Game Development Reference
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Now that we've covered some of the trends likely to impact the iOS market in the West, let's move on to a
far larger trend that's already changing the world of iOS gaming: the rise of smartphone gaming in China.
Understanding the Future of iOS Games in
China: Overview and Advice from Yodo1's
Henry Fong
Chat with Henry Fong, founder and CEO of Yodo1 ( ), a Beijing-based company that has
helped many leading Western game studios launch their mobile games in China, and you'll realize just how
different the market for iOS gaming is in that country. Different in every sense. Courtesy of a conversation with
Fong, here's some data from Spring 2012:
By volume and free downloads, China is already the second largest market for iOS games in the world.
Assuming Apple maintains its market share in China, as we go into 2013, there could be about 80 million iOS owners in China alone.
• At the end of 2011, China had approximately 80 million smartphone owners, around 35-40 percent of
which were iOS. By the end of 2012, that market should increase to 180-200 million.
• As of February 2012, monthly activations of iOS devices in China exceeded those in the United States.
• Up until January 2012, China Unicom, the second largest mobile carrier, was the sole provider of iOS
devices to their subscribers. China Telecom, the third and smallest mobile carrier, announced that it
would carry iOS devices that month. China Mobile, the country's largest carrier by far, with more than
670 million subscribers, has yet to announce it will officially sell iOS devices, but already hosts more
than 15 million gray market iOS devices on its network.
• Casual gamers will typically buy 1-2 iOS games every two weeks, spending $1-2 in the process, whereas
hard-core gamers can spend hundreds of dollars a month for their gaming and spend on the same game
over a long time frame.
These are all data points pointing to the fact that the future of iOS gaming will soon be dominated by China.
However, as Fong explains, the Chinese gaming market has some key differences from the market in the West,
the most major one likely being this:
Chinese gamers are very different in nature to Western gamers ,” Fong explains. For MMO players in the
West, for example, “The last you thing you want to do is admit is you're spending a lot of money” to gain ad-
vantage by paying. Indeed, as you'll notice throughout this topic, designers consistently recommend making
it possible for players to advance in a game without paying and removing any impression that paying players
are “cheating.” This advice, while valid in the West, doesn't apply as you go East. “Chinese gamers are totally
different,” says Fong. “Many like to flaunt the fact that they're spending a lot of money… so that tips the game
monetization mechanics on its head.”
To dramatize that giant difference, Fong tells the story of a property developer in China who wanted his
MMO guild to win. He wanted it so deeply that he spent $800,000 on a single online game. But he did more
than that. “He went as far as to fly his entire guild to Shanghai to have guild meetings,” says Fong. “He paid for
his team members to level up and pay other people to keep his character leveled up.” It's difficult to compare
that extreme level of monetized passion to anything we've seen in the West. But, says Fong, “Though extreme,
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