Winter Nights 2013: China's app market could grow 10-fold, reckons i-Free
That was the conclusion from the talk given by i-Free Asia's CEO Evgeny Kosolapov at White Nights, the mobile games conference in St Petersburg, Russia.
The Russian publisher has an office in China and has been operating there for five years.
Yet, although headlines say China has one billion phones, the addressable market is much smaller.
For example, there are 60 million iOS devices, but over half of them are jail broken, and only a third of non-jail broken phones have a credit card attached. Hence, there are only 10 million valuable iOS devices.
Poachers turned gamekeepers
When it comes to Android, there are around 140 million devices but less than 10 percent have Google Play (basically, they are devices shipped from outside China). And anyhow, Google Play doesn't have a paid app market.
Instead, to find success on Android, you have to distribution through the 200 third party stores: i-Free works with around 80 of these.
And it works very closely with them.
"You need a personal relationship," said Kosolapov.
For example, one game it released in New Zealand was cracked and available in China within 30 minutes.
However, i-Free contacted the app store, asking it to take down the game as it was going to provide it with an official Chinese version from which it would be able to generate revenue.
In this way, Kosolapov said that piracy wasn't an issue for it in China, although as the piracy sites start to add an English language interface, this could change on the global scale.
As for the future of the Chinese market, he thought it could grown ten-fold.
"I think app stores will consolidate," he added, "But I don't know whether we'll end up with dozens or a couple."