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Top 30 Chinese Developer 2012

Top 30 Chinese Developer 2012

Following three successful years of PocketGamer.biz's western-focused developer round up, we've turned our attention east.

So in association with Umeng and CocoaChina, welcome to the inaugural listing of the top Chinese mobile game developers.

Given the incredible vibrancy of this industry, both in terms of the Chinese market and its impact internationally, it was a difficult task, but one we - and our trusted contacts and advisors - approached with enthusiasm.

After all, given its size and the rate of smartphone adoption, China is quickly becoming one of the key mobile gaming markets.

Of course, it's one that embraces western brands such as Rovio's Angry Birds and Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja, but local developers are also finding their own rhythm and success as they innovate away from well-worn concepts such as games set in the Three Kingdoms period, and the country's strong tradition in PC MMORPGs.

It's a vibrancy that's well reflected in our top 30 breakdown, which includes some globally-known corporations who are aggressively approaching the international mobile gaming market, down to small start ups, who are looking to push the conventions of gameplay mechanics.

In that respect, then, the Chinese mobile games market is much the same as the industry in many other countries; it's full of opportunity and changing all the time.

And these are the developers who are in the vanguard of that success.

 

Click here to view the list »
  • 30 Red Infinity

    Red Infinity logo

    Formed in 2010, Red Infinity is a prolific publisher of games and entertainment apps on iOS and Android in China and the west. For example, it's published over a dozen titles in its 'Talking' series (clearly inspired by Outfit7's Talking animals series), such as Talking DoDo Bird and Taking Dinosaur.

    Another key franchise are its bear-themed games. Indeed, on iOS it publishes them under the iBear Story brand, with other releases - such as its baby-themed games like Baby Cafe and Baby Aquarium - falling under its Best Retina label. And if that wasn't enough Red Infinity also develops poker


  • 29 Happylatte

    Happylatte logo

    Mixing the best of western development experience with Chinese staff, the Beijing-based HappyLatte burst onto the charts with High Noon. Released in 2010, the free-to-play wild west gunslinger game has racked up over 11 million iPhone downloads, as well as sustaining over six months in the US top 10 top grossing charts. The studio's other franchise is rather different in theme, if also aimed at the casual audience. The two Pee Monkey games are puzzlers using water-based physics.

    Yet HappyLatte hasn't released any new games since late 2010. Still its current recruitment drive suggests that it will be ramping up activity, making it one to look out for in 2013.


  • 28 Elex Technology Co. Ltd

    Elex Technology Co. Ltd logo

    Set up in 2008 and focused on social network games, Elex has since developed into a successful browser game publisher with 30 million users. Backed by with investment from Tencent, it launched its own platform (337.com) and has expanded into overseas markets such as Brazil, Turkey, Thailand, Europe and Latin America.

    It's only recently started to release mobile games, with a version of city-building PVP MMOG Empire Conquest released for iOS in late 2011 in the west. Its other iOS games are in the popular Chinese fishing genre. Elex is also working with Tencent over a game cloud platform, Xing Cloud.


  • 27 iFree Studio Ltd.

    iFree Studio Ltd. logo

    3One of the Chinese developers to partner with GREE at the start of 2012, iFree is a Hong Kong-based studio set up by experienced staff from the US PC MMOG space. Hence, it's no surprise that its signature game - Emross War - is a hardcore cross-platform online RPG for iOS and Android with plenty of player vs player activity.

    The company has also published plenty of other similar titles such as the sci-fi themed Space Dominions and Avalon Wars, Vampire Wars, and Chinese favourites Tap Three Kingdoms and Three Heroes, targeting both a Chinese and a global audience.


  • 26 Camel Games

    Camel Games logo

    With a corporate HQ in the US and its development team in China, Camel Games is an Android-focused developer that was set up by staff from Microsoft, Baidu and Gameloft, amongst others.

    It's released around a dozen Android games - many in typical arcade genres such as trajectory physics, line drawing, doodle jumping, and skee-ball. This all changed, however, with the release of Little Empire. This free-to-play location-based game is Camel's signature hit; mixing up 3D graphics with castle-building and PVP gameplay. In October 2012, it was finally released for iOS devices too.


  • 25 Calvi Games

    Calvi Games logo

    Set up in 2007, the 200-strong CalviGames came to notice in the west in late 2011 with the announcement of the graphically-impressive Infinity of God, an Unreal Engine 3-powered title inspired by Sony's God of War. Released in China in April at a surprising $40 price point (since reduced to $8), Chillingo has signed up rights to publish in the west.

