Jae Chan Shin, CEO of mobile game developer InnoSpark, shares key insights into this lucrative
Our experience in the Asian market shows that it is a very lucrative and rewarding market. These densely populated countries have great potential for developers, if backed up by proper mobile infrastructure.
But no matter how valuable the market might be, developers are always taking risks when exploring a new market. This is especially true for Western developers who may not be familiar with the culture and preference of Asian gamers. Here are some tips and pointers for smaller indie developers to help their entrance into the Asian market.
Localise language first, then content
Language localisation is the foremost step that every foreign developers should take when launching their games in the Asian market.
Compared to gamers in other regions such as Europe and Latin America, Asian countries have very distinct languages and Asian gamers tend to be less acquainted with English. Consequently, Asian gamers react more sensitively to foreign languages and are likely to pass up on games that are only available in Western languages.
So from a developer’s perspective, it is most efficient to create a game that requires minimal language localisation. But if in-game text is unavoidable, it is crucial to translate the in-game text before you launch the game in a foreign market.
In addition to in-game text, developers should use the opportunity of localising the game name, keywords and description in app stores — which is hugely important because that is how users discover your game.
According to App Annie App Store Stats (Sep 2011), over 60 per cent of the top 25 iPhone apps in Korea have Korean names and the other East Asian countries Japan, Taiwan and China lie between 30 per cent and 60 per cent. Nearly 50 per cent of the top 25 apps in China are Chinese language apps.
Clearly the propensity of users in these countries to download and to spend money within English-language apps is much lower than in other countries. If one really wants to succeed East Asian countries, you really need to think about localisation of your app into their native language.
The next step that developers may consider is localising the game content, if the developer has enough time and resources. Localising game content can help developers tailor their marketing strategies for a specific region, targeting customers most effectively. In this sense, the game should be developed with a global framework that appeals to users from all across the world, but developers should factor in the need to localize your game in the later stages.
For instance, Hero Sky, which was originally inspired by Greek mythology, now has more than 100 playable characters based on mythologies and histories from all over the world, including heroes like the ‘Monkey King’ (below) – who was, of course, inspired by Chinese mythology.
Incorporate social elements into game design
In general, Asian gamers tend to prefer games with strong social elements. InnoSpark stresses that instead of simply using third-party social media such as Kakao or LINE to add social API to a game that has been already developed, developers should incorporate social features into the game design, making it a truly social-centric game.
As each different game requires a unique set of social features, InnoSpark develops customised social features for their games. For example, Dragon Friends has special social elements incorporated into the game – players can meet and socialise with friends and help each other by caring for crops, working in shops, and even blessing precious dragons.
Adjust game balance through constant data analysis
Data analysis is crucial to any mobile game’s ongoing success, and games launched in Asia are no exception. Bearing in mind the diversity of all the different Asian countries, it is no surprise that local preferences for difficulty and balance will vary greatly from place to place.
Pre-launch if possible, try and conduct some focus testing which will demonstrate that the games balance is right for that particular market. It is also important to conduct A/B testing to optimise game icons and screenshots since icons and screenshots on app stores have a substantial effect on the game’s conversion rate.
After the game has been launched, the developer should keep monitoring and interpreting data and make necessary adjustments based on such data.
Support multi-platform for countries with weak mobile infrastructure
One of the things to keep in mind when launching your game in Asia is the technological disparity within Asia. To capture players in countries with weak mobile infrastructure, developers should diversify their game platform beyond mobile.
Hero Sky and Dragon Friends are serviced not only through mobile, but also PC (Facebook and Windows 10). In fact, it was found that user traffic for Hero Sky grew on Facebook PC Canvas with very limited spending on marketing, which might be explained by the significant volume of PC platform demand from Southeast Asian users. Using multi-platform engines such as Unity will help developers diversify their platforms much more easily and at a lower cost.
While Asia with its vast populations and widespread gaming culture is a very lucrative and aspirational market, it has proved an elusive market to crack for smaller foreign developers.
However, Western games from both ends of the social and hard-core spectrum such as Candy Crush Soda and Clash of Clans, have recently enjoyed substantial success in several Asian markets. Their success demonstrates there is a market and demand for Western developed games in Asian territories.
Although it might be inevitable for smaller indie developers to work with a local partner due to differences in language, culture and business practices, by considering and implementing the points made in this article, you will be ahead of the curve when it comes launching your game in Asian markets.