Characteristics of the Chinese Video Game Market
Newzoo recently published marketing research that identifies the hundred countries with the most lucrative video game markets. First on the list — and not for the first time — is the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese game market earned USD $45.77 billion in 2022, and the number of Chinese players was over 742 million.
So what’s so special about the Chinese video game market? Let’s take a look.
First, some stats
The mobile video game market is currently the fastest-growing and most lucrative segment of the Chinese entertainment industry. According to expert analysis from Statista, it will earn a staggering $56 billion by 2027. Over half of the online audience prefers mobile gaming to other forms of entertainment, and games make up over half of the apps in Chinese app stores.
Mobile games are played equally by Chinese men (51%) and women (49%). Most gamers are under 35 — players under 25 make up 36.7% of the audience, and people aged 26–35 account for 41.6%.
The most popular game genres in China are RPGs (29%) and strategy games (22%), but Chinese players’ tastes can vary based on age and gender. The most popular setting is fantasy, and the second most popular is the Three Kingdoms period.
Gambling games are prohibited, but Chinese players still enjoy competition — esports are growing in China right now, with new teams in various disciplines appearing every day.
China is a unique country with its own distinct culture and mindset. Something that’s popular in the US or Europe might be of no interest there, and vice versa. So before releasing your product on the Chinese market, you’ll want to perform careful marketing research and learn about your target audience.
First of all, the Chinese game market is dominated by Chinese projects and companies (over 75% of games are developed domestically), and Chinese games are also the most lucrative. There are over 250 Chinese mobile game publishers, including giants such as Tenсent, Netease, and miHoYo Games.
Second, aside from the dominance of domestic companies and the fierce competition among them, the Chinese market in influenced by a complex bureaucratic apparatus that oversees the release of every single game. Permission to publish a game must be received from multiple government agencies that spend twenty days performing a painstaking examination of a project to make sure it meets Chinese censorship requirements. Anything even remotely objectionable will be excised during this process, so it needs to taken into account during development.
And there’s one more important thing to keep in mind. It’s very difficult for foreign companies to be successful in the Chinese market, so they usually have to go through Chinese publishers. Foreign developers who don’t do this will have to negotiate with all the popular app stores on their own. For example, Blizzard’s games have been published by Netease for a long time now.
A major stumbling block for foreign publishers can be localizing their game into Chinese. There are several factors that need to be taken into consideration during the localization process.
- Chinese etiquette and cultural norms Remember that things that are acceptable in the West can sometimes be offensive in China. For example, Chinese people don’t usually shake hands, and they consider the number four to be unlucky because it sounds like the word for “death.”
- Conversational style Chinese people prefer more “personal” interactions. Conversation should be simple and easy to understand, without any needlessly elaborate constructions.
- Linguistic features It’s important to keep in mind that Chinese is a comparatively efficient language, so translations from English tend to be about half the length of the source text.
- Technical issues It’s also important to consider differences in regional formats for times and dates, units of measurement, regional dialects (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.), fonts, and issues related to the translation and transliteration of names.
- Internet and online payments Almost all the online services that are familiar to Western users have their own Chinese equivalents. So there’s no point in using Qiwi as a payment service in your mobile game when there are many Chinese alternatives on the market such as Alipay, WeChat Pay, and Union Pay. And there’s another important reason to use Chinese services: the Chinese internet loads foreign services very slowly, which will probably infuriate your audience.
That being said, localization into Chinese is a large topic that we’re planning to dedicate a separate article to.
What does the future hold for the video game market?
The international video game industry’s explosion in revenue over the course of the last decade is utterly unprecedented. And the Chinese video game market is continuing to grow at an exponential rate. Chinese players are expected to spend over USD $40 billion on games by 2027.
Game developers and publishers have been working more closely with the movie industry recently — revenue from titles based on movies and TV shows was $1.29 billion in 2016, which was about 11% of the total revenue from mobile games. The owners of various cinematic universes often hire studios to develop games based on them. These side projects get noticed and downloaded more often, and the films themselves get additional viewers as a result. Developers also stand to benefit from these collaborations — World of Warcraft saw a significant spike in its online audience after the Warcraft movie came out, and this was largely thanks to the film’s record-breaking ticket sales.
All these numbers tell us that the international video game industry is still growing at a furious pace in a wide variety of different forms, and China is a very important part of this process. It is currently home to the largest and most lucrative video game market in the world, and we’re all going to have to come to terms with its unique characteristics sooner of later.