    CalviGames had previously released a number of other games, including humorous iOS music game Rhythm Master. It also completed its first multi-million funding round in May 2012; something it hopes will enable it to become an "Asian Blizzard".


  • 24 Lakoo

    Lakoo logo

    Founded in 1999, Hong Kong-headquartered developer Lakoo has been running its mobile MMORPG Empire Online since 2005. Downloaded over 12 million times in China, the turn-based game was released internationally for iOS in 2011.

    Since then, the company - which also has offices in mainland China and the US - has experimented with different genres: as well as RPGs such as Dawn of Magic and DemonSouls, it's released strategy games for the core audience like Revolution 2050. It shows its lighter side with casual titles such as Banker and AlexPanda.


  • 23 Boyaa Interactive

    Boyaa Interactive logo

    Part of global public relations and communications firm outfit Burson-Marsteller, Boyaa Interactive is a 450-strong specialist in web-based games and mobile apps based on traditional Chinese card and board games.

    Starting out in 2005 with its Texas Hold'em web games, it released its first iOS game five years later. Title such as Boyaa Texas Poker remain popular, and it's branched out with dice, Mahjong and billiards games, as well as the traditional card game Dou Di Zhu (or Fight the Landlord). These are available on iOS and Android, with several localised into English for the international market.


  • 22 One Click Games

    One Click Games logo

    Shanghai-based developer One Click Games isn't one of the biggest name in Chinese development - yet - but it's certainly building its reputation quickly. Most recently, hybrid free-to-play RPG match-3 game Angel Salvation gained some strong reviews in the US, if not widespread chart success.

    Its other key game is Reversal of the Three Kingdoms, which again combines puzzle matching gameplay with tactical elements. It was a top grossing iPhone game in China, and has remained in the top 10 since its July release. A Korean language version also entered the top 10 top grossing charts in that country during September.


  • 21 NetDragon Websoft

    NetDragon Websoft logo

    Floated on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2008, NetDragon Websoft (HKG:0777) is one of China's most experience online publishers. Offering a range of online services under its 91 brand, it's also worked with western companies such as EA and Disney to launch their online games in China.

    It's come to smartphone gaming fairly recently, though, generating its first revenue in late 2010. Offering a number of content distribution channels, it taking some of its larger PVP MMORPGs to mobile devices, with Conquer Online's iPad release in late 2011 a notable title. It also has a joint venture with DeNA to localise its games for China.


  • 20 PearlinPalm

    PearlinPalm logo

    Founded in 2003, Beijing-based PearlinPalm is a mobile and web gaming publisher with strong links to Chinese operators, OEMs and distributors.

    It backs this up with its own online app store. Its most successful game is mobile/web MMORPG Pearl Heroes, which has 5 million subscribers across all major platforms; Symbian, Android, Windows Phone 7 and iOS.

    Its other key game is the online RPG Wulin QL, which has been live for over five years, while its most recent release is mobile online turn-based strategy games Pearl Journey To The West, a version of the classic Chinese story Journey to the West.


  • 19 WiYun

    WiYun logo

    Founded by executives from China Mobile, Microsoft and IBM, Wiyun isn't strictly a developer, but it is one of the most important games ecosystem companies in China.

    As a one-stop-shop provider of tools and publisher services, Wiyun has links with over 14,000 developers who use its iOS and Android WiEngine for faster 2D game making. The company also offers the WiGame social gaming platform, which has around 30 million users, and the WiAd advertising service.

    A separate element of its monetisation options is the WiOffer promotion wall, which incentivise downloads with virtual currency.


  • 18 Tencent

    Tencent logo

    Notably for its QQ social platform, Tencent (HKG:0700) is also a force in the online PC gaming space and investing heavily in mobile. One element is its partnership with GREE so both companies' networks share standards, and it's integrated the GameSalad development tool.

    With GREE and KDDI, it runs the $100 million A-Fund for Android apps, games and services, and it bought a stake in Epic Games.

    Still, it will be interesting to see how Tencent balances its platform business - its Mobile QQ Game Hall has over 200 million users - with its internal mobile games teams in the longterm. One example is its in-development iOS PVP game Realm of Swords, which is designed for western markets.


  • 17 RenRen Games

    RenRen Games logo

    Renren is one of China's leading social networks. Its services include its eponymous real name network, video sharing site, and gaming. Floated on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:RENN) in 2011, the company's recent focus has switched to mobile services.

