GDC Online 11: Developing and distributing games for China, Korea and Japan panel

#gdc_online Looking for Eastern opportunity

GDC Online 11: Developing and distributing games for China, Korea and Japan panel
Finishing up the first day of the Smartphone & Tablet Gaming Summit, there was what was labelled an International Micro-Trend panel concerning releasing games in China, Korea and Japan.

Talking about the Chinese market was Paul Chen, head of developer relations at Beijing outfit Papaya Mobile.

"China will be second largest smartphone market in 2012. It's an opportunity that's just too large to ignore," he explained.

Although iPhone is creating a buzz in China, Chen reckoned that only 5 percent of the Chinese market can afford to pay the more than $30 per month required for iPhone, but 20 percent can pay the $20 per month in terms of a monthly contract for Android

For this reason, Android is 80 percent of the Chinese smartphone market, with Chen reckoning that the China's market could be as high as 186 million Android devices and 47 million iPhones in the coming years.

Yet with no Android Market available, there's massive app store fragmentation based on carriers, locations, while other issues include piracy/copying, billing solutions and localisation.

"You can't release a paid game in China," Chen said, with regard to the former.

And, of course, as a Chinese Android-based social platform, Chen was keen to encourage developers to work with Papaya if they wanted to launch in the Chinese market.

All about Seoul

Handling Korea, was Kyu Lee, veep of Korean mobile publisher Gamevil.

There are 50 million subscribers in Korea, and it has OEMs such as Samsung and LG, giving it a strong mobile background. Freemium gaming is also a strong tradition in Korea.

The domestic mobile games market is around US$300 million annually, with current growth coming from smartphone growth, especially Android.

"A top game in Korea can generate tens of thousands of dollars per day," Lee explained. This is all through carrier billing.

In terms of distribution, there's no game category within the Apple App Store or Android Market in Korea, because of the knock-on impact of government issues concerning pre-release age ratings when these stores launched. Instead, Koreans set up US or Hong Kong accounts to download games via app stores, or games are released via carrier stores.

"It used to be difficult to release western games in Korea, but now there are strong distribution channels and you're working on the same devices globally, so it's much easier," Lee said.

Big in Japan

Dealing with Japan was Hidde Tonegawa of Japanese social gaming platform DeNA.

There are 107 million phones in Japan, and the Japanese are well used to using their mobiles for real world and virtual payments.

The Japanese social mobile gaming industry is currently around $3 billion annually, with companies such as DeNA and GREE seeing respective ARPUs of around $12 and around $9 annually on their virtual social platforms.

Yet, surprisingly, the Japanese market remains very feature phone-centric, although Tonegawa expects this to change quickly, with Android again expected to drive the majority of growth. 

And, once again, he pointed to the advantages of western companies of working with DeNA to access the market.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.