­vel­oper of Candy Crush Saga, in 2014, tech gi­ant Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd re­leased a lo­cal­ized ver­sion of the pop­u­lar puz­zle game in China.

But one Chi­nese com­pany had other ideas. De­vel­oper Happy El­e­ments Hold­ings Ltd cre­ated its own Candy Crush Saga look-alike called Anipop, which was re­leased in 2014, then glob­ally. It is now one of the most pop­u­lar ca­sual games in China.

Liu Xiaozai and Zhou Baiqing , avid gamers liv­ing in Bei­jing , have no­ticed dis­tinc­tions in con­tent de­pend­ing on re­gion.

Cal­i­for­nia-based Bliz­zard En­ter­tain­ment makes games with long sto­ries, such as Di­ablo, that play­ers can im­merse them­selves in, while League of Leg­ends, cre­ated by Riot Games, now a branch of Ten­cent, at­tracts gamers by its “ad­dic­tive playa­bil­ity”, Zhou, 32, stressed.

“There is al­ways com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Chi­nese game com­pa­nies,” Liu, 33, said. “They al­ways put money and ad­ver­tise­ments first. This takes the fun out of the game.”

A game’s suc­cess in a for­eign mar­ket also de­pends on how dif­fi­cult it is. Many do not cross over well.

“A South Korean game, as it is, will not suc­ceed in the United States, be­cause it’s so hard­core,” Aviv of ironSource said. “What you would call a hard­core game in the US is not even mid-core in Asia.”

Hav­ing for­eign games dis­trib­uted and trans­lated is also not enough, ac­cord­ing to Tom Wehmeier, prin­ci­pal and head of re­search at Atomico and au­thor of its re­port.

Chi­nese gamers have unique pref­er­ences in terms of de­sign, game­play and mon­e­ti­za­tion.

“This is where lo­cal­iza­tion is re­ally a crit­i­cal fac­tor,” Wehmeier said.

But ul­ti­mately if play­ers get their hands on a great game, which Chi­nese com­pa­nies have a track record of pro­duc­ing, it will not mat­ter where it is pro­duced.

“China is a global games gi­ant,” Wehmeier said. “They pro­duce amaz­ing games, so we shouldn’t be sur­prised that all of that is be­ing ea­gerly con­sumed by Chi­nese gamers.”

Mark Marino and Zhuang Qiange con­trib­uted to this story

HU YUANJIA / FOR CHINA DAILY

A group of fe­male am­a­teur mo­bile gamers com­pete for awards spon­sored by a shop­ping mall in Taiyuan, Shanxi prov­ince.

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