Insider secrets to breaking into the Chinese game market

In the last decade, the gaming market in China has experienced massive acceleration. According to market intelligence firm IDC, Chinese game revenue ballooned from 18.5 billion RMB in 2008 to 214.4 billion RMB in 2018.

Growth in the mobile gaming market is also booming. In fact, mobile gaming revenue hit 133.9 billion RMB in 2018, comprising 62.5% of total gaming market. This rise can be attributed to increased internet access via phone data and wifi, especially important in rural China where most people rely on smartphones.

In 2018, China comprised 23.6% of the global gaming market, with 626 million players in China — almost half of the Chinese population. As overseas game creators and publishers continue investing in the Chinese market, this growth presents huge opportunities for game localization and testing.

So how do you break into this lucrative market? Here are some tips on entering the China gaming market and things that can help you establish your footprint.

A brief history of the Chinese game market

Over the past three decades, I’ve witnessed three waves of evolution in the Chinese market.

The first wave came in 1995, when the first batch of IT companies entered the Chinese market. Large technology providers from the US approached leading Chinese software companies for help localizing products into Simplified Chinese. However, those Chinese software companies were focused on their own products, not performing localization services for other technology providers — which is how our company earned its first localization project.

The second wave came around 2005. China had become part of the World Trade Organization and relations between China and the US were good. Drawn by cheap labor costs and a huge domestic market, US companies rushed to China, setting up their resource and development centers and growing their market share.

The third wave followed the financial crisis in 2008. Faced with shrinking budgets, US-based companies increased their outsourcing. Meanwhile, in domestic China, the eCommerce and gaming industries were booming.

Navigating Chinese laws, regulations and licensing requirements 

The laws, regulations and licensing requirements in China are complex and hard to navigate. That’s why it can be crucial to partner with an agency that has experience and a footprint in China.

Find a partner deeply familiar with the two authorities that regulate game publishing: the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China, and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China. These authorities exist to guide the development of the Chinese gaming industry and to encourage game creators to produce quality content.

Additionally, to sell a game in China, businesses must have multiple licenses, including a business license, a network culture business license, an internet publishing license, a game version number and a game operating backup. Make sure you work with someone who can help you secure the appropriate licensing.

Finally, an agency can help you to prequalify games early on and determine if any reengineering or customization is required to address players’ needs in China.

Take a best-practice approach to compliance testing

Establishing best practices to guide compliance testing is key to ensuring projects are released on schedule. Because games released in China need to follow specific Chinese regulations, here are the six core principles that you should use to guide game compliance testing in China — and that you can plan in advance for.

• The game must comply with the constitution.

• Content must not promote cults and superstition.

• The game must not endanger national unity and territorial integrity.

• The game must not disrupt and destabilize society.

• It must not divulge state secrets and endanger national security.

• The game must not advocate obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence or abetting crime.

You should apply these principles to four key areas:

1. Secure personal information: Ensure gamer information and data is properly protected.

2. Restrict virtual currency: Ensure the game limits the exchange of online game products and services and regulates usage of virtual currency.

3. Ensure appropriate content: Check for forbidden or sensitive words and validate that there are methods in place to filter out political content, pornography, vulgarity and advertising.

4. Ensure child safety: Ensure the game protects child safety by limiting playing time, restricting access to inappropriate games and functions, and restricting virtual currency trading.

Set yourself apart through best practices and unique offerings

In China, as in other parts of the world, it’s critical to find your niche and differentiate yourself. Leverage the things you’re good at. Look at the market and see how you can stand out from competitors. Find out what customers need and meet that need better, faster and cheaper.

We’ve found a number of ways to expand presence in the China gaming market. For example, you can hire native speakers for a Beijing delivery center who perform linguistic review testing alongside in-house test engineers. Additionally, you could offer a cost-efficient and agile engagement model. If your game testing process shares commonalities with standard software application testing, you can pass on efficiencies to customers. This best practice approach also ensures that you align with relevant laws, measurements and regulations.

Additionally, since WeChat is so widespread, WeChat integration is also another valuable offering that can help clients acquire game players in China. Clients ask us to develop WeChat mini-programs to help with marketing and making their games accessible to players. This is especially helpful since mobile payment is very convenient in China, even in the rural areas, which means that players can easily access your game.

The China game market offers tremendous potential, especially if you are able to set yourself apart through agile, cost-effective services and find the right partner to help you navigate laws, licensing and regulations in China.