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China’s Rise of Mobile Gaming

by Shine Wong 0

In 2014, China became the number one economic power with one of its major areas of development in the mobile gaming sector. The numbers from the first half of 2015 are stark and telling. China’s gaming market showed a total transaction revenue of 60.51 billion Yuan, which equates to $9.73 billion US. This is a marked increase over the same period of the previous year of 21.9%.

A huge part of the gaming market in China is mobile gaming with mobile gaming users reaching 366 million and transaction mobile revenue of 20.93 billion Yuan. Clearly, mobile gaming has become an essential part of the daily lives of mobile users in China.

The trend toward mobile gaming and away from console gaming that is seen in all other regions of the world is on steroids in China. This is due in part to the fact that the gaming consoles like Xbox One, Nintendo, and PlayStation were not sold within the country until recently. Another reason mobile gaming is such a huge industry in China compared to console gaming is the penetration of mobile devices as well as the improvement of certain infrastructure for 3G and 4G networks. Finally, the popularity of social platforms has led to the rapid growth of the mobile online gaming market.

Mobile and social features, especially related to gaming, are expected to continue to play an increasing role, following the rapid development of mobile internet. As a result, China’s mobile gaming market will attract more users with social platforms being the most popular. Furthermore, most mobile users will be utilizing Google’s Android operating system over Apple’s iOS.

The Android distribution accounted for 62% of sales in the mobile game market, while iOS was only 28%. One of the main reasons for this difference is the affordability of many Android platform phones over that of the higher priced iPhone. The types of games that users are installing on these phones fall into three general categories. In 2013, research by TalkingData showed the first category with the largest percent, casual games, making up 54% of all games installed. The second category is one of the fastest growing genres, card/poker and casino games, and it made up 24% of all games installed. The final category encompassed all other games at 22% of all games installed. 

Casual Games


Casual games have been leading the way because they are typically the types of games that first time gamers entering into the mobile market choose to install. The reasons are simple; casual games are usually very accessible with low learning curves and a simple game design that make them easy to learn and play. These are the games that are adopted most rapidly, especially those with a social platform component.

Many of the top mobile games played in China are those that are also popular internationally like Angry Birds and Temple Run. Recognizing the revenue potential in publishing these mobile games, Tencent, the Chinese social-networking giant, makes gaming possible through their hugely popular WeChat app. Within the app users can play a military shooter game called CrossFire as well as a fantasy RPG called League of Legends. These have been two of the top free-to-play games attracting more and more paid users of other Tencent games and apps and thus increasing the revenue to Tencent per user.

Card/Poker and Casino Games

One of the most popular card games in China is similar to the card game War. Its digital version is called Happy Landlord Battle and is a consistent favourite among Chinese players. For those who have not heard of War, the game involves each player trying to either draw or put out a hand that is larger than the hand(s) of their opponents. The rules of Landlord Battle are a bit different, but the game has a similar concept that is adapted for the mobile platform. This is just one of the Tencent games mentioned above that is free, but has in-app purchases that create the increased paid user base that has made Tencent a global leader.

Other popular games in this genre are poker and casino games, which are usually provided by online casinos that are hosted outside of China. One of the largest and most popular providers worldwide of these games is PokerStars, a brand that until recently was exclusive to poker. In fact, as a provider of online poker it has gained an outstanding reputation amongst card players of amateur and professional status alike. The brand has committed to taking the gaming experience of players to even new heights. The site already offered the best of poker gaming options for players like numerous poker events, tournaments, and a wide selection of popular poker games like Texas Hold’em, Omaha, 2-7 Single Draw, and many more.

Building upon the high regard from both gaming industry experts and among online players, the company expanded its once exclusive poker offerings to casino games so players could play poker and casino games conveniently in one place. This was accomplished with the introduction of the Poker Stars casino games. The company followed up this expansion with the introduction of a mobile app to allow certain poker games and casino games to be played on both iOS and Android devices. With this innovation, players were no longer restricted to playing only at their desktop computers.

While Tencent and the Amaya Gaming Group have a strong grasp on the trends in gaming and they are responding, adapting, and evolving as the market demands, other companies are also recognizing the potential that exists in the worldwide mobile gaming market, particularly in China. Alibaba is an E-commerce giant that recently set up a mobile gaming platform in China, understanding the revenue potential in being a platform operator for game developers. Rather than making their own games, Alibaba provides the platform upon which developers can publish their games.

Another company tapping into the Chinese mobile market is Sungy Mobile. In 2014 they announced they would partner with game developers inside and outside of China, but instead of just focusing on just overseas markets the company would expand its GO Series Launcher and other related apps back into China. The majority of Sungy Mobile users have traditionally been in Western countries, but the company like the others mentioned above has recognized mobile gaming in China as the most lucrative Internet businesses. Nexon is another company expanding into China’s mobile gaming market, having already launched their mobile strategy game called “Dominations.” In addition, the gaming company is launching more and more mobile games with more diverse genres in order to expand its presence in China and Asia at large.

All of these examples of companies expanding into the mobile gaming market illustrate the rise in mobile gaming, which is especially evident in China. The country accounts for over half of the global mobile game market with expectations of continued growth. Game developers, game publishers, and platform providers are all looking for opportunities to tap into the burgeoning red-hot market for mobile gaming. Though the opportunities are worldwide, nowhere are they more abundant than in Asia.

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