The East Meets West track at Pocket Gamer Connects London has examined the unique challenge of western developers targeting Asian markets from a number of angles.
However, when East Meets West in a mobile gaming context, it's almost always via a publisher. How should you go about approaching these gatekeepers?
Answering this question is a panel of Asian publishing experts. They are:
- Grace Meng, TalkingData
- Kyu Lee, Gamevil USA
- Shum Singh, Agnitio Capital
- Jeff Liang Huang, Tencent
- Kieran Kyunghoon Park, Nexon
- Louis René Auclair, Hibernum
- Jeffrey Hilbert, Digital Development Management
Kicking things off, some probing questions quickly highlight the sheer size and power of Tencent in the Chinese market - its game division consists of around 8,000 people.
How does one approach such a behemoth?
With accomplished developers in no short supply, Liang Huang says that "what Chinese domestic developers are lacking is innovation, so show us something different."
Grabbing any publisher's attention is crucial, as is agreed upon by all on the panel. However, Tencent prides itself on being particularly hard to impress, having published only 28 of the 200 games it was pitched in 2015.
"We have a 32-person team that just plays games day in, day out," says Liang Huang, adding that paid UA is "something Tencent doesn't do." Quality is the focus, and pitchers should be equipped to prove theirs.
We look for games that will work globally.Kyu Lee
Similarly, Gamevil emphasises the importance for developers to understand publishers and the deals they are interested in making.
"At Gamevil we have a one-build strategy - we don't divide the build for different territories, we look for games that will work globally," he says.
"A lot of people want to launch in Asia through us, but we don't do that. Only on a global basis, and we built our company around that.
However, while the onus is on the developer to impress, Auclair reminds us that this is a two-way street; any potential publishing deal will infringe upon a developer, too, and they need to make sure they're ready to face all it entails.
"Be ready to be a bit like a divorced couple with joint custody of a kid... you have to be able to trust them with that baby you're created," he advises.
Developers should be prepared for a more rigorous, data-led line of questioning from Asian publishers as well.
"Asian publishers will pound you on KPIs - they really want you to know not just yours, but theirs," says Hilbert.
"When you go in, if you don't have any KPIs, you'd better at least have targets and be able to talk about how you'll hit them."
Meng, obviously very familiar with such metrics in her position at TalkingData, adds that "two major KPIs they look at are ARPU and MAUs."
You might also find, according to Lee, that expectations are higher in Asia: "in the West around $0.30 is the norm [for ARPDAU], but a lot of the games coming out in Asia right now are averaging around $0.80."
A lot of the Asian games are averaging around $0.80 ARPDAU.Kyu Lee
However, while very strongly reccommended, failing to deliver these numbers isn't an insurmountable oversight. "If you don't have KPIs, and your game isn't in soft launch, you have to rely on more qualitative factors," says Singh
He suggests instead discussing your team, why your game is special, and any funding you may have received - other votes of confidence from external backers.
However, while facts and figures speak volumes, it is the game that's ultimately the key.
"We'd at least want it to be playable so we can see what the team is capable of creating in a certain amount of time, unless you're an awesome team with a great track record," says Lee.
Finally, Liang Huang encourages developers to keep trying, as it's not uncommon for games to get rejected before a few well-placed tweaks propel it to being signed.
"Don't feel bad if we reject it first time... we only launch 20 or so games a year."