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5 marketing tips for launching Chinese games in Western markets

Increase your chances of a successful Western game launch
5 marketing tips for launching Chinese games in Western markets

James Kaye is Director of Big Games Machine.

A lot of emphasis is placed on PR and marketing help and advice for Western game developers launching in China, but what about the other way round?

Having worked with several Chinese mobile game developers in the past year, we’ve see a pattern of similar mistakes that can be easily avoided, but if left unchecked can have a significant effect on a game's launch.

Taken from an eBook we recently put together, here are the five most valuable marketing tips we think Chinese developers can use to help increase their chances of a successful Western game launch.

1. Understand the difference between the Chinese and Western media

One of the most common misconceptions we come across is that the US and EU media are seen as distinct and separate by Chinese developers. Some Chinese companies we’ve worked with have the view that it’s okay to split the media launch between Europe and the US, with different launch dates and PR campaigns in either territory.

This is a bad idea, for a few reasons. Firstly, Apple and Google prefer single, global launches and being featured at two different times is unlikely. Secondly, whilst digital campaigns can be contained to specific geographies, PR cannot.

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The most popular mobile gaming sites, with a high European readership, tend to be based in the US. This means that it’s impracticable to limit your PR campaign to only one market.

If someone in the UK reads about your game on a US site and tries to download it but can’t find it on their app store, then you may have just lost a customer.

Perhaps the biggest cultural difference between the Chinese and Western media is the level of influence a PR agency may have. In the West, the media tends to be fiercely independent, with a code of conduct that means gifts or incentives for writing stories are not seen as acceptable.

The most common misconception we come across is US and EU media are seen as distinct and separate by Chinese devs.

A Western PR agency will try everything it can do to secure coverage for its clients and will work hard to contact media on their behalf.

But there is always a risk that regardless of how much work is done the media won’t find the game unique enough to write about. A good PR agency will not usually work on a game that they feel is too similar to other games and cannot secure some degree of coverage.

2. Understand the role of the press release

Press releases have a different role in the West than they do in China. For Chinese companies, press releases are an important and effective way to share information with the media. This makes the press release a foundation of the PR strategy.

In the past, we’ve been asked to send as many as three or four press releases for a single game launch, or to link the number of press releases issued to the performance of the campaign.

In the West, the way that press releases work is different - partly because the media see them as something which has become overused, and overly corporate.

This means that while press releases can still be useful, they are just one of the ways that a PR agency will communicate with journalists. They may also use social media or simpler email ‘alerts’ than putting full-blown press releases out.

3. Plan ahead

It’s been our experience that many Chinese companies work to very short launch timeframes compared to Western publishers. For better or worse, it takes a lot longer to launch a game outside of China if you want to have the maximum impact.

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It’s important to partner with a PR agency several weeks before a game launch to maximise the campaign for you. An ideal timeframe for a mobile game is to start six to eight weeks ahead of the launch date,

4. Be sure that you have good translation and localisation

Ensuring that games are translated professionally is one of the most important things that you can do to help your game succeed. We have seen games with some awful localisation at launch. Good localisation is important because:

  1. It shows the customer that you respect them and take them seriously. They may quickly delete a game with poor translation.
  2. Correct, colloquial translation is essential for success in the primary mobile game markets: English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
  3. Apple and Google expect games to be polished and to have the proper translation. If this is not the case, then they will not feature you. Poor translation drastically lowers your chances of being featured.
  4. Game reviewers who speak English (most of which are in the US) can give you a bad score or a poor review due to bad translation. It may be a great game, but poor spelling and grammar can make the difference between a good or bad review.

5. Focus on being featured by Apple and Google

Not enough Chinese developers understand the importance of being featured by Apple of Google. This means that games are not optimised for devices, the UI is too cluttered, the game is too Chinese for Western tastes or localisation is very poor.

Understanding what motivates Apple and Google is key, and this is usually achieved by working with a Western partner who knows how to work with Apple and Google and ideally can help build a dialogue with their developer relations teams throughout the launch process.

If you would like to read some more tips then you can download the full guide guide ‘East to West: PR Tips for Chinese Companies launching mobile games in the west’ from here.