video game industry china guide

With more than 665 million gamers as of 2021, China is the biggest market in the world in terms of video games. Fostered by the country’s digitalization, the younger generation is at the core of this increasing demand. Following the Covid-19 crisis that has spurred app usage and video games all across the world, the Chinese market is one of the most promising in the world for gaming companies that want to expand their activities abroad. So, in order to understand the impact video games can have in China, this article will go through some specificities of the Chinese gaming industry and its evolution over the years. Then, we will explain how to take advantage of this market to promote your gaming company in China.

Contents

The Video Game Industry in China

As the leading market worldwide in terms of video games, China was able to take advantage of this industry contributing to its growth over the years. China is in fact attracting many foreign gaming companies that want to expand their activities in one of the most digitalized countries in the world.

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Short History of the Gaming Industry in China

In 1978, even though China first opened its market to foreign investments, it remained hard to get foreign goods. Consoles were accessible only in the 90s but were too expensive for the majority of the population which preferred to go to arcades.

However, a few years later as the Chinese market was increasingly internationalized, video games were cheaper and consoles’ sales grew significantly. But, following this quick growth, China’s Ministry of Culture was convinced that playing video games was harmful to society, which led to an outright ban in 2000 that mainly affected gaming companies such as Sony, Sega, and Nintendo. On the other hand, computer games were still allowed, which contributed to the success of internet cafés.

china internet café
An internet café in China (© Britannica)

The Chinese population had to wait until 2015 before the ban was fully lifted up, and Microsoft’s Xbox One was the first to have an official release in Mainland China. Since then, the video game industry has skyrocketed in China and is described as the “Games Industry Capital of the World”.

The Video Game Industry in China

China’s gaming industry has developed in leaps and bounds, with almost 665 million players who spent over 278 billion yuan on video games. It boasts the world’s most lucrative gaming market, with revenues led by mobile games (32 billion US dollars as of 2020), while E-sports accounted for 20.8 billion US dollars. Other categories like traditional PC games take only a small percentage of the overall market, generating only 8.5 billion US dollars. These past few years, Chinese gaming companies were looking to expand to overseas markets, recording 15.45 billion US dollars in 2020.

top 10 video games market

As you can see, China is still the leading market in the gaming industry, followed by the United States. Because of its market size, what is known as the “Games Industry Capital of the World” is the headquarter of some of the largest video game companies such as Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, Sony, EA, etc. However, the competition is getting tougher, especially between China and the United States.

Video games regulations in China

Following concerns about video game addiction and negative influence for young players that came to head in 2000, reducing video games’ impact has become one of the Chinese government’s priorities.

Young child playing online mobile game (© Getty Images)
  • The Ministry of Information Industry

In Mainland China, like most mass Chinese media, video games are regulated by the government. Even though it has proven economic and cultural benefits, the growth of this industry is one of China’s priorities. In the 1990s, the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) was created in order to regulate and promote Chinese telecommunications and software companies, as well as online gaming.

  • Censorship in the video game industry

As mentioned earlier, video games are subject to national policies and censorship. If you want to sell your video games in China, you will be required to have a license for the game from the SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television) before publishing. Moreover, game contents deemed inappropriate are forbidden.

  • Anti-addiction measures

As one of the first countries to recognize the addiction to the Internet, video games, and other digital media. In 2008, China was the first country to formally classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder: Clinical Diagnostic Criteria for Internet Addiction.

In fact, because of China’s digitalization, many young children have access to electronic devices and are more inclined to become addicted to them if rules are not strict enough. According to the Chinese government in 2015, more than 500 million citizens (nearly half of the population) suffered from near-sightedness, thus pushing the government to put measures to incite young players to reduce their gaming sessions.