    Around 40 percent of its 150 million users access their Renren accounts via mobile devices.

    The company also develops its own mobile and online games. It's released over 30 titles in China and the west, with recent examples including Panda & Zombies and Angry King Kong. It's now looking to heavily expand this activity, additionally signing a deal with DeNA to integrate its Mobage network into the Renren Android app.


  • 16 AstepGame

    AstepGame logo

    Founded by ex-Microsoft Games employees in 2010, Beijing-based Astepgames covers online, Flash and mobile games.

    Its big hit to-date has been an iOS tower defence game based on the Three Kingdom's theme. Released in February 2011, Three Kingdoms TD - Legend of Shu has only recently dropped out of the Chinese top grossing top 100. At one point, the series - three games have been released - was generating over $200,000 per month in sales.

    A version has since been released on iOS via Tencent, and it's coming to Android too. Meanwhile, the game has been successful outside of China, notably in Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.


  • 15 Tap4Fun

    Tap4Fun logo

    Set up in 2011, Tap4Fun is a 40-strong developer based in Chengdu. It gained prominence early in 2012, when it was reported as the top grossing Chinese developer on the Apple App Store during April, with income of $1.1 million.

    This success has been built on the back of its free-to-play online kingdom-building and PVP Empire series. King's Empire is the most recent (released in February 2012) game, while Island Empire was released in July 2011.

    Galaxy Empire (November 2010) is the company's most successful title, gaining the top grossing #1 spot in 16 countries, including the US, China, Germany, Italy and Indonesia. An Android version has also been released through Korea publisher Gamevil.


  • 14 Happy Elements

    Happy Elements logo

    Kicking off in 2009 with strong success on Facebook, Beijing-based Happy Elements has since branched out releasing games across many web-based social platforms (Tencent, Renren, Mixi, Daum, Orkut etc) and mobile.

    The 300-strong publisher, which has an office in Japan, raised $30 million in October 2011 to fund its global expansion and mobile activities. It also acquired Chinese developers Dragon&Wind and Happy Wind to boost capabilities.

    Its most popular social games are My Fishbowl, My Kingdom and Happy Fish. The latter two have been released on iOS, alongside match puzzler Legend Four. It released Pocket Bar in Japan on GREE's platform as well.


  • 13 OurPalm

    OurPalm logo

    Founded in 2004 and focused on mobile and web games since 2005, OurPalm marked its rise by floating on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in May 2012 (SHE:300315). In its early days, this growth was due to working closely with operators such as China Mobile and OEMs such as Nokia and Samsung. It also had a partnership deal with EA Mobile.

    Now targetting iOS and Android, as well as still supporting mobile web, the 400-strong company's releases range across genres, including a Genghis Khan-themed MMORPG, soccer management, shooter Mission Sirius, as well as more traditional titles such as Dragon Town and Stone Age.


  • 12 Taomee Entertainment Network

    Taomee Entertainment Network logo

    Children's entertainment outfit Taomee is well known in Asia for its Mole's World and Seer games and virtual worlds, not to mention books, magazines and TV animations. It's getting more involved in free-to-play mobile games and applications too, with over 10 million downloads to-date.

    The free-to-play social village-building Mole's World iOS game was a top 10 grossing apps in the Chinese and Hong Kong App Stores, while there have been various spin off games including the Mole Kart series.

    Mainly focused on Asian markets, the company has also released some games in the west, including one Seer game, Mole's World and Mole Kart, plus puzzlers Call of Acorn and Skating Season. It's yet to release anything itself on Android, though.


  • 11 Droidhen

    Droidhen logo

    Backed by Sequoia Capital in China, Droidhen is a developer that's primarily focused on free-to-play games on Android.

    With over 150 million downloads to-date, it mixes up its own games with publishing for other companies. For example, it's released Haypi's Haypi Kingdom OL and Taomee's Mole Kart on Android.

    Its key games, however, are physics puzzlers Shoot the Apple and Take Me Home, and the Defender and Lair Defense series of tower defence games. Many of these have since been released on iOS under the company name Droidhang, but without the success experienced on Google Play.


  • 10 RedAtoms

    RedAtoms logo

    As the Chinese smartphone market has developed - especially on iOS - so developer RedAtoms has looked to make the most of emerging local opportunities. Set up by a group of international entrepreneurs from the US, Japan and China (they'd previously worked in Silicon Valley), its free-to-play games cover a range of genres.

