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With single SDK integration and a Finnish business mentality, we make it safe for western devs to release in China, says MyGamez

Bridging two cultures
With single SDK integration and a Finnish business mentality, we make it safe for western devs to release in China, says MyGamez
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As recently announced, new publisher MyGamez has revealed the first western games it's bringing to the Chinese mobile games market.

Interestingly, thanks to the previous experience of its CEO Mikael Leinonen, they are all from Finnish developers.

A good starting point then to find out more about MyGamez's plans to find success in the highly competitive Chinese market.

Pocket Gamer: Can you give us some background on the company and why your launch games are all sourced from Finland?

Mikael Leinonen: The company was founded in mid-2013 by myself and my business partner Charles Chiang, who is Taiwan-originated, US-educated, and a real mainland China mobile business veteran.

We've both had long experience in the Chinese value-added services and handset business and we saw the opportunity as the China mobile game market is growing fast but still lacks good quality games and remains challenging for foreign developers to access. We set up this business with the mission of making access to the Chinese market safe and simple for western developers of all sizes.

I've been working with the Finnish software industry in the past and have strong roots there, so it was very natural to start building our portfolio with Finnish hit games.

As for the reason why the CEO (me) is Finnish and not Taiwanese-Chinese is that we're really building the whole business concept for the developers and to serve their interests and benefits, instead of primarily serving the Chinese Android stores' interests.

China inbound #1: Frogmind's Badland

In Finland we put a lot of emphasis on business integrity and it's my job as the CEO to make sure that MyGamez can provide developers with a truly western interface for the whole China mobile game market and make dealing with the Chinese market as easy and straightforward as dealing with your typical trusted Finnish business partner would be.

There are already some strong competitors such as Yodo1 and iDreamsky who are bringing western games to China. How do you expect to do a better job than them?

Well, firstly the market is already so big and growing so fast, that there's definitely enough pie for everyone currently in business and still room for more publishers to emerge.

The market dynamics are changing fast and there are couple of key areas where we are bringing in new, unique advantages that our developers value highly.

1) We operate with single billing solution, which is carrier billing directly from operator to us, without any middleman. With this we can provide the developer with direct real-time access to operator back-end data, so they can be 100 percent sure they have visibility to all the revenues.

2) Typically major Chinese Android stores require you to use their billing solution and that means integrating at least dozen of different SDKs, with no real transparency to the billing data. As we are able to use our billing in all our major publishing channels, developers only need to integrate one SDK to get started with channels that together cover majority of the market. The required effort is so small that there's no need for developer to give out their source code to us and hence they can be sure they remain in absolute control of their IP.

We're now in situation where we have enough good channels covered with our own billing, so we're not forced to rush into unsatisfactory deals with the biggest channels, but instead we are able to deal with them case by case, carefully evaluating the added workload and revenue potential.

3) In addition to the "traditional" download stores, we're also publishing via all the top 10 Android device manufacturers and retailers, to get the games preloaded and pre-installed into devices. This will not just enable us to have two strong publishing legs providing good foundation, but also allows us to utilise the vast physical retail store space in game marketing and game IP brand building (and evolve successful IPs into merchandise business), plus utilise our games in device promotions.

We're right now preparing for big physical store promotion for three of our games in conjunction of leading device brand's upcoming product launch.

Looking at the Chinese market, the majority of successful games are developed by Chinese developers so why do you think Chinese players even want to play western games?

Pretty much all the big hit foreign games that have been properly localised, distributed and marketed in China have become huge hits there. Just think about Angry Birds for the past two years and Clash of Clans now (with minimal localisation effort in iOS).

China inbound #2: Fingersoft's Hill Climb Racing

The background why there are so few of them in the market is the difficulty for foreign companies to do this well. In the past there just hasn't been so many good publishers, while western companies understanding of the market has been pretty minimal.

Things are changing now and I can guarantee that culture-wise there's no issue for most western games to succeed in China, as long as everything else is done well. Compared to their Chinese counterparts, western developers tend have the advantage of being more creative and innovative with game design, so they just need to make sure those creative games are published in China early on, before local copycats emerge.

Culturalisation is a massive issue in China so how will you be modifying the games you've announced?

I'd say localisation is very important issue and must be done well, but culturalisation is not something that you need to do for every game.

People tend to over-emphasise the need for culturalisation but I think they are missing an important point there: the Chinese are proud of their long and strong culture and yes it is very different from western culture, but at the same time Chinese have huge appetite for all things western. As in almost any country, the Chinese also see foreign cultural influences being modern, somewhat exotic and cool and that applies especially well to areas like pop culture and games.

For example the movie Titanic was a major hit in China and I don't think it would have done well if it was forced to contain Chinese cultural elements.

Good gameplay is universal and China is a huge market with consumers hungry for various types of games. Of course not all the games will match Chinese taste. For example, I wouldn't publish an American football game in China no matter how good it was, simply because people there don't know the game.

So our strategy is to select great western games that are already a good match for Chinese taste and keep them as they are, and case-by-case see if there's benefit from making modifications for example for festival periods.

For our games, the most important localisation aspects are the billing design optimisation and local social media integration.

The Chinese app ecosystem is very fragmented so how difficult do you think it will be to have big breakout hits in China?

I would say the most important thing is to get good promotion/featuring from the publishing channels, otherwise the game simply doesn't get noticed. If you have a good relationship with the publishing channels and a good game that well matches Chinese players tastes and it's well localised, then you have a chance.

China inbound #3: Fingersoft's Benji Bananas

In addition you'll also need good cross-media marketing campaign, as user acquisition on the Chinese Android ecosystem is pretty different.

What are your plans RE: WeChat?

It's wait and see for now. WeChat as game platform is still at its early stages and is a closed environment, so we have to see how Tencent will develop it.

But on social media sharing, WeChat is already an important component for games.

You mention Android, but will you also be releasing iOS versions of these games?

The current portfolio is going to be published on Android, but we have other titles coming up for both platforms.

The Chinese mobile game market is very influenced by web browser MMOGs - strategy and RPGs etc. Are you looking for such western games, or are you open to all genres?

Currently the biggest growth potential is for casual games and for a large number of Chinese smartphone users, mobile games are actually some of the first digital games they've played, so in that sense we don't see the MMOG legacy as being too dominating.

We're expecting the online mobile game market to pick up speed during second half of 2014 and I believe this legacy might be stronger then, especially with high spending customers. Carrier data pricing is still an issue so it's too early to say how fast the online game segment will grow.

But to answer the question: we're looking for good quality games from all genres.

In conclusion: What do you think are the most important factors in terms of making western games successful in China?

Good localisation, wide distribution, good store promotion, active marketing and good amount of enthusiasm for China market.

You can find out more about MyGamez's approach via its website.