Child playing Honor of Kings (© Getty Images)

Such as social media that are considered as “addictive” like Douyin (抖音), gaming companies have to encourage young players to take a break over a certain amount of time. In 2005, the government created some regulations to limit daily gaming time to  hours. In 2018, China’s Ministry of Education greatly encouraged to limit even more the amount of time spent by minors online. Even some companies such as Tencent restricted the amount of time spent on their online games to 1 hour per day for children under 12, and 2 hours per day for those aged between 13-18. Moreover, children under 12 are not able to log in after 9 p.m on the online game Honor of Kings.

Foreign companies have to respect those rules in order to do business in China, and the majority of the gaming companies have developed and conceived a Chinese version of their games to meet the requirements, such as League of Legends, one of the most popular games in China.

The Video Game Industry During the Covid-19 Pandemic

While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on the global economy with many industries being strongly affected, the video game industry has been spared and was even able to exhibit remarkable growth. It has been far more resilient to the pandemic than other industries. Sales and gaming time have greatly increased, especially for online games that were the only way to play with friends as we can see with the following picture.

Chinese streamer reuniting with his friends online during the Spring Festival (© 微博)
Chinese streamer reuniting with his friends online during the Spring Festival (© 微博)

Hitherto, there have been no problems for gaming companies to attract players, but these few months they have been witnessing a surge in the number of users and a spike in the number of hours spent on online games. However, the esports sector was the most affected, with many events canceled over the past few months, which contributed to the rising popularity of live-streaming platforms.

Why are video games this popular in China?

Chinese students studying for the Gaokao (©  新华网)
Chinese students studying for the Gaokao (© 新华网)

Following China’s economic development based on its workforce, people had long hours of work every day, tough competition, high pressure at school, and thus needed to relieve stress during their leisure time. So, as one means to escape the hassle and stress of life, the younger generation turned to video games, which greatly contributed to its growth during the last few years.

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, video games are conceived in a way to attract players, by offering daily items and rewards, encouraging them to open the game at least once a day. Mobile games are also easily accessible as almost everyone has a smartphone. Playing on the way to work has become a habit for many citizens.

Chinese gamers

Esport players

Chinese gamers are in general young players who have grown using technological devices and are thus more inclined to play with their friends and classmates. That’s why this industry is now at the core of debates about young players addicted to video games. According to research by the WHO, spending too much time playing in a virtual world can have serious consequences in real life. 

If we look at the age distribution of video gamers in China, the majority of them are aged between 18-25 years old. But, the appeal of video games has expanded to older age groups over the years, as gamers aged above 46 years old accounted for about 8.8% of the gamers.

So, the older generation is not at rest, such as this old man who has cleared 300 video games!

The Chinese Grandpa who has cleared 300 video games

Esports: A Game-Changing Opportunity

  • Esports Tournaments
Esports’ Tournament in China

As the leader in the gaming industry, Chinese players are more involved than before in online competitions, especially in esports. In fact, China has been a major factor in the growth of esports both in terms of talents and revenues. Brands are now recognizing the potential of video games as a marketing tool, with various international brands such as Nike and Puma sponsoring esports gaming teams.

Chinese team at the 2018  Invictus Gaming
Chinese team at the 2018 Invictus Gaming

Esports, or Electronic Sports, is a video game competition that mostly allows teams to compete against each other. It became popular since big companies have organized events reuniting esports gamers. During these events, the public can watch multiplayer video game competitions with professional players playing as individuals or as a team. Some of them are even considered celebrities in the esports industry, with thousands of fans encouraging them during these events. It is also important to underline the fact that esports is more accessible than before thanks to new technologies and live streaming that has greatly contributed to its influence among young players.

However, do not think that these teams just compete for fun, esports has become a real profession, with grand prizes that can reach millions of dollars. Indeed, it requires dexterity, foresight, and strategy.

ESPORT START WORLD

If we look at the share of respondents familiar or engaged in e-sports, China is the first on the podium with 72% of its population that is familiar with e-sports.

