GameRefinery’s latest podcast has provided a useful perspective in assessing the state of play for one of mobile gaming's giant markets. In the discussion Steel Media’s own Jon Jordan was joined by GameRefinery’s chief market analyst for China Kalle Heikkinen and Chinese market expert Inka Reinola.
Topline observations are that more than than half the Chinese population plays video games despite limitations imposed by regulatory bodies. A total of 500 million people - roughly 52% of the population of China - play games, and, with consoles having been practically banned until recent years, mobile has had a clear headstart, although even mobile platforms haven't escaped their own forms of regulation.
These regulations continue to place limits on sexualised content and no criticism of the government or China is allowed. Even more infamous are the heavy restrictions on children’s playtime, but not all of China's active regulations are inherently bad or even anti-consumer. Gacha games, for example, are forced to disclose their drop rates, by law, in order to help gamers weigh up risks and rewards before play.
Midcore remains a dominant genre in China, but Heikkinen noted that it has seen a small decline in revenue this past year - down by 7% in market share. Casual and casino games have grown, meanwhile, by 4% and 2% respectively.
"Cozy" games are popular too, across the West and East, with social elements and relaxed gameplay keeping stress to a minimum. "The Chinese people especially love the social aspect of the games," said Reinola. "There’s this new MMORPG called Justice that has a social wall where you can see what your friends are doing in-game."
Also, as in the West, China’s playerbase has diversified with many more women getting into gaming, and more mobile titles are adding minigames from different genres. Chinese MOBA Honor of Kings was highlighted for its auto chess mode - a subgenre that has grown dramatically within pre-existing games since the pandemic.
Increasingly China also has broader genres not seen together in the West; a puzzle game or a farming simulator with a shooter mode would be jarring, but this does not seen to be the case in the East.
"I think for Asian markets, not just for China, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a shooter game and you put a merge game in there. If everyone likes it, that’s fine," observes Jordan.
The full podcast also gives an overview of the history of gaming in China with a deeper dive into popular social elements.
As for which game is on top right now, Tencent’s MapleStory: Maple Legend emerged in China last month as the top-performing new product.