Hyper Casual Games in China vs. Western World

The advent of mobile devices has created an unstoppable avalanche of apps penetrating every pore of our lives. The most popular use case for mobile apps is gaming. As a matter of fact, mobile gaming accounted for over three-quarters of all app revenue in 2018, out of a staggering $92.1 billion the consumers spent on apps in general.

The greatest portion of the mobile game market is occupied by the hyper casual genre which has experienced unprecedented growth in the past couple of years. These lightweight mobile games don’t require much explaining and can be played instantly. They revolve around a single goal, short sessions, and simple mechanics. Still, they present a challenge to the player as reaching a high score can be difficult.

The genre isn’t only appealing to players but game developers too as these games entail significantly lower development costs than any other mobile game category. Additionally, money saved on development can be put to good use marketing-wise. Speaking of marketing, hyper casual games’ short playthroughs make them a great platform for advertising, which is why their monetization strategies revolve more around in-app ads than in-app purchases. They can utilize rewarded videos, banners, and interstitials between sessions and generate a high number of impressions in a single match.

Thanks to its simplicity and low cost, this mobile game category has won over the hearts and phones of audiences all over the world. Asian markets, especially China, are no exception.


The state of the genre in the Western World

In the Western World, it all started with the rise of free-to-play mobile games as consumers became conditioned to pay less and publishers turned to other strategies for monetization, such as in-app advertising.

One of the first games with a minimalistic design resembling hyper casual mechanics was Flappy Bird. Then the genre exploded with companies like Ketchapp and Voodoo joining the market and the hyper casual genre experienced a year-over-year download increase of over 200% in 2018, with close to over 340% year-over-year in-app revenue growth.

Right now, the annual revenue for hyper casual games alone is somewhere between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.

The expansion of the genre in China

As mentioned, hyper casual has recently started to gain traction in China as well. Although the Asian market has traditionally been dominated by core strategy and multiplayer RPGs, hyper casual games now account for around 60% of game installs from the Apple App Store in China. On top of that, this country’s top 10 iOS downloads chart in April had six hyper casual titles and a whopping 30% of games downloaded in China were in the hyper casual range.

Nevertheless, things haven’t been exactly ideal for mobile gaming and its monetization in this part of the world. The major Android app stores in China have historically banned redirecting to websites and locations to acquire content, preferring a closed ecosystem instead. This has created an enormous obstacle in the flexibility for supporting an ad-based monetization model.

In April 2018, a temporary game licensing freeze came into effect in China, which has had a negative impact on all game companies operating in China. Only around 1,000 out of 6,000 games have been given approvals so far in 2019. The victims of the freeze have included Tencent which has lost over $200 billion in market value in 2018 as a consequence of the freeze.

Furthermore, due to the recommendations of the Ministry of Education, Tencent has restricted online play time for minors in China. Under the new restrictions, children under 12 are allowed under one hour of play time per day, while those between 13 and 18 years can play for up to two hours a day. Playing is entirely banned for both groups during nighttime, specifically between 9 pm and 8 am.

Still, despite these shortcomings, hyper casual is flourishing in China. One of the things that help is that Android app stores are making baby steps toward changing their rules regarding in-app ads in order to allow ad-supported apps, promoting user growth.


Why its popularity is growing in China

The Western developers who create these minimalistic, ad-supported games have started entering the Chinese market, especially so on iOS platforms. The iOS users in China can now enjoy Voodoo’s Hole.io and Paper.io 2, as well as Lion Studios’ Happy Glass and Big Big Baller.

The Chinese developers as well are moving toward the small game trend. For example, Tencent’s social platform WeChat now has a Mini Games program used by hundreds of millions of players. Some of the games allow monetization through rewarded videos, leading developers in China to recognize the value of ad-based monetization.

Among all the mobile game genres, hyper casual games have the largest appeal which gives them a larger target audience than other games. These games are easy to discover, free to play, and quick to master. Additionally, they come in compact file sizes, a preference of most mobile game players.

iOS is currently the hyper casual developers’ preferred platform in China because it isn’t faced with the same fragmentation across tech companies, phone manufacturers, and internet service providers as Android is. It has fewer limitations, and there is still less scrutiny in the iOS space, according to JoyPac’s Allison Bilas.


Although the popularity of hyper casual is in full swing in China, the market is still young and therefore open to new games and developers. To take full advantage of all the huge opportunities this budding market offers, you first need to analyze the niche – learn which games are overwhelmingly present in the app stores, so you can offer an alternative and different experience to the audience.

You also need to pay special attention to the country’s strict legislation and cultural peculiarities, adapting game mechanics and in-game design to cater to Chinese consumer tastes. To successfully localize your game to the Chinese market, you also must adapt your monetization design to reflect the differing behaviors of Chinese consumers.

To assist you in this, you need to have a versatile and unbiased monetization platform like SOOMLA. With our metrics, KPIs, integrations, and constantly improving technologies, we help you improve your existing systems and drive insights that impact your product, marketing, and monetization success.

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