  • Esports: When a Hobby Becomes a Profession

While video games are designed for all kinds of players, many esports games are specially designed to be played professionally. For example, developers can decide to include dedicated esports features in their games or even adapt them to high-level competitions. Moreover, you have to know that China is amongst the few countries to acknowledge licensed professional esports players and to recognize it as a real profession.

  • Esports’ audience

Thanks to China’s digitalization, players are now able to watch live streaming competitions on various platforms, social media, and even take part in esports tournaments.

ESPOT AUDIANCE GROWTH
(© Newzoo)

The growth of esports’s audience in China is spectacular as it is expected to increase from 335 million viewers in 2017 to 645 million viewers in 2022. As of 2021, China has the most esports enthusiasts (92.8 million). 

League of Legends tournament in Beijing’s Olympic Stadium (© Bloomberg)
League of Legends tournament in Beijing’s Olympic Stadium (© Bloomberg)

For example, one of China’s biggest esports’ events was in 2018, with more than 40,000 fans flocked to Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium to watch the final of the League of Legends’ World championships.

  • Esports to be recognized at the Olympics?
ESPORT AT THE OLYMPICS?
(© Esportstalk)

Following Esports’ huge success all over the world, the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) hopes for a cultural or demonstration event at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. This wouldn’t make it a medal event at the Olympics, but it would still give esports a kind of validation. For example, esports is going to be included as a medal sport for the first time at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou.

If you want more information about Esports, you can read our full article:

Esports in China: More than just a hobby

What are the most popular gaming platforms in China?

size of gaming platforms

According to Newzoo’s latest global games market forecast, roughly 2.3 billion gamers around the world will spend a record $137.9 billion on the computer, video, and mobile games this year. It is also important to know that many of today’s most popular games, such as Minecraft, Fortnite, or other new games such as Genshin Impact, can be played on all three platforms. In China, the proportion of gaming platforms is roughly the same, with a gaming industry dominated by mobile games.

Mobile games leads China Gaming Market

Even though PC games are popular in terms of esports, it is also important to talk about mobile esports in China, which are taking off a huge part of the esports market. For example, on the top 100 grossing games on Chinese Playstore, 24 games are considered esports titles, whereas, on IOS, this number stands at 19.

mobile esport china
(© Newzoo)

As the following chart illustrates, the mobile game industry has seen incredible growth over the past few years, increasing from 41% between 2012 and 2021. Leaving PC and console games way behind in terms of global revenue, mobile gaming used to be an isolated segment. However, smartphones and tablets are now powerful enough to compete with dedicated gaming consoles and PCs in terms of gaming experiences. Chinese people now have access to competitive smartphones in terms of price and capacities, and even in terms of internet speed thanks to the 5G technology.

chinese leading mobile game company

Now if we look at the leading Chinese mobile gaming companies, Tencent is still the number one, followed by NetEase and 37games. Thanks to increasing per capita disposable income and well-developed online payment methods such as WeChat pay and Alipay, players are expected to spend even more time and money on online games in the years to come.

Consoles games 

Even though console games are less popular than mobile games, they are still lucrative for gaming companies. Chinese players are using the same consoles as in Western countries, such as the Nintendo Switch, Playstation, Xbox, PSP, etc. When it comes to the games, they tend to buy them on online platforms or even directly on online stores to have a dematerialized game.

PC games

PC games are expected to fall behind console games in the race for the second-largest gaming platform as they are not as attractive as before for younger players who are more inclined to play on their smartphones. However, PC games are not going to vanish away, as esports has been gaining popularity these last few years.

China Video Game Industry: Much More Than Just Games

In recent years, it is undeniable that the younger generation has been living in an increasingly gamified environment, both online and offline. Thus, it is important for players to be part of specific gaming communities in real life. The video game sector has become much more than just playing video games.

Video Game Forums and Exhibitions

Another very popular side of video games is video game forums and exhibitions during which online players can reunite and share their experiences and passion in real life with other players.

