Beyond games, the big mobile battle will be payments, says App Annie

Riding the year of the horse

Beyond games, the big mobile battle will be payments, says App Annie

It's already the fastest growing, most competitive, most fragmented and fastest changing mobile game market in the world.

But what will the year of the horse bring to the Chinese mobile game industry?

We've been asking some of the key players to give us their views on how the next 12 months will play out.

Based in Beijing and San Francisco and with offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Moscow and London, App Annie provides market intelligence and app store data for app developers. It's mission statement is to provide "The Math Behind the App Stores".

Bertrand Schmitt is the company's CEO and co-founder.

Pocket Gamer: What were the key trends in the Chinese mobile games market last year?

Bertrand Schmitt: One trend is the rise of iOS games revenue in China. While China has been #2 in the world by monthly iOS game downloads since 2012, it has not been ranking as high for revenues.

That's been changing, and by December 2013, China iOS games revenues ranked a solid third in the world, after the US and Japan. This shatters the general notion that Chinese gamers download and don't spend money.

Another trend is the emergence of Tencent's WeChat as a gaming platform. WeChat-based games have seen massive distribution since they launched in June 2013, and began monetizing well towards the end of the year.

In December, Tencent ranked fifth in game revenues worldwide on iOS, having done so with several casual titles. It's also a very encouraging sign for the industry when casual games start to monetize successfully with the help of a powerful social layer.

Do you think app distribution will improve significantly in 2014?

Yes, because some Chinese publishers are emerging with good results with foreign IP including folks like Tencent, Chukong, iDreamsky and Shanda.

The Android market in China is also beginning to consolidate, making it a lot easier for local teams to navigate, market and distribute apps.

What do you think will be the impact of WeChat?

I think it goes far beyond stickers and games. The current race in China is to get users to bind their bank card numbers to their mobile apps (since credit cards are not common).

Alipay has an early lead because of their ecommerce, but WeChat is catching up fast, and users are already able to pay for a variety of services. When they do, the WeChat platform can potentially be a big disruptor, enabling users to pay for cab rides, movie tickets, ecommerce goods, etc.

Are you worried that the market will become even more competitive as more western games are released in China?

No, to the contrary; I'm happy that more western games can enter China. Chinese consumers are actually very receptive to all kinds of games, they spend on traditional three kingdoms-themed games, Japanese IP games, casual titles from WeChat, and even foreign titles from companies like Supercell and Gameloft. The Chinese market is big enough for everyone to be a part of.

How important are international markets for App Annie?

We're already very international and it's been a core part of our strategy from the beginning. We're 150 people today, globally dispersed across eight worldwide offices, and we're in the middle of a significant growth phase.

Expect a host of new products and product upgrades from us that will benefit app developers around the world.

What's your biggest hope for the year?

We're very excited that the mobile app industry has matured so much in the past year, and continues to grow.

Over the next year we're going to be focusing on creating the best market intelligence platform, allowing app developers and marketers to make smarter business decisions.

You'll see us connecting more data sources, increasing the analytics capabilities and extending App Annie's reach into a company, all to allow them to extract actionable insights into their company's business and products. It's going to be a very exciting year.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.