Chinese mobile gaming is a hot space for developers to be in. After all, the Chinese government estimated the mobile gaming economy generated almost $2 billion last year (and even this figure may be underestimating the value by as much as $300 million). It’s no wonder why foreign mobile gaming firms also want a slice of the pie.
But which foreign mobile games are appealing to Chinese players?
A latest report released by Chinese Android app store Wandoujia — which monitors trends in China’s mobile market based on its downloads — revealed that Plants vs Zombies 2 is the top-ranked game with over four million downloads for the first half of this year. Following that is Temple Run 2 with more than 3.8 million downloads, and Subway Surfers Rome with over three million.
Wandoujia notes that the “secret sauce” to success for foreign games in China is to go local — Plants vs. Zombies 2 is published by a local studio, while Temple Run 2 and Subway Surfers Rome both have local publishers. According to Wandoujia, local publishers help take care of localization and promotion, and sometimes even come up with original content that can resonate with a Chinese audience.
The app store cited the example of a game, Ski Safari, that was promoted by local publisher Yodo1. Despite being launched in 2013, it still ranks sixth for most-downloaded foreign games in China, with nearly 1.7 million downloads.
“In addition to linguistic localization, Yodo1 promoted Ski Safari on local ad networks, set up local billing systems, and added new content catering to the Chinese market such as (for) Chinese New Year, Terracotta Warrior, and panda costumes for main character Sven,” Wandoujia noted.
In the meantime, messaging app Line is the top-ranked foreign app in China, raking up over 2.5 million downloads in the first half of 2014. This is despite the fierce competition posed by wildly popular domestic chat app WeChat (known as Weixin in the country). It was recently revealed that WeChat and Weixin have chalked up a combined 396 million monthly active users, of which a large number are believed to be from China.
Adobe Flash Player comes in second with over 1.2 million downloads in the first six months of 2014, while Amazon comes in third with more than one million. Wandoujia notes that many leading foreign apps in China come from larger companies that have set up local offices to gain more footing in the market.
“This helps them connect with their user base and guide the development of a non-game software product,” Wandoujia said.
Surprisingly, though Facebook is banned in China, it is ranked number nine among the foreign apps — chalking up over 200,000 downloads. This is most likely raked up by those with VPN access. A Wandoujia spokesperson tells us that on its Facebook app page, which records a total of 16.6 million installs, plenty of users are advising others how to use VPNs to get around the firewall to access it.