‘Chinajoy’ in Shanghai, China’s major video games event

It is also the best opportunity for gaming companies to display their products, promote them and entertain their community and players. As you can see, video game events are reuniting thousands of gamers every year.

The Impact of Video Games in the Chinese Society: 

Gaming has become a team sport in more than  1000 universities across Asia, particularly in China, where players are taught from a young age how to play the most popular esports games.

  • Video Game Schools

Since playing video games became a real profession in China, with professional players being able to earn money thanks to tournaments, sponsors, advertisements, and live streaming,  China is also one of the first countries in the world that have created some schools dedicated to video games. Students can be trained by professional players, receiving tricks and advice on specific video games.

Students majoring in 'eSports and Management’ at the Lanxiang Technical School in Jinan, Shandong
Students majoring in ‘eSports and Management’ at the Lanxiang Technical School in Jinan, Shandong

For example, in a technical school in Jinan, students can attend courses during which they will be taught how to play video games effectively for esports tournaments. After paying the $1,400 school fees, students will spend 50% of their time playing (while focusing on improving their skills in some of the most popular eSport games), and 50% attending  ‘theory lessons’ to ensure they will succeed in the industry.

Even though the purpose of these schools can be discussed, it shows how important the video game industry is for China as it has become an economic growth driver. It is also important to know that even if they do not all become professional players, they can still be teachers and trainers for esports tournaments or even presenters. This industry already employs 70,000 people in China, and this growth shows no sign of slowing as it is expected to employ 260,000 people by 2025.

  • Video games-related jobs in China

To conceive a video game, many professions are needed to do so. For example, a company needs graphic designers, programmers, marketers, musicians for the soundtrack of the games, etc. So, this industry employs a lot more people than you might think. Even though they are not directly considered to be part of the gaming industry, they are still related to it.

When Video games are more than just games

  • Animal Crossing: A Training Platform for Fashionistas and Designers
(© Nintendo)

The well-known Nintendo game Animal Crossing has been especially appreciated by fashionistas and designers in China, as it allowed some students in the fashion industry, for example, to create unique designs on the game or even recreate designs from famous brands. This kind of game can thus be considered as virtual fashion at some point, allowing its creators to share their creations with other players thanks to the in-game QR code.

  • Video games adapted into movies

In recent years, the Chinese film industry has displayed large potential for video game adaptation into movies.

‘Dynasty Warriors’ Video game and Movie adaptation
‘Dynasty Warriors’ Video game and Movie adaptation

Released in April 2021, Dynasty Warriors is a Hong Kongese movie adapted from the Japanese video game franchise (三國無双) that is itself based on a Chinese classical novel.

‘Warcraft’ Game and its movie adaptation

Released in 2016 and produced by Ducan Jones, Warcraft raked in 1.47 billion yuan (US$213 million) in China alone, despite its poor performance in other countries.

The famous video game Angry Birds and its movie adaptation
The famous video game Angry Birds and its movie adaptation

Adapted at first from the mobile game in 2016, ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ grossed over 514 million yuan (US$74.65 million). Following its huge success, a second movie was released which quickly became a huge box-office hit in China.

  • Movies and series about video games

Playing video games has become a central aspect of Chinese youth culture with the rising use of console games, PCs, and smartphones. This new culture is reflected in both everyday life and the media, leading to the production of many movies and TV series, with immediate success among the viewers. 

Chinese Movies and series about video games

Some of the most popular shows include: Three-Body Problem (2016 Movie), The Player (2021 Series), Go Go Squid! (2019 Series), Gank Your Heart (2019 Series), The King’s Avatar (2019 Series), Love O2O (2016 Movie and Serie), etc.

When Video Games Meet New Technologies

As you probably already know, China is one of the most digitalized countries in the world, with a tech-savvy population and many new-technologies-related companies. Thus, China is a wonderful place for video game companies that want to include AI, VR, and AI technologies in their video games.

