In the mobile gaming industry, China represents an enormous user group with what seems like unlimited revenue and growth potential. The East Asian nation is home to an incredible 1.3 billion mobile phone users, of which nearly half have access to the internet on their devices.
Focusing on gaming in particular, it looks like China’s gamers are following the same pattern as their American counterparts. While PC games are still holding on to the largest market share (much like console games in America), growth in this sector is showing strong signs of stagnation. In its place, year on year revenue from mobile gaming increased 400% between 2013 and 2014.
As impressive as the mobile gaming growth figures are, what is perhaps even more noteworthy is that China only currently has 365 million estimated mobile gamers. For a population fast approaching 1.4 billion, it’s pretty clear that the annual mobile gaming revenue figures (currently around 3.3 billion USD) coming out of the nation are just a fraction of what they will be in the coming five or ten years.
With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper and take a look at some of the emerging trends in the Chinese mobile gaming behavior of this rapidly growing market.
The Barrier of Connectivity
One of the major barriers the mobile market faces in China is connectivity. In 2013, only 48% of mobile gamers in China played over a wi-fi connection. The remaining 52% was roughly split between 2G and 3G, which introduces speed issues as well as data consumption cost issues for users.
Games Installed on the Average Chinese Smartphone
In 2013 TalkingData conducted a comprehensive survey of mobile use in China. What they found was that the average smartphone in China had 5.59 games installed. Of these games, about half were of the casual variety (e.g. Angry Birds, Temple Run, etc.), while one quarter were categorized as card games or board games. The remaining quarter was a mix of other gaming categories.
TalkingData’s research revealed that Chinese mobile users are fairly active when it comes to searching for and installing new games. In fact, the average user installed a new game every 3.5 days, with the majority of gamers installing up to 20 games each month. Aligning these figures with the average number of gaming apps installed on a Chinese smartphone, and you can definitely start to see a pattern emerge. Chinese gamers are regularly downloading a large volume of apps, testing them out, and only sticking with their favorites.
Trends in Spending
Not surprisingly, mobile gaming spending spikes in the evening in China, presumably when players can enjoy more free time and are able to connect to wi-fi rather than data. According to the information gathered by TalkingData, card and RPG games illicit the most spending from users in China. In terms of payment methods, Alipay is emerging as the preferred option over pre-paid cards.
The Take Home for Mobile Game Developers
The Chinese mobile gaming market still has a long way to go in terms of infrastructure growth and maturity. Developers wanting to enter the marketplace now should be mindful of some of the unique constraints Chinese mobile users face, particularly as it pertains to data usage and connectivity. The good news is that the data suggests that new mobile players are open to installing a fairly high volume of games. The key is to develop one of the 5.59 games users will want to keep on their phones.