Comment & Opinion

Top 5 features games developers should consider to crack the Chinese mobile market

GameRefinery’s tool identifies the most popular gameplay mechanics

Top 5 features games developers should consider to crack the Chinese mobile market

China has rapidly become the most lucrative market for mobile games in the world - and it's still growing.

It’s by no means an easy market to crack though. Notwithstanding that Western developers will need to partner with a local publisher to jump through the regulation hoops, Chinese players have particular tastes.

Understanding Chinese culture and mobile game trends is key to developing a top grossing game, should high revenues be your aim.

Hottest features

To help you crack the local market, here you’ll find a rundown of the top features that developers should consider before launching their game in the country to maximise their chances of success.

The data comes from GameRefinery, which lets developers identify winning features, calculate the revenue potential of feature sets and get inspiration for innovative features from games and markets. It analyses 180+ features across the top 200 grossing games as well as hundreds of titles outside those rankings.

This data doesn’t guarantee success, of course. But it can act as a useful indicator of Chinese gaming trends and provide useful information on your chances of success in the market based on the most important factor for any game – its design.

We’ve previously broken down the most popular features in Japan, which you can read here.

Click below to discover more about popular features in China.

Click here to view the list »
  • Double down on PVP

    Chinese players like their PvP – just take a look at the biggest game in China right now, Honor of Kings, a record breaking MOBA on mobile.

    According to GameRefinery, 88% of games in the top 100 grossing have multiple PvP modes, while 59% of those outside implement various multiplayer options.

    Having a verity of PvP options is a great way to broaden a game’s content and increase player engagement, particularly when combined with recurring PvP leagues.

    Hearthstone has a variety of PvP modes to choose from

    PvP modes could include normal PvP, guild wars, special tournaments, friendly battles, and more, typically each with at least somewhat different mechanics.

    An example of a game with multiple PvP modes include Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, which has modes such as Arena, Tavern Brawl and Ranked.

    Marvel Contest of Champions also offers multiple modes, which has several different PvP arenas to choose from, each with its own unique mechanics, as well as the opportunity to engage in guild versus guild battle events called Alliance Wars.

  • Everybody loves live events

    Many free-to-play games are built with the long haul in mind, making a successful live operations plan key to maximising returns and player engagement.

    Recurring live events, which repeat but only last for a limited time per event, are a great way to keep players coming back to engage in a special mode that could offer exclusive rewards.

    Chinese games are usually filled with recurring live events open during specific days or time of day. GameRefinery reports as many as 98% of the top 100 grossing games in China use recurring live events, while 71% outside of this don’t.

    Summoners War has recurring live events featuring special dungeons

    There are many examples you can look to, such as the special dungeons in Summoners War, open for just a limited amount of time, but their accessibility follows a certain looping pattern that is made clear to players.

  • Automating play

    To some the notion of games effectively playing themselves may seem strange, but it’s used in many of the top games in Asia.

    The ability to automate gameplay or at least speed it up, a typical feature in most top MMORPGs, offers a way for players to get around the daily grind and focus on the metagame, such as upgrading items and characters.

    Onmyoji is one example of a plethora of games that automate some of the gameplay

    You can find this feature in games such as Onmyoji and Animation Throwdown, which let you automate battles, while Pokemon Duel lets you have AI do the work one turn at a time.

    It’s a great way to let users play the way they want to without trapping them in what they may deem as repetitive gameplay.

    You can find more examples of games with autoplay on the GameRefinery website.

  • Subscription plans for regulars

    In-app purchases are the typical go-to payment model in free-to-play games, but some developers are taking these transactions a step further with special subscription plans.

    In games like Dungeon Boss and Evony - The King’s Return, players can make a one-time purchase for a subscription that will get them rewards and benefits each day throughout the month (for example, this may be 50 Gems hard currency a day for 30 days, as in Dungeon Boss).

    The period doesn’t have to be a month, of course, it may last for two months, three weeks, or a year, but the effect is the same: regularly dealing out rewards/benefits on a consistent basis over time.

    GameRefinery says a feature used by 63% of the top 100 games in China, and 49% of those outside it.

    In Evony - The King's Return, players can purchase a subscription that gives them rewards over time

  • Buy it, flaunt it

    Arguably, there is still something of a showing off culture in China. As flaunting your wealth and status is considered rather normal, games often have a variety of cool decorative items to be purchased and used to give players bragging rights.

    Examples of this can be new outfits or ‘titles’ that can be put onto your characters in-game, but have either no or very limited effect on the actual gameplay.

    Audition Online gives players access to tonnes of outfits and accessories

    You can find instances of this in titles such as Audition Online, a rhythm game in which players can dress up their character with a plethora of outfits and accessories.

    Perhaps not appropriate to every genre, it’s a feature still used by 50% of games in the top 100 in China, and just 26% outside of it.

    Discover more about popular features in China and other global markets with GameRefinery. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.