Developing Apps for the Chinese Market: 5 Things to Consider

The mobile explosion is firmly underway in China. With smartphones more affordable than ever before, the number of active smartphone and tablet devices in the market hit 550 million this year. And, nearly every single one has a mobile game installed. (For those of you doing the math, that’s 1.6 Chinese gamers for every American one.)

What’s behind the huge reach of mobile gaming in China? PocketGamer sums it up: “This phenomenon is a result of the complex app distribution ecosystem and the sheer number of distribution networks in China – pre-installs on Android devices, different carrier apps, the ubiquity of WeChat, and nearly every single mobile website and mobile app with their own app or game recommendation channel. Unless you are a Chinese mobile phone owner and have had to misfortune to never have had played a single mobile game, chances are, your exposure to mobile games are a near-guarantee…”

This situation, while presenting a huge opportunity for mobile app developers, also happens to be the reason why it’s so hard for them to build an audience for their app. Understanding how to distribute your app is just the beginning. Then, you have to overcome technological barriers due to the Chinese firewall and create game scenarios that resonate with a new audience.

Vungle software engineer Rolando Abarca recently travelled to Beijing where he unveiled our new partnership with Chukong Technologies. In today’s post, we share a few of Abarca’s insights on the Chinese app market and how developers can adjust their apps and perspective to tap into it.

Increase your odds by releasing on Android

Android devices are more prevalent than iOS devices in China, says Abarca. There are seven Android devices to each three iOS smartphones. Chances are your game will have more exposure and a larger user base if you build for Android.

However, game customization doesn’t stop at the platform. There are thousands of different Android device models in the market, so keep compatibility in mind as you build.

Take localization beyond translation

Localization is much more than just translation, says Abarca. While it’s key that all text and voiceovers are translated correctly (i.e. don’t go cheap on translation), the game must also have scenarios that are compelling to a Chinese audience. For example, when one mobile car-racing game launched in China, they added a Beijing racecourse. This injected a new level of relevance and personalization as Chinese players could cruise by familiar landmarks.

Don’t underestimate the importance of local servers

The firewall issue is very real. Abarca recommends using servers hosted in China or close enough that you can provide quality service to the country. If you have the opportunity to travel to China, here’s a simple test: Try to play your game, and see if all the network communications work correctly.

Get creative with promotion

For publishers marketing games in China, building an audience of users may be the hardest part. First, do your research. The iOS App store is still the largest source of iOS downloads in China. But, on Android, it’s much more fragmented, with “mobile assistant apps” providing the biggest source of downloads. Take special note of the submission process as it may be different for each store, and consider a partnership with a mobile app monetization platform that can help you decipher the options.

Understand, too, the most popular social networks. You’ll want to create a presence on these sites and build a community in order to drive awareness of your game. Peer-to-peer playing is very popular in China, says Abarca. Social tie-ins that encourage people to play or compete against friends can also help dramatically increase your reach.

And, if you’re considering paid advertisements or when to make big promotion pushes, keep in mind that half of total installations are made from Friday to Sunday. Tuesday is the lowest day for installations.

Monetize through third-party integrations

Twenty-eight percent of the 550 million device owners play games for more than an hour per day. That’s a golden opportunity to build new streams of revenue into your mobile app.

Vungle’s recent integration into Cocos2d-x allows game developers to easily integrate Vungle mobile video ads and monetize users’ gametime. If you’re one of the thousands of developers who use Cocos2d-x, consider exploring a mobile video ad integration with Vungle as you look to engage users and boost revenue.

For more insights into Vungle’s partnership with Chukong Technologies, see our handy guide.