Game Promotion Peculiarities on the Asian Markets
Every country has its own rules and preferences, so you first have to take a closer look at the market and see if your app will do. Localizing a title for the Asian market is a long and time-consuming process that requires a lot of effort. but, if you do it responsibly, and translate your game well, the local users will appreciate it.
Asia is a perfect sweet spot for game developers, since the Western markets are oversaturated and have been slowing down for a while now, while Asian markets are still growing rapidly. The question is: how should you approach them?
The main game promotion issues you are likely to face in Asian markets are:
For example, in Western countries people often use familiar services such as Google Play and App Store. Asia is different. There is the App Store in China, for example, but Google and all its services are banned. Google Play, which constitutes around 70% of the mobile market, is replaced by 400 or so local Android Stores. Interestingly enough, each of these shops has its own focus, and some of them exclusively publish games. These are the easiest to work with among local platforms. Japan is dominated by the App Store and Korea by Google Play, but both countries also have their own alternatives:for example, one such major Android service is Korea’s OneStore. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, both the App Store and Google Play are present.
Japan is the most attractive country in terms of profit with over 70 million smartphone owners, almost half of them eager to spend money on mobile games, and high ARPU (average revenue per user) — $200. Simply compare this to ARPU in the United States ($72), China ($40), and South Korea ($108).
Just as everywhere else in the world, players from Asia prefer the freemium model. The users here, however, are especially willing to pay for quality applications and customization options.
Speaking of solvency, it is worth noting that many Asian users are not used to paying by cards. In China, for example, they use payment systems, such as WeChat Pay and Alipay, for in-app purchases. In Vietnam, players utilize e-wallets, MoMo, ZaloPay, and VTCPay, while in Korea the App Store recently added Kakao Pay in addition to the option to pay with a credit card.
In Asia, people are used to signing up for apps via their favorite social media accounts. Thus, Korean users expect to have at least 4 options: Google, Naver, Kakao, and Facebook, while Chinese players prefer to use WeChat and their phone numbers.
Many industries in Asia, such as medicine, finance, education, real estate, and mobile gaming, are constantly kept under strict control. The Chinese government, for instance, takes Internet advertising very seriously.
Some of its provisions in its latest update to market regulation policy, the People’s Republic of China’s Advertising Law, ban the following:
- The use of superlatives and words such as “most” and “best”;
- The use of the national flag or the anthem of China;
- Any advertising that is detrimental to Chinese national dignity or the national interests;
- The advertising of tobacco products;
- The advertising of prescription drugs;
- Any false advertising and misleading materials.
Overall, the government’s motives are clear — it seeks to protect its citizens from low-quality and harmful products, as well as its own reputation on the global diplomatic scene.
In Asia, it is not just large corporations that resort to offline marketing — these channels work for companies of all sizes. Offline marketing is still very popular here.
In China, promoters often hang around educational institutions handing out flyers with QR codes for downloading their employer’s latest app. These sometimes include enticing in-app bonuses for installing the app via the link provided in the flyer. The Chinese believe that high-quality offline advertising is a mark of a successful and qualitative app.
Offline marketing would require contacting a local advertising agency or publisher. Our company, Data40, recently assembled a dataset of carefully selected publishers, sorted by website traffic, HQ locations, and incorporation date, that many of those wanting to make a splash on the Asian markets will find useful. However, you should first evaluate the effectiveness of online promotion, and only then think about offline advertising.
Another point about the Asian markets, is that influencers have long proven an exceedingly popular promotion channel that deserves special attention.
Although influencer promotion is also popular in the West, in Asia this trend not only defines industries such as fashion or cosmetics, but also greatly affects gaming.
Influencers are especially noteworthy in Korea and Taiwan, where famous gamers promote products on YouTube, Twitch, and AfreecaTV (a Korean platform reminiscent of Twitch).
Understandably, most developers cannot afford to hire celebrities for their ads, but there are plenty of local, smaller influencers who can create promotional content for you on platforms like Chinese Bidibidi (specializing in anime and games), Korean Naver Cafe, and Naver Blog, etc. You do not have to hire a local ad agency to work with influencers, but given the language barrier, it is easier to contact a specialized marketing company.
More often than not, you will have to resort to working with local publishers. It is even unavoidable in China, since you will not even be able to release a game without one, as one needs to go through a complicated registration process, that at various stages will require knowledge of Chinese, Chinese phone numbers, and other caveats. Keep in mind that, although releasing the game in Hong Kong and Taiwan is much easier than in mainland China, you will still have to cooperate with local publishers. Even Chinese giants such as Tencent cannot release games in Taiwan without a local company to represent them.
In Japan and Korea, a local publisher is not strictly required, but they can manage your accounts on local social media and offer ideas for banners and promotions, which will make the advertising process go much smoother.
Although many users here speak English, Asian players generally prefer to be talked to in their native tongue.
Asian users are quite loyal. The main difficulty you are likely to face will be caused by the Chinese Commission, which decides whether to allow the game to be released in China or not. Things such as blood of any color, skeletons, or the slightest display of the inappropriate values are prohibited. In Japan and Korea there is generally no problem of this kind.
The Chinese Commission does not allow English words in the local apps. All text must be in simplified Chinese.
When entering any market, be sure to translate the creatives into the users’ native language. It is always worth hiring local translators for this purpose.
Let us summarize certain marketing peculiarities of the Asian market:
Promotion peculiarities in China:
- Complex localization (more than 60 dialects) with “Mandarin” Chinese serving as the main guiding version;
- The more content on screen — the better. This is part of Chinese mentality. While in other countries such an approach could cause a sensory overload, in China, on the contrary, it is very much encouraged;
- The social media most popular worldwide are banned. Their popular local equivalents are Tencent, QZone, Weibo, WeChat;
- Offline marketing is a must, as online marketing opportunities are fewer and less effective;
- Billing difficulties. You will have to cooperate with mobile operators to allow users to pay for in-app purchases via SIM cards in your game. This is a time-consuming process, plus, depending on the operator, the payment commission can go as high as 30%. The main operators are China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom;
- Software piracy is very common in China. For example: you might add your application to one of the 400 Chinese Android Stores, then it will be reuploaded to the other 399 by someone else without your consent.
Korean market features:
- Transparent conditions for entering the market;
- Three prevalent app stores: Kakao, App Store, and Google Play;
- Kakao is installed on 95% of all mobile devices in Korea;
- 85% of devices run on Android;
- Koreans generally have a high level of English proficiency but, due to other cultural characteristics, you should provide the option to play in Korean;
- In our experience, it cost 3 times less to enter the Overall Korean TOP-10 than to achieve the same rank in the US. Plus, climbing to the top of Korean charts was 2 times more effective in terms of organic growth;
- Before you launch your product in Korea and go for the top, you need to carefully optimize the app’s store page for Korean cultural sensibilities, taking their tetrophobia (fear of numbers) into account, and so on. We definitely recommend hiring local proofreaders (country residents who can translate, test, and generally boost your localization efforts).
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