China has the largest gaming market in the world – and it is booming business. During the Digital China event (中国数码), a Sino-Dutch initiative focused on Chinese digital innovation, Shanshan Cao, senior market analyst at Newzoo, recently discussed the latest developments and opportunities in China’s gaming market, that is more and more focused on mobile gaming.
China’s Mobile Gaming Industry
“I love to play games,” Shanshan Cao smilingly starts her talk. Every day after work, she comes home to her favorite PC games. The rise of mobile gaming has now also made it possible to enjoy her games outside of the house. Not many people are that familiar with ‘mobile gaming’, but without realizing, she says, many of us already are mobile gamers. The great success of mobile games like Candy Crush or Angry Birds has proved that mobile gaming is quickly taking over a huge chunk of the international gaming market.
The US currently has around 139 million mobile gamers. The numbers vary, but according to Cao, China now has approximately 183 million gamers, and it is believed that 71% of the online population of China is an (occasional) online gamer, making it the largest online game market in the world.
One of the key drivers behind this online gaming environment is the fact that China is a mobile-first country. China’s average mobile user owns a relatively cheap but high-performance mobile phone, which enables them to play mobile games. As the quality of China’s smartphones keeps on rising, so are the possibilities and developments within China’s mobile gaming market.
What makes the market so interesting for companies, Cao explains, is their audience: China’s mobile gamers are young, mainly living in the first and second-tier cities of China, and half of them are female. Most importantly, they generally are fervent users of QQ, WeChat, and other social media, and like to spend money online as digital consumers who do not mind paying for movies, music, or games.
There are many different ways in which mobile games can bring revenue. There are paid games, or games with in-game payment options where users can generate a new life after they are game over by paying for it.
But the commercial power of free mobile games also should not be underestimated, Cao says: in-game advertising could earn money in various ways. The social-media-loving audiences of mobile games make them very interesting for brands who can advertise through precise targeting and crossover cooperations.
For example, Cao mentions, brands could make their products extra appealing by giving away in-game rewards. In this way, one would not only buy a L’Oreal shampoo, but also get ‘extra lives’ or other in-game rewards with it, making both a product and a game more attractive for gamers.
China’s Mobile Gaming Market: 5 Things You Need to Know
By now, China’s mobile games market has risen to 41% of the total Chinese games market. Shanshan Cao names the 5 main characteristics of this market; the must-know facts for anyone interested in being part of it.
1. Highly Competitive Market
China’s mobile games market is a highly competitive one. Right now, it is dominated by big players Netease and Tencent, that, amongst many others, produced the hugely popular Kāixīn Xiāo Xiāo Lè 开心消消乐 (see image).
Besides these giants, there are also many other big players – such as independent mobile game company iDreamsky. This makes it challenging for smaller companies to enter the market.
It is especially difficult for non-Chinese companies to enter China’s mobile gaming market, but there are also many opportunities for marketers and gaming companies that make it worthwhile. China has the world’s largest gaming market that is still continuing to grow; an exciting and booming place to be for companies that are not afraid of a challenge.
2. Restrictions & Censorship
Even without the big players, the Chinese gaming market is somewhat hard to enter for non-Chinese companies due to local restrictions and censorship. There is no Google Play Store, for example, as all Google products including Gmail, Google search, and the app store have been blocked since 2010.
This is just one of the many local restrictions foreign companies would have to deal with. But, Shanshan notes, one major possibility for foreign companies to tap into the market is to establish an own company in China or to work with a local partner that has a thorough understanding of the market and its restrictions and possibilities.
Swedish gaming company Mojang recently opted for the latter, as it teamed up with Chinese game giant Netease to develop a China-tailored version of their hugely popular Minecraft game. It currently holds the number one spot in the popular mobile games rank in China under the name of ‘My World’ (我的世界).
3. Fan Economy
Many of China’s popular online game are based on popular Chinese literature, comics, anime or reality TV shows – this ‘crossover success’ is an important part of China’s mobile gaming market.
Star Wars is a good example of how ’fan economy’ can benefit multiple markets, including the gaming one; the Star Wars: Commander game became a number one hit in China earlier this year, generating more than 1 million downloads in just four days within its release.