    These include the ever competitive Three Kingdoms RPG space - with card-battler Three Kingdoms Now - to Beat Master, a music rhythm game based on Chinese pop music, which is updated on a bi-weekly basis. RedAtoms' first release on Android was puzzler Subway Mania, while one of its early games, city builder City of Wonder, spans both Facebook and iOS.

    RedAtoms isn't only active in China, however. It also releases its titles in Japan, making the most of the social mobile networks from GREE, DeNA and Mixi, and Korea, via the SK Telecom's Cyworld network.


  • 9 Rekoo

    Rekoo logo

    The largest social gaming publisher in China, the majority of Rekoo's business occurs on web platforms such as Tencent, Renren, Kaixin001 and Facebook. It's also very active on Japanese mobile platforms including Mixi and Mobage.

    Indeed, the company states that Japan, followed by the US, are its main target markets because of their high levels of monetisation.

    Its philosophy is now to deliver games that can be accessed from multiple devices, ranging from feature phones to smartphones and PCs. Its status within China was underlined by its rumoured $20 million acquisition of rival HappySNS, giving it a total audience of around 50 million monthly active users.

    Rekoo's most famous franchise is its Sunshine brand, with games including Sunshine Ranch and Sunshine Town. More recently, it's been released new games on Tencent Qzone platform in China, including Dream Seabed and Fantasy City, while Let's Build a Train Town has proved popular on Mixi.


  • 8 Hoolai Games

    Hoolai Games logo

    Releasing games across iOS, web, and social networks such as Tencent's Qzone, Beijing-based publisher Hoolai is currently best known outside China for recent release Rise of Olympia. The iOS city-building PVP strategy game was distributed via the GREE Platform in Japan, and globally in an English language version, as well as in Chinese.

    Domestically, the company is much better known for Hoolai Three Kingdoms. The free-to-play game has been downloaded multiple millions of time, both via iPhone and iPad versions, and was the top grossing game on the Chinese App Store during 2011.

    Indeed, it's becoming so popular in China that it's one of the most hacked games, with the company claiming it was losing up to $300,000 a month in scammed revenue; a situation it appealed to Apple to help it clamp down on.

    Hoolai, which has offices in the US, Korea and Hong Kong, was recently listed in Red Herring's list of the Top 100 Asia technology companies.


  • 7 KongZhong

    KongZhong logo

    One of the key Chinese online gaming companies - it runs Worlds of Tanks in the country for example - KongZhong got into the mobile business in 2005 following the acquisition of Tianjin Mammoth.

    It further developed its capabilities in early 2012, buying highly regarded 100-strong developer Noumena for $15 million. It's behind free-to-play games such as 3D Pool Master and Tank Fury HD 3D, as well as the JavaScript-based Handymo, a cross-platform smartphone mobile game engine, which handles iOS, Android and HTML5.

    As for KongZhong's games, it often works around franchises, releasing different experiences based around the same core atmosphere. Examples include the Zombie Crisis 3D, Pocket Dinosaur, and Ninja Chicken franchises.

    The company's complete smartphone library is now well over 150 games. Recent titles planned for release in China and globally, include Kingdom Story, Tiny War, NecroDefense and Warrior vs. Monster, which is the latest game in its Battleland series.

    During its most recent financial quarter, KongZhong mobile games business generated revenue of $6.3 million, which was 12 percent of the group's quarterly sales. The mobile division's gross profit was $2.8 million.


  • 6 WiSTONE Wireless Entertainment

    WiSTONE Wireless Entertainment logo

    One of the many Chinese mobile publishers with an online PC background, Wistone is the second company to be set up by entrepreneur Richard Wu.

    He sold his first game studio to Chinese online giant Shanda in 2004, setting up Wistone two years later. The 100-strong studio recently raised its B funding round from IDG Capital. It claims annual revenues of 200 million RMB (around $30 million) across all operations.

    Wistone's games are available across multiple platforms ranging from PC to smartphone and feature phones. Most popular is its War 2 Victory, a free-to-play strategy MMOG, which was originally released for iOS in 2011. It currently has 4 million monthly players, mainly in China, and generates around $10 million annually. And now a new version has been released for western markets on iOS and Android via the GREE Platform.

    Wistone's other smartphone games include iOS MMORPG Call of Champions, and it's preparing to release a Three Kingdoms mobile MMOG too.


  • 5 China Wireless Arts

    China Wireless Arts logo

    Founded in 2003, the 210-strong China Wireless Arts is one of China's most experienced and largest mobile publishers. It consists of six development studios and has a subsidiary office in Taiwan.

