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Should indie developers release their games in Asia?

Should indie developers release their games in Asia?

The development landscape between East and West can appear vastly different when viewed from the other side.

And while there are some key cultural differences, it's not just a simple East versus West matter. Each country is home to unique tastes and trends.

It's tough for Western develoopers to break into any of these markets, particularly China given its heavy regulations and stipulations - not to mention the current freeze on new game licenses.

If the big publishers have found things difficult, is there room for developers outside of Asia to release their innovative games in the region?

We reached out to our raft of Indie Mavens to find out what they think about Asian markets like China and if it’s something they’re readily interested in.

Specifically, we asked them:

Have you considered releasing your game in Asian markets like China? If so, why? If not, why not?

If you have released your game in Asia, did you find it worthwhile?

 

Nathan Fouts Founder Mommy's Best Games

 

Have you considered releasing your game in Asian markets like China? If so, why? If not, why not?

I've looked into it before for our previous games, but never felt like I had a good partner in the area to help me navigate those waters.

For Pig Eat Ball on Steam, we finally felt like it was time.

I've been taking the game to PAX shows and GDC for several years and slowly over time, more and more Chinese publishers were approaching me about the game.

After talking with several groups, and spending the time to get to know them, we decided to go with IndieCN.

While they are a smaller publisher, they were very interested in the game because they felt like there's nothing in China like it and that Chinese gamers would enjoy it as something unusual.

They've also agreed to show the game at conventions like WePlay and to promote the game to Chinese streamers and press, and were able to provide details that satisfied me as it seemed like they knew their crowd well.

If you have released your game in Asia, did you find it worthwhile?

I'll have the answer in a few months and I'm hoping it's a big, big yes.

Tanya X. Short Creative Director Kitfox Games

We have localised Shattered Planet, Moon Hunters and The Shrouded Isle into Simplified Chinese and released in those markets (both on Steam and on other PC platforms) and it's definitely been worth it.

We also localised the last two into Japanese and felt it was worth it, partially because we worked with a local publisher (the award-winning Kakehashi Games).

China continues to be our second best country in terms of revenue on Steam.
Tanya X. Short

I highly recommend targeting China and/or Japan with quality localisation, if you can afford it.

China continues to be our second best country in terms of revenue on Steam. Translation can be expensive as an up-front cost, so that's a service a publisher might be able to provide if you trust one.

But if you can fit into their schedule, I also highly recommend the work from Project Gutenberg as part of Indienova, its translation has been very professional, high-quality and affordable, though I know they are very booked, so they get to choose which projects they work on.

One last tip: if you do release in these countries, ask any regional partners to keep an eye on local media (press or social). 

We were only able to collaborate with Hato Moa from Hatoful Boyfriend on Boyfriend Dungeon because Kakehashi Games showed us tweets in Japanese that showed she was a fan of The Shrouded Isle, and so I pinged her on Twitter.

Good luck out there!

Molly Heady-Carroll Co-founder & Lead Artist Arcane Circus

Have you considered releasing your game in Asian markets like China? If so, why? If not, why not?

As a matter of fact, Erik and I just got back from a research trip to Tokyo for our upcoming Kaiju-themed game, Kaijack: Card Attack!

We have designed the game with Japanese themes and the Japanese market in mind and want to release with English and Japanese languages at launch (and potentially other Asian languages as well).

A combination of consistent growth in the Japanese mobile market and a recent governmental shift to open Japan up to the rest of the world puts Arcane Circus in a unique position to reach a vast and untapped audience who are hungry to experience games from outside of Japan.

The Netherlands, in particular, is in a prime position to take advantage of this reach outward towards the West, as the two countries share significant trade and cultural history.

Arcane Circus' Kaijack: Card Attack!

Serious games, in particular, have already lead to some significant collaborations between the two countries as of late.

While this business opportunity is a factor in our decision to make a game with a Japanese audience in mind, the unusual tastes of Japanese gamers and the rich culture and themes we can draw from are our biggest reason to try to break the Japanese gaming market.

If you have released your game in Asia, did you find it worthwhile?

We have already gotten some attention from Japanese developers and companies for our upcoming game.

Whether this interest leads to a successful game launch, we will have to wait and see.

But the interactions we have had with the Japanese games industry has been incredibly positive so far.

The helpfulness and kindness of Japanese developers we have interacted thus far have us very excited to bring our games to Japan.

Pierre-Luc Vettier CEO Zero Games Studios

Have you considered releasing your game in Asian markets like China? If so, why? If not, why not?

China is one of the most important countries in the world and Asia is a territory of gamers.
Pierre-Luc Vettier

Yes for sure! China is one of the most important countries in the world and Asia is a territory of gamers.

Even if it's not mandatory to publish there, finding even moderate success in China means a lot of revenue, and Chinese translations are not that expensive.

If you have released your game in Asia, did you find it worthwhile?

We released Extreme Gear: Demolition Arena in Asia. We also localised the game in Simplified Chinese for free, thanks to our great community, and also had partnerships with local publishers. But throughout the region it was very unsuccessful there.

In fact, it had been our least successful territory, with only around 10,000 downloads in China and around 30,000 downloads in the rest of the region.

It was a bit of a disappointment, but our game wasn't tailored for this market, so it was not that surprising.

Apart from communication and marketing aspects, success in Asia is also about having a game that suits the area, which is something most European and American developers don't really understand how to do well.

Staff Writer

Iain is a freelance writer based in Scotland with a penchant for indies and all things Nintendo. Alongside PocketGamer.Biz, he has also appeared in Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, PCGamesN and VG24/7.

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