As the world’s largest smartphone market, China represents a huge opportunity for mobile game developers and publishers. But winning in the Chinese mobile market requires more than just localization. You need to be aware of local trends and, most importantly, you need to understand the Chinese app store landscape.
You see, it’s nothing like app stores in the U.S. In China, Android is king. Android users comprise nearly 80% of the smartphone market. Since Google Play pulled out of the country in 2010, the Android app store landscape has become increasingly fragmented. By some accounts, there are more than 200 app stores in China.
Luckily for those trying to break into the market, the top three players in the App Store market make up nearly two-thirds of total downloads. By publishing your app in one of these, you’re likely to reach a good percentage of the marketplace. To help you prepare, here’s the lowdown on the big three:
360 Mobile Assistant
360 Mobile Assistant is by many accounts the biggest app store in China, covering 26% of the Android market. Developed by Qihoo, China’s second-largest search engine, the app store has seen a huge increase in users since it came onto the scene in 2012. Last year, Qihoo reported that their app store had “over 400 million” users, though some experts think that number might be slightly inflated. Regardless, 360 Mobile Assistant is a power player.
Looking to solidify its position in the mobile market, Qihoo recently announced a joint partnership with one of China’s largest domestic smartphone manufacturers. 360 Mobile Assistant has also negotiated exclusive initial distribution arrangements with a number of large game publishers including Rovio, Disney, and PopCap. Likely because the store’s reach is impressive. When “Plant vs. Zombie 2” was first released on 360 Mobile Assistant, it received 10 million downloads in 36 hours.
Nipping at the heels of 360 Mobile Assistant is Myapp. (Talking Data puts their market share at 23%, while OneSky has them with 26%). The app store is developed by Chinese tech giant Tencent, which also runs the popular messaging app WeChat (think Facebook meets Twitter meets Tumblr). Myapp leverages its connection to WeChat to drive users to the store. And it seems to be working. Last year, Myapp reported 110 million app downloads a day.
WeChat allows users to pay government bills, call a taxi, or even buy fruit, which gives Myapp a big leg up in what the AppAnnie blog called the “battle to own people on mobile payment.” This payment integration is especially important in China, which uses a prepaid “top-up” systemthat encourages more spending than a credit card. Myapp position’s is also boosted by Tencent’s success in game publishing. Last year, according to AppAnnie, Tencent published three of the top ten apps in China, by downloads.
Baidu Mobile Assistant
Developed by the country’s largest search engine, Baidu Mobile Assistant is the third biggest app store in China. According to Talking Data and OneSky, they have 18% coverage of the Android market, making Baidu Mobile Assistant a force to be reckoned with. The app store is fully integrated into the company’s search engine, allowing users to sync their downloads seamlessly with their searches.
Baidu also owns two other popular app stores, HiMarket and 91 Mobile (which it acquired in 2013 for $1.9 billion). Taken together, the “Baidu family” has more than 40% of the independent third party app store market. Baidu also published two of 2014’s top ten apps by download, according to AppAnnie.
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