The9 VP Chris Shen presents the six Asian gaming trends bound for the west

Look east for inspiration

The9 VP Chris Shen presents the six Asian gaming trends bound for the west
Chris Shen has served as vice president at The9 Limited since January 2006.

Since 2010, Chris has led The9 in developing their mobile business, which includes platform establishment; partnerships with carriers, developers and channels; and product development and publishing.

Many gaming trends that originated in Asia have made their way to US soil.

Social gaming itself, for example, is a trend that has developed into a full-blown lucrative market that's expected to hit $8.64 billion in global revenue in 2014, according to a recent study by the Casual Games Association.

Asia was first to discover the addictive nature and monetisation capabilities of free-to-play games coupled with in-game purchasing options, too. Now, according to Juniper Research, the US virtual goods market is expected to reach $5 billion in 2016.

With Asia's booming mobile social landscape and success rate for gaming innovation, US game developers would be wise to look east when conceiving 'the next big thing' in gaming.

Here are some popular gaming trends in Asia that haven't fully hit here, but have huge potential to take US social gaming to the next level:

Card battle games

At the end of last year, social card battle games dominated the lineup of big-name publishers in Japan, with 14 of GREE's top 20 games and 10 of DeNA's top 20 social mobile games falling into the genre.

Pre-mobile, players would meet at a physical location to use cards they had collected in strategic battles and make card exchanges.

Now, card battles have taken off on mobile in Asia, and the growing popularity of tablets in the US presents a unique opportunity.

Due to its substantial screen size, the tablet has the ability to provide a rich visual experience for highly realistic card battling. People could play anytime and anywhere, which is just what this genre needs to explode.

Staying legal

The Japanese government recently instituted a ban on "complete gacha" monetisation tactics, a hugely popular and addictive game feature.

The "complete gacha" sales model, named after Japanese toy vending machines, was outlawed for its similarities to gambling. Big Japanese gaming companies like GREE, DeNA, Konami and Namco have cut out the "complete gacha" aspect of their games, while others hope to find loopholes to avoid losing revenue.

As social gambling rises in the US, with gaming giants like Zynga seeking the next big cash flow, developers need to be cautious and make sure their monetisation tactics are above board to avoid any future legal pains.

The decline of the console

Asia's gaming market is beginning to see a decline in the purchase of gaming consoles.

The reality is that – for most people in the world – the console is considered a luxury. With the rise of browser-based games, users have access to the games they love on the same devices that are a necessity in their everyday lives: phones, tablets and computers.

Purchasing a smartphone, which is a useful tool as well as a source of entertainment, is a much better investment for the casual gamer than a game console, which only plays games.

Although game consoles provide a uniquely dynamic gaming experience, the Asian market is finding that access to a wider variety of games for a lower price on portable devices provides a much better ROI than splurging on an expensive console. The flexibility of the games-as-a-service model will allow it to far surpass and outlast the console.

A rockier road for the mid-tier

Social and browser-based games are on the rise, requiring minimal development costs and flexible enough to grow a substantial user base. These types of games have the right ingredients to see large gains in the market.

On the other end of the spectrum, big-name companies have the means to build games that bring in higher revenues, due to clout and quality.

This leaves the mid-tier gaming market struggling to keep up in terms of profitability, an environment that fewer and fewer of these gaming companies have been able to survive in.

Location-based mobile gaming

With the mobile gaming market exploding, more players are trying to edge their way in by offering unique experiences, and location-based mobile gaming does just that. Immensely popular in Asia, this trend has already started to show signs of adoption in the states.

This type of gaming uses satellite-positioning technology to incorporate a player's physical location into gameplay, thus adding another strategic element to the overall gaming experience.

Customising games based on location makes for more meaningful gameplay by integrating locations that are familiar to the player—for example, city-building games that take place in a user's own hometown.

Decoupling from apps

Asian game developers don't limit themselves to exclusive OS platforms and their restrictive app stores and distribution networks.

Broad outreach is key in China's fragmented market, with developers turning to localisation and distribution platforms that have strong partnerships and vast networks already in place.

And emerging technology will also play a role in this more open app atmosphere, especially with HTML5. This technology will allow game developers to reach mobile gamers directly through web browsers, without the hassle of getting approval from the app store.

Bypassing the middleman also allows game distributers to build upon direct relationships with consumers, opening up the platform to new areas of innovation.

In the past, Asia has proven to be a reliable indicator for the next big gaming trend, and US game developers should be paying close attention—especially when there are billions of dollars at stake.
To find out more about The9, take a look at the company's website.

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