Quality is king in mobile games' race to the top

Updated: 2014-03-20 12:06

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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Overseas game developers who are ahead in the booming Chinese market in 2014 are facing more and fiercer competition from homegrown grassroots developers who are catching up to mobile game players' demands much quicker.

The search for a reliable mobile games publishing platform in China has become a hot topic at the on-going Game Developer Conference (GDC) being held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco this week.

"China's local developers are catching up," Jongheun Kim, CEO of Devsisters Corp, told China Daily at the GDC. "They are looking closely at games from Korea and Japan, and they are also putting together very innovative solutions like Player vs Player (PVP)."

"China's users are unique," he said. "So we want to make a game easy to play, but hard to master for China. We want to make people more social by playing Cookie Run, not only in competition but also in collaboration."

As a global event designed to inform and educate worldwide game industry professionals on online multiplayer games, mobile and next generation game technologies, GDC attracts thousands of global game developers like Kim with the opportunity to meet publishers from their target markets.

"For overseas game developers, the window to enter China is narrowing, as today's Chinese game developers have been able to design some high quality games," said Jeff Lyndon, co-founder and executive vice-president of Shenzhen-based iDreamsky, about 80 percent of whose mobile games are from overseas developers.

"But the booming mobile market in China still indicates opportunities for overseas game developers," he said.

iDreamsky received about 500 requests a month from overseas game players who want to promote their products on the platform.

In today's China, there are hundreds of mobile game publishers. iDreamsky has established a leading position in China through publishing some of the West's best-known mobile games - such as Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja and Imangi's Temple Run series - in China.

Riding the wave of China's rapidly growing smartphone market, Temple Run has accumulated some 200 million gamers in China with about 7 million daily users, thanks to iDreamsky's sales and marketing, which also helped Fruit Ninja accumulate more gamers than Temple Run.

"A segmented market of game users is being formed in China, so the success of a casual game like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja would be hard to duplicate in the future," Lyndon said.

"That means game publishers need a better strategy and more resources to help the increasing number of overseas game developers to localize their edition of hit games for the China market," he said.

From PC games to web games to the era of mobile games, the competitive relationship among game developers from China, the US, Europe, Japan and South Korea has changed.

In the era of the PC game, US and European developers were leading the industry trend and brought in new games to China. Chinese users had few choices until the Japanese and South Korean game developers followed and promoted their relatively localized versions in China. Chinese developers lagged behind.

In the web game era, US and European game developers kept their solid lead position in the Chinese game market. And the cycle repeated when Japanese and Korean followers joined in the competition faster than Chinese developers.

"Though US and European developers still have the best reputation in regard to game quality in the mobile era, Chinese developers have improved their competitiveness. The delayed cycle for Chinese developers has obviously shortened," Lyndon said.

Stephen Walker Gray, an executive at Tencent, said that game quality is the second important index to nothing when the company decides whether a game could be published on its platform in order to approach Chinese mobile users.


 Quality is king in mobile games' race to the top

Jeff Lyndon (right), co-founder and executive vice-president of Shenzhen-based iDreamsky with a lucky game developer who won a Xiaomi Mobilephone at the GDC VIP party sponsored by iDreamsky in San Francisco on Tuesday night. Chen Jia / China Daily

(China Daily USA 03/20/2014 page1)