Game Development Reference
that's the kind of gamer mentality that you're dealing with in China. These kinds of gamers give a whole new
meaning to the term 'whale,' used by gaming companies to describe high revenue customers.”
NOTE The Chinese perspective on virtual goods can probably be attributed to the country's hyper-con-
sumerist economy, where it's considered a sign of success to spend a lot of money in a very visible way,
flaunting wealth and spreading it around. Big spender, big ego, and big social status.
That's a fascinating cultural difference in itself, and it also leads to the first bit of wisdom Fong has to offer
Western game developers, when it comes to how they sell virtual goods in their games.
For example, via leaderboards, badges, medals, customized avatars, and other prominent displays of virtual goods that fellow gamers can see.
“Don't be shy about encouraging gamers to pay to gain a competitive advantage,” says Fong. Not only that,
design cool ways for players to show off to other players how much they spent in your game. “Chinese people
like showing off their achievements,” says Fong. He suggests a passport page that displays a player's in-game
awards on their social network profile pages.
That's just one reference point Western game developers need to consider when launching their games in
China. The following sections describe several others.
Free-to-Play Dominates China's App Store
In 2011, the country's overall gaming market was $6 billion, and for 2012 was on track to exceed $8.8 million.
Free-to-download iOS games are popular in the Western App Stores, but far more in China. The country's
gamers, as Fong tells it, are simply not used to the pay-for-download model. In 2011, for instance, only one
premium pay for download game, Infinity Blade, consistently sustained top grossing rankings in China. Instead,
Chinese players are accustomed to downloading a number of games before deciding on one or more that are
worth paying for in micro-transactions. Despite this reluctance to pay up front, Chinese gamers do pay to game.
Casual and Female Gamers Dominate iOS, But the
Hard-Core Market Is Growing
Indeed, Chinese developers will often clone popular Western games, although the versions from the West tend to be better in quality.
Within the first couple years of the iOS launch in China, most of the phone's purchasers were new to gaming,
skewing to young women and male white-collar workers in the 23-35 year old range. Consequently, casual and
puzzle titles like the Angry Birds and Talking Friends franchises are very popular on iOS in China, as are Plants
vs. Zombies and Fruit Ninja.
This casual market is huge and Fong adds, “Chinese people like high-quality eye candy,” noting that the
hidden-object game Mystery Manor was very popular in China at launch, largely due to the high quality of
All that said, the traditional gaming audience is growing on the iOS. It's now about 20 percent of the total
iOS market, but is growing faster than the casual segment. As in the West, the per-game spend for hard-core