The Chinese mobile games market grew over 100 percent in 2013 and is likely to almost double again in 2014.
And it's this level of opportunity that's attracting more and more western game developers to consider releasing game in the country.
But while the market is becoming more open, there are still plenty of local challenges, which is why working with an experienced partner remains the most sensible approach.
One such company is US-Chinese concern Spellgun.
Pocket Gamer: Can you give a brief introduction to Spellgun?
Spellgun is a joint effort between Concept Art House, an outsourcing firm that makes art for video games, and Talkweb, a publicly traded Chinese company that has successfully published blockbuster titles such as Plants vs. Zombies 1 & 2 and Angry Birds.
Spellgun plans to make it much easier for Western game companies to enter China, one of the most important markets in the future of games.
How does an art outsourcing company fit into the picture?
Concept Art House is a group of world-class artists and game industry veterans that have teamed up to create the new concepts and brands that define an emerging industry. Since its founding in 2007, they've helped move the leading-edge into markets that the game industry never expected to reach.
Concept Art House's senior management team brings decades of experience to bear on a company including art directors in San Francisco, California and a full production art studio in Shanghai, China.
They've worked with clients including Activision, Blizzard, Disney, DeNA, EA, Kabam, Kixeye, Pocket Gems, Riot Games, Sony, Supercell, Tencent, and Zynga.
With Concept Art House's experience and expertise, Spellgun can help western developers improve art quality and play an important role with art localization.
There are plenty of companies who will help bring western games to the Chinese market. How are you different?
Yes, this is a very competitive market. However, unlike many publishers who are licensing numerous games per month, we aim to license only 1-2 very high quality games per quarter.
We believe in dedication and focus. After all, resources and attentions are limited. We want to make sure we put in enough investment and effort to help our partner succeed in the China market.
Another key advantage is our strong marketing muscle. We not only market our games online and offline. Thanks to TalkWeb's strong relationship with traditional media, we also collaborate with popular TV shows/programs to promote our games. This is very expensive, but effective. With the vast exposure, distribution channels are incentivized to co-promote the game with us.
Last but not lease, developers will be able to strike deals with the U.S.-based Spellgun, which will offer legal protections for the developers.
Can you talk about any companies that you're currently working with?
Spellgun is still very new. We are in contract stage with three developers. We hope to release Spellgun's first game in Q3 of this year.
TalkWeb on the other hand has already worked with numerous developers including well-known Rovio and Electronic Arts/PopCap.
The Chinese market is very fragmented, complex, dynamic and different to the west, so why do you think western games will appeal to Chinese mobile gamers?
Not every western game will appeal to Chinese mobile gamers. In fact, most don't, but with Concept Art House and TalkWeb's experiences and expertise, we can select the ones that have potential and really localize and iterate the games to make them appealing to Chinese mobile gamers.
We believe western developers are capable at developing high quality and creative games and hope to bring that quality and creativity to players in China.
We hear a lot about localization and culturalisation, so how will you help western developers to change their games for the Chinese market?
This depends on the developer's comfort level. We either get the source code and localize the game in-house, or we work with the developer on localization requests.
Localization plans are generated by our game operations team which includes but are not limited to language, art, gameplay, monetization model, metagame, and billing and channel SDK integrations.
Localization is a complicated process. In addition to understanding the market, our target players, and having the technical expertise, we believe extensive beta testing and continuous modifications are also necessary.
For TalkWeb's HTML 5 game, Domineering Arena, TalkWeb has spent five months polishing the game on our partner's channel before proceeding with the full launch. The time taken to polish the game has helped us reaching a 7-day LTV of over $4 USD.
How do you deal with issues like piracy?
We have strong experience with combating piracy. While working with Rovio and PopCap, our legal team chased after various channels to take off pirated copies. Another more effective method was to work with as many channels as possible to co-publish the games.
By collaborating with the channels, they are incentivized with a revenue share to not only clean out the pirated copies, but to put in resources to co-promote the genuine game with us.
Successful mobile games need to be constantly updated with new content and events. Can you help in this respect?
Yes, live events and regular updates are a very important part of game operations. We need the developer to continue to create contents for the game.
If we have the source code, we can easily design events for our players. Otherwise, we put in requests to the developer.
Finally, how would you describe the sort of games you're looking for?
We are looking for high quality F2P mobile games that are fun to play, have strong monetization model, and an optimized client size.
Games will go though a very comprehensive evaluation process, which involve our operation, marketing, technology teams and channel partners.
You can find out more details from the Spellgun website at www.spellgun.com