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Chinese devs are going international now, says PapayaMobile

Riding the year of the horse
Chinese devs are going international now, says PapayaMobile

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.

Chris Hanage is the GM for the European operations of PapayaMobile, best known for its app marketing channel AppFlood.

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

Chris Hanage: Probably the biggest shift in the Chinese mobile games market was the introduction of mobile games inside of messaging apps like WeChat.

WeChat opens up an entirely brand new mobile app distribution channel, and it's something that we expect to influence the whole apps market this year. We need to wait and see how disruptive it will be to the dominance of the 'official' app stores.

Do you think app distribution will improve significantly in 2014?

App distribution will continue to be fragmented in China as companies like Baidu, Tencent, Xiaomi, and Wandoujia invest in their own app distribution channels through cross-promotion or app store distribution. However, now there are clear leaders in the app store space, and typically these major app stores will be the first target for developers seeking to get published in China.

At the same time, the emphasis on working with local Chinese partners to localize and help distribute apps will be more important than ever.

What do you think will be the impact of WeChat?

As I already mentioned, WeChat has set a precedent for Chinese mobile app developers. Before its success, Chinese developers had been largely risk averse, focusing on the Chinese market in lieu of seeking out international markets.

Tencent has changed that dynamic as WeChat's popularity crosses borders, and according to AppFlood's data we're recognizing more major Chinese developers allocating more of their mobile ad budgets into the acquisition of users abroad than at home.

As for the app itself, WeChat might not have been the first messaging apps, but Tencent has managed to transform a simple peer-to-peer messaging app into a lifestyle app that analysts are crediting for its game-changing features. As WeChat packs in more social features, analysts have a stronger argument supporting WeChat's ability to take Facebook off its throne.

WeChat is also encroaching on other territories and changing mobile user behaviour for the better. For instance in a country like China where mobile payments are usually done through carrier billing with the big carriers like China Mobile, WeChat is competing for mobile dollars with AliPay by accepting and facilitating mobile payments.

At the same time, WeChat is building the market for mcommerce as it offers goods for sale directly within the app. And there are other features including 'Look around' and 'Shake', which are now beginning to be copied by other chat apps.

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

It's inevitable that any major Western games like Candy Crush Saga and Plants vs. Zombies 2 that succeed in the West will be sought out by Chinese publishers like Baidu, Qihoo360, Tencent and others with enough of a marketing budget.

But looking beyond the 0.5 percent of apps that represent the mega-successes we know that Western games and Chinese games have stark differences when it comes to its design and game mechanics.

There's a distinct "Chinese" look to games, and Chinese gamers often prefer grinding MMOs to other game types. And while cultural preferences for games might be solved by partnering with local firms that can localize Western games for the Chinese market, it's hard to argue that other types of Western games will be competitive with native ones.

How important do you think international markets will be for your company next year?

Mobile is a global industry, and so building a global customer base is as crucial to us as it is to most high growth companies. As we began to see last year, mobile ad networks' ability to scale internationally will be tested in 2014 when Asia - namely China - and its customers' demands for inventory will make or break ad networks.

Fortunately, AppFlood has particularly strong roots in China thanks to PapayaMobile having emerged from Beijing's start-up scene.

What's your biggest hope for next year?

One thing that would be nice to see is more movement at the top of the app charts, and that new titles get a chance to shine.

So far we've seen the most successful apps cement their success with large scale CPI campaigns; as ad targeting becomes more efficient and more alternatives to the established app stores come online, then we should return to the days of more dynamic charts and finding some new mobile gaming superstars!