Category: Chinese Gaming

Challenges to entering the mobile gaming market abroad

Breaking into Asian mobile games markets is no cakewalk. While some games, like Clash of Clans, enjoy multi-year runs of wild popularity, they are the exception rather than the rule. Most mobile games release quickly, gain popularity fast, and fade away to make room for the next game just as quickly. Time is of the essence, but there’s good news: Since mobile games usually rely on action-oriented game play with simpler graphics, less text and character restrictions, and little or no voiceover work, they don’t take very long to localize!

That’s a good thing, because to stay on top of the market, you have to come in already localized with a system in place for simultaneous delivery (which a full-service localization company can facilitate). You’ll also need a local partner for distribution and/or monetization.

From there, you’ll need to master the finer points of what makes each country’s mobile players tick – or tap, as the case may be.

A few top-tips on what makes who tick (or tap) in Asia


Japanese players expect in-game social interaction, like combat between guilds.

South Korea

South Korean gamers have come to expect frequent game updates and special in-game events.


China has more than 15 app stores – which is a significant change from just dealing with two (Apple and Google’s) – as well as networks selling games, and middlemen at telecom companies and hardware manufacturers.

In general, Asian gamers are better conditioned for more complicated games than Western audiences – your game might be too simple for them. There’s a reason Angry Birds took off in the U.S. and not so much in Japan!

Find out more by downloading our eBook…

Mobile Gaming on the Move – Challenges of Casual Gaming Localization

China, Japan and South Korea comprise the world’s largest mobile gaming market with $12.2 billion in total revenue as of 2014.

If you’re counting, that’s 48 percent of the total global revenue for mobile games from just those three countries, and numbers of users are rising quickly.


Here are a few more vital statistics on the Asian mobile gaming front:

  • Android phones are far more popular than iPhones. In China, for instance, Android devices have a 64.2 percent market share, which is more than twice that of all iOS devices.


  • Thailand loves their Samsung and Apple phones nearly equally, with Nokia as a close third. However, inexpensive local brands are common too.


  • Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam prefer Nokia, but Malaysia and the Philippines sit solidly on the Samsung fan wagon.


  • Japan’s market for both iPhone and Android games is the largest in the world, with a value 1.33 times the size of the U.S. market (as of October 2014)


Challenges of Mobile Gaming


Find out more by downloading our eBook on The Strategy Guide to Winning in Asia with Games Localization

What will the lifting of China’s games console ban mean for localization?

After enacting temporary changes at the beginning of 2014, China has at last reversed its ban on the import and sale of foreign videogame consoles. Originally enacted in 2000, the ban prevented the Chinese populace from playing console games despite the fact that many of them were manufactured in the country.


Now, all consoles created in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone will be able to be sold throughout China. While some Chinese people have been able to use these consoles thanks to a black market that has developed over the last 15 years, for many this will be their first ever taste of console gaming.

However, this presents a new challenge for the industry as a whole. Previously, the Chinese market only needed to be considered when producing PC games, but now all games manufacturers will need to prepare their products for this nation. With an estimated value of over $20 billion in 2015, it would be foolish to ignore the Chinese gaming sector.

This means console game manufacturers will need to adapt their localization strategies. As much as China is an exciting new market with a lot of potential, it also comes with a lot of restriction and some significant challenges. Here are a few of the ways localization will change following the lifting of the console ban:

New platforms

While China’s growing middle class is enthusiastic about gaming, it is worth remembering that for many Chinese people a console simply costs too much. Even if they can afford the original console, the high price of games might put them off even more. As a result, there has been a race to create a new, budget console for this market.

For example, China’s version of Kickstarter, currently employs a console called OUYE. Its design has received a lot of negative attention from critics, as its body is extremely similar to Playstation 4’s and its controller looks identical to XBox One’s. However, it may succeed simply because the console with one controller around $70.

These new budget consoles could prove problematic if they grow in popularity. Games manufacturers may have to adapt their products in order to have them work properly on these new systems, which could add a new wrinkle to their localization strategies. However, only time will tell.


The second – and perhaps the largest – problem that games designers face when localising in China is that of government censorship. China is well-known for harshly restricting its arts in order to convey – or ban – certain messages, and the games industry is no different in this regard.

According to the terms of the new regulations governing foreign games, certain content is prohibited from being presented. This includes, among others, anything that promotes “obscenity, gambling, violence and drug-related criminal activities, or abetting a crime”. However, China’s government is also prepared to ban games that it considers to undermine national sentiment or unity, or violate public morality or cultural traditions.

The game ‘Battlefield 4’ is a high-profile example of one that was banned in China, as it was viewed by some as being a threat to the nation’s security. As such, game manufacturers will have to be careful regarding the content of their games, and may have to cut certain sections in order to sell them in China.


Another concern to bear in mind is geography. If a game contains a map, it stands a good chance of being banned in China if said map shows Tibet, Hong Kong or Taiwan to be a separate nation, even if it would be historically accurate to depict them in this way.

This has already happened to Hearts of Iron II, a strategy game set in World War II, and Football Manager 2005. The former was due to its map depicting the above countries as separate entities, while the latter was because these nations had their own football teams. In the opinion of the government, this detracts from the national unity of China.

Cultural changes

Finally, there are several cultural changes that must be taken into account in order to implement a successful localization policy. These are not 100 per cent necessary, however they will make a game more appealing to Chinese audiences and will prevent cultural misunderstandings.

One example is colors. In China, white is associated with death and mourning, as it is the color worn at funerals. Red, on the other hand, is not associated with anger and violence as it is in other cultures. Instead, it represents good luck and happiness. These are important things to bear in mind when marketing games, in order to evoke the right emotions.

There is also the matter of getting a good translator for any dialogue in a game. The differences between Mandarin and Cantonese must be remembered, as well as period-specific dialects if the game is set in the past. Remembering these cultural differences is key to making sure a product is well-received in China.