Asian mobile game market is the most diverse region with the big amount of booming and already matured markets.
According to the report, Asia represents the largest mobile games market in the world, producing $24.8 billion in revenue in 2016, while North America and Europe generated $6.9 billion and $5.7 billion respectively. It’s hard to avoid such a big piece of a cake with 1.2 billion mobile gamers when planning the worldwide release. So the vast majority of western game publishers are craving for the success there, but yet only a big sharks of the game industry can expect for the abundant crop. And even such game giants as Machine Zone and King are out of the Top 10 Grossing games in China, Japan, and South Korea. But what makes these markets looks so different and is there are changes we will see in the nearest future?
Mobile is getting the most in Asia
The interesting data was provided regarding revenue shares of Asian and non-Asian companies.
Asian companies generated $11.4bn in gaming revenue outside of Asia, while Non-Asian companies generated just $5.3bn in gaming revenues in 2016 in Asia. Despite the fact that Asian companies were getting more than twice more revenues, than their Non-Asian colleagues, only 17% of their revenues are mobile-only. And 64% of the revenue goes to Asian console makers, which is not surprising considering the market share between PC/Console and Mobile inside and outside of Asia.
As we can see, Western countries still spending the most on PC/Console, while Asia getting more and more into mobile. A lot of users in Asia not mobile-first, but mobile-only users, consuming a huge amount of content via smartphones.
So it looks like Asian market should be more appealing to the Western developer than any other. But, at the same time, the Asian market is the most diverse market, requiring the understanding of every part of it.
Grossing = Local?
Among all Asian markets, China and Japan are the most closed markets for foreign developers and publishers.
As of the beginning of September 2017, looking on the Top 50 Grossing games in Chinese iOS Store, we can see only 2 non-Chinese games in the list: strategy Lords Mobile by IGG.com and card game Hearthstone by Blizzard Entertainment.
In Japanese iOS Store among Top 50 Grossing games, there are only 4 non-Japanese titles, 3 of which are also from Asian developers. (Lineage 2 Revolution by Korean Netmarble Games, Summoners Wars by Korean Com2us and Clash of Kings by Chinese Elex Wireless).
Korean iOS Store in comparison to China and Japan is offering more space for foreign developers: there are 14 mobile titles from around the world, but Asian-based companies still taking the lead.
Taiwan, Hong Kong and, especially, Singapore are remaining as more “open to West” markets, so the presence of western publishers in top charts is more stable.
Opportunities and challenges
Despite these challenges, Asia still offers many opportunities for western mobile game developers.
Here’s a detailed look at these five markets:
- It’s the biggest mobile games market.There are already half a billion smartphones in the country.
- Mobile games revenues are constantly growing and overcoming expectations. In Q2 2016 Newzoo was predicting $11,9Bn of revenues for Chinese mobile games sector, but in Q2 2017 the revenue is about to reach the mark of $14,6Bn.
- While “casual games” and “free-to-play” are almost synonymous in the U.S. these days, Chinese players expect to have to pay to play (and win), so casual games are much more heavily monetized there.
- Foreign developers are mandated to engage a local publishing partner in order to launch in China. But, of course, in most cases such cooperation will be mutually beneficial: as an example, the last year partnership between Tencent and Supercell.
- Stringent rules and guidelines for releasing games: starting from July 2016, all games have to be pre-approved by the government 20 days before release if they want to be available in the country.
- About two-thirds of the Android market is fragmented with over 400 app stores to this day.
- According to Sensor Tower, 75% of the 250 most downloaded mobile games in China in 2016 were developed locally. In comparison, only 42% of the top 250 downloaded games in the US were developed locally. Tencent and Netease alone control roughly 50% of the Chinese market and dominate the iOS grossing chart in 2017.
- There is a huge monetization potential per user in the Japanese market. When looking at all app categories, whether free or not, the average revenue per download is around 6$.
- RPGs and puzzle games remain popular in Japan, with monetization, which focused on collecting inside of the game.
- About 50% of mobile gamers consist of female players. There are many “girlish” mobile games in the Top 100 of the Japanese market and among them idol raising simulations especially popular in recent years among female gamers.
- The growth of the market is the lowest among all top countries with the strong dominance of local content, which leaves a small space for any foreign newcomers.
- Marketing costs are very high. At the moment, the average CPI in Japan is equal to $3.48, being one of the highest in the world.
- To this day, the success of Western mobile content in Japan has been minimal.
- Smartphone penetration is close to 80% with an excellent mobile network.
- The mobile market is estimated at $2B, being the 4th in the world.
- MMORPG has got the one of the highest download statistics and a great ARPU that roughly stands at $5.27 as opposed to other app categories.
- The local messaging platform (Kakao) remains a powerful way to reach players, but it’s getting saturated with content. Many of the top grossing games in the South Korean market are connected to the local messaging platform Kakao.The challenge for Western developers is that building a strong relationship with Kakao can be difficult from abroad, as just integrating into the platform is not enough: you must also work to get featuring and visibility once you’re integrated.
- Significant marketing budgets are needed to stand out. Clash of Clans is estimated to have spent nearly $20 million to enter the top grossing charts, but only after spending more than a year researching the market.
- It is quite difficult to grab a South Korean gamer’s attention, so retention rate for games remains really low there (approx. around 3-4% RR Day30 vs. 15-17% RR Day30 in Japan).
Hong Kong & Taiwan
- The great smartphone penetration rate.
- Western titles have much more positions in top charts, comparing to Japan and China.
- A lot of opportunities to advertise. Mobile internet advertising is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 17.5% to reach US$587mn in Hong Kong by 2019.
- Offline ads also perform on a high level.
- These markets remain relatively small.
- Local players consume in-game content much faster compared to Western players, so continuous updating of the game is a must in order to retain gamers.
- Pay-to-win is the primary model.
South-East Asia (Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines)
- While the size of this market, which includes Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, is still quite small, the growth rate is one of the highest in the world: +50,9% in 2016, according to Newzoo (the global average is 25,8%).
- Huge interest for more traditional mid-core genres.
- The strong appeal of Western games and less competition from the side of local companies.
- This market is made up of a patchwork of countries: many languages need to be supported.
- Local payment is necessary, but it’s very fragmented. For now, there are no global or offline payment options that really work.
- Local distribution channels make it hard to reach players.
How to capture local revenue in Asia
- Localize app store materials.
- Localize in-game text.
- Add local support and operations. Have somebody in-house who speaks Japanese (for example) and who can provide customer support, go online and build a community. This has been very successful for a lot of companies to take it to the next level.
- Add unique local in-game content. Take as an example the game Subway Surfers. It’s been extremely successful in China in part because they added this one character that resonates with the audience there.
- Engage in local marketing activities.
- Integrate local payment options.
- Look at distributing through local channels. For example, add your game to the Tencent Android platform in China. There’s a lot of complexities and government regulations to deal with, but Burns suggests working with local partners for assistance.
- Adjust your monetization strategy.
- Create a custom version of your game for local markets.
- And, finally, the reliable partner. Whether you’re bringing your game to Indonesia or Japan, a trustworthy partner will help you adjust your business model, handle local marketing, and make sure you have the right distribution relationships. In total, they can take the most of this list, in order to make your trip to Asian market as smooth as possible.
Entering new markets like your first skydiving – you better do it with the experienced partner. The cooperation with the right company is one of the main factors for pushing any mobile game in Asia. You can get more insights about Asian market and plan your next marketing campaign there by contacting our manager.