How the Video Game Industry in China Racked Up $10.4 Billion in Sales Last Year And What You Can Do This Year

In 2020, China raked up 68.5 billion yuan (US$10.4 billion) in revenue in the third quarter of last year, hitting the record high of 73.2 billion yuan in the first quarter. You may think that the Chinese market is easy to break into, but because of stringent regulations for foreign games, it’s actually one of the hardest.

Gaming in China is truly mainstream. You don’t have to be a stereotypical gamer to play, in fact, you can consider everyone a gamer in China. There’s no stereotype or stigma to gaming–people will send screenshots of their gaming sessions through messages or social media. Gaming is part and parcel of everyday life in China.

China is starting to be considered a huge game developing nation, with domestic companies like Tencent and Next Studios as leading examples. As we’ll learn more in this article, that’s starting to change, with the advent of foreign companies breaking into China.

How Your Video Game Business Can Succeed in the Chinese Market

The big debate for foreign investors outside of China is PC or mobile. Inside China, however, there’s no question–mobile it is.

In 2024, mobile gaming in China is expected to generate over $46 billion, a record high.

Free-to-play mobile games usually come with optional microtransactions, so the user can opt to pay with We Chat Pay or Alipay.

The Chinese Apple Store or the Tencent app store are also popular domestically, so a foreign company being hosted there would be a plus.

That’s not to say that PC is not popular either–online gaming platforms like Steam is also hugely popular. Steam is a foreign platform, owned by the American-made Valve Corporation. Thousands of game dev studios and publishing houses have offices in the country.

Foreign companies also have bases in China such as Ubisoft from France and Bandai Namco from Japan. But out of the 1,570 games that were approved in 2019, only 185 were from foreign publishers.

Which brings us to our next point: what do you need to pass the regulatory requirements of China?

Getting Through Regulations of Video Games in China in 2021

Regulations in China for the gaming industry are a challenge for most foreign game development companies and publishers but not impossible to overcome.

  1. No politically sensitive content – According to South China Morning Post, politically sensitive content will be cracked down by the Cyberspace Administration of China.
  2. No culturally insensitive content – China’s State Administration of Press and Publication
  3. No addiction-inducing games – Games that may cause poor health like myopia, poor eyesight, or any other effects of addiction are not allowed, or those that feature gambling.
  4. No sexual innuendo – Pretty straightforward, games with sexual innuendo will not be issued a license.
  5. Not too much violence – Blood cannot be spilled in these games, nor can there be live death.
  6. Player restrictions – The Administration of Press and Publication has regulated that players under 18 have only two hours per day, while players under age 12 have only one hour per day.
  7. Licensing – Strict regulations about online games and their content, which go through the approval of regulators. Once approved, they will be given a license.
  8. ISBN – All online games must now have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) which will be listed on Chinese app stores. The application for ISBN will go through several authorities such as the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Copyright Protection Center of China, and the SARFT.

As you can see, there are many laws and regulations that you must follow in order to publish your video game on Chinese app stores. Once you overcome these hurdles, however, it will pay off to a huge reward.

How To Engage the Chinese Gaming Audience Through Localization Services

We all know that once you’ve successfully introduced your brand to the Chinese market, you have a huge gaming audience at hand. And therein lies the punch: how to do that?

First, you need to understand how to market your game to the Chinese market. A powerful combination of video and live streaming platforms, as well as mobile and TV, can “up your game” when it comes to penetrating the market in China. Read more here.

If knowledge is power, so too is its language. In order to have a fully integrated video game, you’re going to have to think about the Chinese language. Simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese are options, though simplified Chinese is the one usually preferred by gamers. You may consider localization services that will make sure your video game needs meet local standards and will know the right language to use.

Through the use of localization services, you can ensure that your content will pass through regulatory procedures, and you can be content in the knowledge that your desired Chinese language will be accurately translated and localized for China.

Some Tips:

  1. Use foreign versions of gaming platforms like American company Valve’s Steam PC platform or their Steam China
  2. Localize your game into Chinese, rather than internalizing it for a whole global audience.
  3. Keep in charge of game development trends in China, and always think of the most culturally appropriate ways to develop your video game, as well as your Chinese gamer audience.
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