Shanshan encourages foreign companies to use mobile big data to help them understand Chinese consumers and their preferences.
4. Going Global
The competitive domestic gaming market has led to an increasing internationalization of China’s gaming companies. One of these companies is Snail Games, that was established in Suzhou, China, in 2000, and set up its LA-based USA company in 2010.
Going global poses a challenge for these companies, as they have to adjust their design to a more western taste, which often means making it less ‘cute’ or adding some game elements and promotion methods that speaks to a western audience. For the USA launch of the game Taichi Panda, for example, Snail Games hired famous American martial artist, judoka and actress Ronda Rousey to be their spokesman to make the game more ‘American’.
Shanshan notes that the internationalisation of China’s mobile gaming market also forms an opportunity for foreign gaming companies; if they do not have a strategy to enter China themselves, it is also commercially interesting to help Chinese games to do localisation in countries outside of China.
5. Mobile E-Sport Games
Mobile e-sport is bigger in China than it is in the West. Many bestseller games have proven that e-sport can make much money on console – but it is even more interesting when people can play it on their phone whenever they want to play it. Adding a competitive feature, like is done in Hero Pro League, makes it even more appealing to players.
One of the people who have made this market bigger is e-sports lunatic Wang Sicong, who also happens to be the son of the richest man in China.
Shanshan stresses that e-sports are important within China’s mobile gaming, but that it is not necessarily the dominant genre: “At this moment, China’s mobile gaming market has so much potential – anything is possible,” she says – again reaffirming that China’s mobile gaming market is anything but game over.
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What Are Weibo’s “Super Topics”?
Explaining Weibo’s “Super Topics”
Over the past year, Weibo’s so-called “Super Topics” (超级话题) have become more popular on the social media platform as online spaces for people to connect and share information.
Weibo’s “super topic” function has been around since 2016. The function allows Weibo users to create and join interest-based content community pages that are online groups separated from the main Weibo space. One could perhaps compare these Weibo Super Groups to ‘mega-threads’ or ‘subreddits’ on Reddit.
These are the most important things to know about Weibo’s Super Topics:
#1 A Super Topic is Not the Same as a Hashtag
Similar to Twitter, hashtags make it possible for Weibo users to tag a topic they are addressing in their post so that their content pops up whenever other people search for that hashtag.
Different from Twitter, Weibo hashtags also have their own page where the hashtag is displayed on top, displaying how many people have viewed the hashtag, how many comments the hashtag is tagged in, and allowing users to share the hashtag page with others.
A Super Topic goes beyond the hashtag. It basically is a community account where all sort of information is shared and organized. People can ‘follow’ (关注) a Super Topic and can also ‘sign in’ (签到).
On the main page of every Super Topic page, the main subject or purpose of the super topic is briefly explained, and the number of views, followers, and posts are displayed.
A super topic-page can be created by any Weibo user and can have up to three major hosts, and ten sub-hosts. The main host(s) can decide which content will be featured as essential, they can place sticky notes, and post links to suggested topics.
#2 A Super Topic Is a Way to Organize Content
Super Topic pages allow hosts to organize relevant content in the way they want. Besides the comment area, the page consists of multiple tabs.
A tab right underneath the main featured information on the page, for example, shows the “sticky posts” (置顶帖) that the host(s) of the page have placed there, linking to relevant information or trending hashtag pages. Below the sticky notes, all the posts posted in the Super Topic community are displayed.
One of the most important tabs within the Super Topic page is called “essential content” (精花), which only shows the content that is manually selected by the host(s). This is often where opinion pieces, articles, official news, or photos, etc. are collected and separated from all the other posts.
Another tab is the “Hall of Fame” (名人堂), which mainly functions as a reference page. It features links to the personal Weibo pages of the super topic page host(s), links to the Weibo pages of top contributors, and shows a list of the biggest fans of the Super Topic. Who the biggest fan of the page is, is decided by the number of consecutive days a person has “checked-in” on the page.
#3 Super Topics Are a Place for Fans to Gather
Although a Super Topic could basically be about anything, from cities to products or hobbies, Super Topics are often created for Chinese celebrities, video games, football clubs, or TV dramas.
