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If you're thinking of taking on China, be prepared to 'suffer'

Our Mavens on the lure of Asia
If you're thinking of taking on China, be prepared to 'suffer'

Earlier this month, Samsung forecast a 6 percent drop in its quarterly profits, with a fall in the company's profit margins due to a need to sell handsets at competitive prices across Asia cited by many.

Said drop, combined with Samsung's wider difficulties taking charge of the Chinese market, triggered a slide in the firm's share price. Indeed, it's also been reported that the Korean giant has lost top spot in the smartphone race in China to Xiaomi.

Apple, too, has had to contend with investors impatient for the firm to make its mark in China, with many claiming a saturated North American market means China and Asia as a whole offer the most realistic opportunities for growth.

So, we asked the Mavens:

Is China really the mobile Holy Grail? Who will eventually take charge of the market and, when they do, will local peculiarities ensure the Chinese market isn't quite the gift horse it is being pitched as?

Kyu Lee, Gamevil
China is definitely one of the hottest markets these days with it exponential growth rate, and mobile seems to be following the tracks of online PC gaming.

Today, most of the online gaming companies worldwide are already making more than half of their revenue in China alone, and this will be the same for mobile too.

As Tencent and Nexon has been under the radar for a very long time in the western markets, I think it will take time for a lot of the western developers to truly understand the potential of the market, which will become a big problem for a lot of them in the close future.

Chinese publishers are already putting millions of dollars of investments into many mobile publishers around the world.

The race to become the number one app store portal in China have been fierce due to the potentials of the market that online PC gaming has shown. Companies like 360 and Baidu are playing very aggressively to become the next Tencent on mobile.

It is a three horse race between the three companies today, and I believe one of them will eventually win.

It will be also interesting to see what companies like China Mobile and Alibaba will do with their control of payment too.

Apple's App Store enjoys a large penetration today in China and it's where mobile gaming companies are making around 50 percent of their revenue. However, the future seems to be more Android.

Samsung's biggest threat globally will eventually be one of the Chinese manufacturers, and this is not restricted to China only.

Christopher Kassulke, HandyGames

I guess those who make money in China are happy, all while others try to figure out how they can make any cents out there.

It's a big market, but it's anything but the easiest to crack.

Chris Hanage, PapayaMobile
Firstly, we all know that the Chinese market is massive so I won't go over the stats again. However it's not only huge but growing, and it's the last bit that makes it really attractive.

I agree that Android is probably where it's going to end up, but that's a personal point of view and I believe it for all smartphones, not just China. On the flip side, revenue per paying user is lower, but that's also growing, so I don't think any of us are in any doubt that it's a good place to be.

Secondly, China is fragmented and in ways that are a bit alien to those developers who've mainly done business elsewhere. That means that it's a more interesting - i.e. hard - to have a unified approach to China in the way's that we've been used to elsewhere.

We've got fragmented billing (e.g. I agree that SMS/Alipay very popular), fragmented distribution channels (carriers are important, nevermind the proliferation of app stores/"3rd market"/side loading), and file size is a big factor (too big will kill a game as data can be expensive/hard to come by).

That's all before we get onto localisation. The issue here is that it's not just a case of translating the game there are also successful game design/mechanics and game genres that differ from the west.

Concepts that we know will fly elsewhere might have little cultural/popular resonance in China. I've spoken to some developers who've said "does that mean I have to redesign all my chickens as pandas?" That's not right, but it's not totally wrong either.

That doesn't mean China is an impossible market to crack - we all know of titles that've done it - but it isn't a case of dropping in a few translated text boxes and pressing "submit".

The bottom line is get a partner that knows what its doing, take a long term view and be prepared for localisation to involve a bit of translation, bit of game design, a bit of art and a lot of promotion from people who really know the market and, after all that, there is a massive prize at the end of the journey.

Joony Koo, Playground publishing
For small to mid size game devs, you need to find a massive Chinese publisher (Kyu mentioned a few), get a big MG, leave it to the publisher and forget about it - as long as it's not doing anything that will hurt the IP.

More and more devs are cutting their markets into more manageable pieces the US, Japan, China, Korea, etc. China is definitely be one to let go if you do not have the muscles to run your own office there.

For the big boys, however, try to replicate successful local publishers and developers. Hire expensive yet influential people that have sufficient experience, knowledge and the connections. Reward them well and let them do the biz.

Try not to understand. Be prepared to suffer.

As Chris mentioned, it's a tough market but the rewards on offer are great.