    Historically, it created a strong reputation for its Java games, winning awards for Blade Soul in 2007, Mengjiang II in 2008 and Mengjiang III in 2009. It's only recently started actively developing iOS and Android games for the global market, however; now quickly scaling up its activity, releasing seven titles to-date, and planning a further eight for 2013.

    China Wireless Arts has been particularly busy in recent months releasing the free-to-play Castlevania-esque Avenger - which has been downloaded over 2 million times on iOS - in June.

    This was followed up in September with topdown shooter Armed Beasts and sidescrolling melee title Age of Myth. Both are 99c games backed with IAP. In terms of Android, it's released additional action-oriented games including the sidescrolling shooter Assaulter and first-person shooter Alert Terrorist.


  • 4 Haypi Co. Ltd

    Haypi Co. Ltd logo

    Taking the strategy of some Chinese developers who were early into mobile gaming, Haypi's success has occurred as it's looked outside of its domestic market to the more lucrative US and European territories.

    Indeed, an international focus has always been the company's policy, ever since it started developing PC games back in 2000. And building on that foundation, its best-known smartphone games have been characterised by free-to-play MMORPG gameplay.

    2010's Haypi Kingdom is the company's most popular title; being released on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7. The resource-led kingdom-building strategy game was one of the first in the midcore social genre, also including deep community and alliance features. It's been joined more recently by Haypi Dragon (iOS/Android), which brings physics-based arcade action into play, albeit still with plenty of community and player versus player elements.

    And taking a completely difference approach is Haypi ThunderBall (iOS/Android), which is a variation on the match-3 genre, and more conventional in being a paid rather than a free-to-play release.


  • 3 Chukong Technologies Inc. Co., Ltd.

    Chukong Technologies Inc. Co., Ltd. logo

    Chukong and PunchBox are part of the Chukong Technologies group. As well as development resources, this consists of CocoaChina, China's top iOS developers community, which offers the Cocos2d-x cross platform technology.

    The company is backed by VCs such as Steamboat Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Northern Light Venture Capital, who funded a $14 million Series B round in August 2011.

    PunchBox is the company's publishing and advertising arm, working with external studios to release and market their games both in China and globally, while Chukong is the internal development studio.

    Its most successful game is Fishing Joy, which has been downloaded over 120 million times since its iOS release in 2011. Most of the 5.5 million daily active players of the free-to-play arcade fish catching game are in China, but the game has also been released globally and more recently on Android too.

    Other games in Chukong's portfolio include iOS war strategy title Battle of the Kingdom, wizard school social game Camp Magic, and gesture arcade battler Drawing War.


  • 2 Triniti Interactive

    Triniti Interactive logo

    One of the most intriguing Chinese mobile developers, and one that's notable for its reluctance to talk to journalists, Triniti Interactive is completely focused on western markets.

    And with good measure. Since 2009, the 70-strong developer has provided a constant flow of games, releasing almost 100 iOS titles. Many of them have generic names, such as iSniper, Operation iWolf and iKungFu Master and offer similarly generic gameplay, but nevertheless some of Triniti's games have headed to the top of the US charts.

    Most notable is its Gamebox concept, which collects dozens of its games into a single paid download, and has accumulated several million sales. That success was the key to its $40 million acquisition in late 2010 by the Brilliant Communication group.

    More recently, Triniti has branched out from its paid and iOS heartland, releasing free-to-play titles such as TinyLegends and Call of Mini: Zombies. The latter has also been released on Android, ranking up over one million downloads. That said, its most recent release is the 99c run-and-gun WarCorp, which includes an in-app purchase system.


  • 1 Digital Cloud

    Digital Cloud logo

    Chengdu-based Digital Cloud is primarily focused on the Chinese iOS market, and it's been mighty successful in that business.

    Released in July, Digital Cloud's turn-based free-to-play MMORPG DragonForce has been sitting pretty at the top of the Chinese top grossing iPhone and iPad ever since. Indeed, such is the success of the game, which mixes up Dungeon & Dragons influences with World of Warcraft, that the second most popular IAP package is the most expensive $99/648 RMB option.

    Digital Cloud isn't a one-trick pony, however. Its has three Three Kingdoms-themed strategy games, which have spent many weeks towards the top of the Chinese top grossing charts during 2012. Versions have been released in Japan and the US, although to-date without similar success.


editor-at-large

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at PG.biz which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.

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