Through Super Topic pages, a sense of community can be created. People can be ranked for being the most contributive or for checking in daily, and comment on each other’s posts, making it a home base for many fan clubs across China.
The host(s) can also help somebody’s page (e.g. a celebrity account) grow by proposing them to others within the group.
Super Groups are ranked on Weibo based on their popularity. This also gives fans more reason to stay active in the group, making their Super Topic top ranking within their specific category (TV drama, food, photography, sports, games, etc).
What makes the Super Topic group more ‘private’ than the common Weibo area, is that people posting within the Super Topic can decide whether or not they also want their comment shared on their own Weibo page or not. If they choose not to, their comments or posts will only be visible within the Super Topic community.
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Online Controversy over Mandatory GPS Tracking Smartwatches for Chinese Street Cleaners
Being a street cleaner in 2019 China now involves wearing a mandatory smartwatch with GPS tracking.
Earlier this month, the introduction of smartwatches tracking the movements of street cleaners in Nanjing attracted the attention of Chinese netizens and international media after the new policy was made public on April 3rd.
In March of this year, the sanitation department in the Hexi area of Nanjing, Jiangsu, started a pilot with a smartwatch that sanitation workers are obliged to wear. The watch has a built-in real-time GPS tracking system, allowing the Nanjing Hexi Smart Sanitation Center to monitor workers’ movements.
In a short video published by Toutiao News, a spokesperson of the Smart Sanitation Command Center* explained that the smartwatch currently allows the company to assess the workers in three ways: they can register workers’ attendance, collect statistics of workers leaving their designated work area, and report on workers that remain in the same position exceeding the allowed amount of time.
Sanitation workers also commented on their new working system. One person interviewed said: “Why wouldn’t I be allowed to have a half-an-hour break? Look, the street is all clean, there is nothing to be cleaned up. They are crazy for making us move up and down the street for no reason.”
Street cleaners also said that the system would automatically report them if they had been in the same spot for more than twenty minutes. The smartwatch would then subsequently encourage them to move, calling out “Jiayou! Jiayou!” (“Come on! Come on!”).
That particular function was reportedly removed shortly after public outcry on the policy.
On Weibo, the hashtag “Smartwatch Automatically Yells ‘Jiayou'” (#智能手表自动喊加油#) received over 2,5 million views, with the majority of commenters strongly rejecting the new approach.
Most commenters on this issue argued that the implementation of the smartwatch is “immoral” and that the Nanjing workers are “treated as criminals.” Many others also pointed out that the workers, often senior citizens, should be able to rest for more than 20 minutes.
In light of the new policy, many people on social media also referred to the infamous fictional character Zhou “Bapi” (周扒皮). In the novel The Killing Wind, this landlord Zhou would stick his head into the henhouse stirring up the roosters to wake his laborers up earlier, so they would start working.
Some netizens came with an alternative solution, suggesting that the leaders of the company should wear the smartwatches themselves instead.
While the controversial function was eliminated, the GPS tracking function still stands.
Nanjing is not the first city to introduce GPS tracking smartwatches for its sanitary workers. Other cities where the same policy has been introduced are, for example, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, and Qingdao, according to Chinese media outlet Global Times.
In the summer of 2018, various Chinese media outlets already reported about the introduction of smartwatches for street cleaners in Guangzhou. At the time, the smartwatch policy was described as an innovative way to solve staff deployment and management problems, giving team leaders more insights into the real-time position of the street cleaners.
Whether or not the smartwatches do indeed improve work efficiency of street cleaners is still unclear, but there are no indications that the smartwatch policy will be changed at this point.
The tough work conditions of Chinese street cleaners, who work long hours and receive minimal pay, regularly become an issue of debate on Chinese social media. Besides praising the hard work of China’s public cleaners, Chinese netizens often express their sympathy for the bad circumstances under which street sweepers have to work.
By Gabi Verberg
* (南京河西建环”智能环卫”综合调度监控指挥中心 Nanjing Hexi Jianhuan “Intelligent Sanitation” Integrated Dispatching Monitoring Command Center)
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