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What we learned at the Bridge between East and West summit in association with Mintegral

Speakers deliver sessions on hyper-casual, monetisation and the opportunities available in China’s mobile games market
What we learned at the Bridge between East and West summit in association with Mintegral
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During Gamescom, and Mintegral hosted a special Bridge Between East and West event to delve deeper into the Chinese games market.

In front of an audience of over 200 attendees, the event saw a host of sessions from experienced industry experts.

Huawei VP of mobile services Dr Jaime Gonzola hosted a session entitled ‘Huawei AppGallery: How Does Storytelling Boost Mobile Games Engagement’, followed by a talk from JoyPac COO Allison Bilas on ‘Hyper-Casual in China: Games, Players and Lessons Learned’.

Up next was Leiting Games' head of publishing and licensing Nathan Cavril, who discussed ‘How to Build Your Studio's Reputation for Long-Term Success in China’, and iDreamSky VP of international business development Monty Singman’s session entitled ‘Deconstruction of Chinese Mobile Game Monetisation’.

Mintegral is an AI-driven, programmatic and interactive ad platform. It provides mobile user acquisition and monetisation solutions to worldwide brands and mobile developers so they can reach their marketing goals. Mintegral’s programmatic and interactive advertising platform is now available on IronSource’s ad mediation platform.

If you weren’t at the event or need a refresher, we’ve put together a list of some of the key lessons we learned.

Boosting mobile engagement on Huawei devices

Kicking off proceedings was a talk from Huawei VP of mobile services Dr Jaime Gonzola, who hosted a session entitled ‘Huawei AppGallery: How Does Storytelling Boost Mobile Games Engagement’.

Gonzola discussed how mobile users interact with games and apps and how they first discover them.

He explained that users aren’t likely to have simply downloaded a game simply because it had a nice icon or banner ad somewhere. Players are much more likely to download an app because someone you trust told you about it.

The best method for developers to get their games discovered, downloaded and and engaged then, he said, is to tell stories about their games.

“So if you're going to tell a story, the first thing you need is a storyteller, a strong one,” said Gonzola.

One feature Huawei uses to help keep players engaged on its devices is through themes, where developers can create custom wallpapers and styles related to a user’s favourite app.

Huawei currently has over 500 million global users in its ecosystem covering over 170 countries and regions. Of those 500m, 100m users are based outside of China.

The evolution of hyper-casual games in China

78 per cent of hyper-casual players play hyper-casual games as well as in-app purchase-focused titles, according to JoyPac COO Allison Bilas. That means that 22 per cent of hyper-casual users play games exclusively in this category.

“This really is expanding the pie of players as a whole,” said Bilas. “Players who weren't engaging with IAP games are now engaging with hyper-casual games because of this quick gameplay they're able to engage in.”

But while hyper-casual games have been dominating the charts in the West for at least a couple of years now, China’s adoption of the category has been far slower.

Bilas said that this slower adoption likely comes from the fact that traditionally core genres have ruled the charts in China, from MMORPGs and MOBAs to strategy games and card battlers.

Another reason for the relatively slower adoption is China’s advertising ecosystem. The hyper-casual space is about buying players at a very low cost and then monetising them with advertising. But at this point, Bilas said, “we do see that the eCPM and CPM really do mirror those that we see in the West, particularly on iOS, so it is a very viable market right now”.

Bilas stressed that the movement toward hyper-casual on the download charts “is definitely happening in China”.

Right now the App Store download chart in China sees about four to five hyper-casual titles - compared to the typically complete dominance of the top 10 spots for these games in Western markets.

Opportunities abound for Western developers in China

There are around 900,000 games available on the App Store today - and roughly 25 per cent of those are from the Chinese App Store.

That’s according to Leiting Games head of publishing and licensing Nathan Cavril, who discussed the figure during his talk ‘How to Build Your Studio's Reputation for Long-Term Success in China’.

Cavril said that while he wouldn’t be “too dramatic” as to say the mobile games market is getting saturated, “at the very least we need to recognise we are reaching a certain maturation stage”.

There continue to be opportunities for Western games companies to build their reputation and make money in the Chinese market, he continued.

Up until around 10 to 15 years ago, most big Western publishers ignored China. Cavril said that this is actually good news for developers, because the big studios that usually monopolise player attention are not doing so in China (other than China’s own publishing giants, of course).

“So now is the perfect time for every studio here who wants to do long-term business in China to establish a reputation and to get these players' attention,” he stated.

To build a good reputation, Cavril said companies should focus on two reputational assets: IP reputation and studio reputation.

The former is about how emotionally attached players are to your game, while the latter is about getting visibility to players about what your company stands for, what games consumers can expect and why they should trust you.

How mobile game monetisation in China differs from the West

The closing session for the Bridge between East and West summit in association with Mintegral was from iDreamSky VP of international business development Monte Singman.

Discussing monetisation, Singman gave a broad, blunt assessment of many Western-developed games coming to China, stating that a lot of games may be pretty and fun to play, but they don’t make any money.

In genres such as RPGs, card battlers, MMORPGS, “they just can’t measure up to the monetisation standards that the Chinese are looking for,'' he said.

Singman advised the audience to look at download and ARPU figures on App Annie to find what he called “supernatural numbers”.

To show off just how complex successful monetisation systems can be in China, Singman used Tencent’s Contra as a case study. The title was licensed by the publishing giant a few years ago from Konami.

Following its launch in 2017, the game now makes $40 million a month in China alone. Singman showed a screenshot of just how complex the game is, with numerous options cluttering the user interface - a world away from the cleaner UIs many Western mobile titles use.

For context on the uniqueness of the Chinese market, Singman pointed out that Contra flopped in South Korea, where it was published by Kakao.

Despite this, he felt that these kind of aggressive monetisation styles can still work outside of China.