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Develop 2013: Why you don't need to reinvent the wheel to crack China, by PapayaMobile

A market that's both different and the same

Develop 2013: Why you don't need to reinvent the wheel to crack China, by PapayaMobile
With the app market in China expected to generate $3.6 billion in annual revenue by 2017, it's little surprise that developers from across the west are looking for a slice of the pie.

But how can a developer based in Europe or the US hope to make a mark in a market that, from the outside at least, looks entirely alien?

According to Chris Hanage of PapayaMobile, much of this is a myth. While the promo portals and app stores themselves may differ, the process you use to develop and push a game is much the same.

Same difference

"There isn't anything on the whole that's particularly different about how you approach the Chinese market, but there are some big factors to be aware of," opened Hanage during his talk at the Evolve day of the Develop Conference in Brighton.

Hanage cited the importance of localising your game to accommodate the various cultural and behavioural differences, as well as the vast range of app stores on offer and Android device fragmentation.

"There's no one store that dominates," noted Hanage.

"It's not as if you can launch on just one store and watch it develop from there. If you don't have decent distribution from day one, you're killing your chances. Not a case of building up to it."

File size

Indeed, Hanage noted that one of the other interest elements of the Chinese market is how app stores don't always resemble app stores.

"For example, you can get web-based forums that act as powerful distribution platforms," he added.

Other factors that are massively important include file size and support for SMS billing. Wi-fi isn't especially common across China, so apps need to be small enough to be comfortably downloaded across the mobile signal.

What's more, there's little point in adding in-app purchases if they don't support SMS billing, as this is the main way Chinese gamers pay for their games.

"We took a popular US free-to-play game to China, and its downloads only managed to hit 1 percent of the total the pirated version managed," added Hanage.

"We'd made the file size too big, and it didn't support SMS billing. If we'd have got those two elements right, even as a niche title we could have expected 250,000 to 500,000 downloads in all."

And that's why, even with such difficulties, so many developers are looking to crack China. The region has now surpassed the US when it comes to iOS and Android device activations, and it's believed that more than a quarter of the population current engage with apps.

For the developers looking to make the leap, Hanage's message was that they need not change their methods at all – it's where they sell and where they push their app that's important.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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