AI in Video Games

Artificial intelligence, often referred to as AI, enables computers and machines to mimic the perception, learning, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. AI allows many incredible performances and tasks that were considered as only doable by humans. Even though AI is mainly used for shopping, healthcare, and as a way to increase a consumer’s experience, AI is also extremely popular in the video game industry. With a tech-savvy population, it is normal for gaming companies to include AI experiences in some of their games to improve the gaming experience.

AI Video Game Ring of Elysium
AI Video Game Ring of Elysium

For example, some of the most popular video game companies like Tencent, NetEase, and Changyou have all used a speech recognition system allowing gamers to convert their voice into messages to keep their hands free, or some have created games using the AI technology, such as Ring of Elysium.

If you are interested in AI in China, you can read our full article:

The AI industry in China

VR in Video Games

VR china
(© The Star)

Virtual Reality often referred to as VR, is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment in which as many senses as possible are stimulated, such as vision, hearing, touch and even smell. Unlike traditional user interfaces, it places the user inside an experience, which is highly appreciated for video games. Thanks to VR, players can interact with 3D worlds, benefiting from a unique experience in terms of gameplay.

According to the global investment banking group Goldman Sachs, the virtual and AR (Augmented Reality) technologies will be worth more than $81 billion by 2025, which means that gaming companies will probably incorporate this technology in their games.

If you are interested in the VR industry in China, you can read our full article:

The VR industry in China

AR in Video Games

Games are not only for pure entertainment purposes as they can also be used to promote an e-commerce website for example. In the following picture, you can see the game ‘Catch Yoo!’ (捉猫猫) launched by the e-commerce platform Taobao during the 11.11 festival. Using AR, the game was similar to Pokemon GO, allowing users to walk around and catch vouchers, items, goods, etc.

Taobao’s Game using AR, launched during the 11.11 festival
Taobao’s Game using AR, launched during the 11.11 festival

They can also be used as educational games in order to keep children’s attention. You can even use VR in some games or apps.

AR educationnal game china

For example, Blue Hat Interactive Entertainment Technology has launched its ‘Smart Immersive Cognitive Education Classes’ using AR (Augmented Reality) allowing children to use AR with their phone’s camera on their cards.

How to enter the Chinese video game market?

Regulations on Video Game Contents

All games released in China must go through a government approval process to affirm that the content is appropriate according to China’s values.

Video games’ content is supervised by SART / NRTA. Publishers are required to have a China game license from SART before publication and be sure that your demand will be canceled if your game is considered inappropriate.

Rules regarding Foreign investors in the video game industry in China

If you want to enter China’s gaming market, you will have no choice but to cooperate with Chinese entities. Indeed, with the growing success of video games, many foreign companies have sought to invest in Chinese companies to acquire a portion of this promising market.

It can be explained by the fact that China is afraid to lose control and that foreign companies would affect Chinese companies. As a matter of fact, the majority of the most popular gaming companies have created partnerships or operational agreements with Chinese companies:

  • Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft is operated by NetEase
  • The Japanese company Nintendo distributes its games through a partnership with Tencent
  • Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds developed by the South Korean PUBG Corporation is distributed by Tencent. In 2019, Tencent even chose to modify the name of the game in “Game for Peace” (because of Chinese regulations calling for the removal of games that showed too much blood).

Advertising and Promoting your Video Game Company

Ubisoft’s Chinese website
Ubisoft’s Chinese website

Having a Chinese Website is a prerequisite to succeed

As you probably already know, having a Chinese website is essential for your business in China. In China, the majority of the population is not fluent in English so if you don’t have a Chinese website, it will be impossible to catch players’ attention. On your website, you will be able to display your games and present your company, but also to promote your games and events. Having a Chinese website is also mandatory for your online reputation as well as your ranking on Baidu. All of the foreign companies have their Chinese website, such as the French company Ubisoft.

If you want to enter the competitive Chinese market, you will not only have to be creative to stand amongst your competitors, but you will also have to adapt to Chinese consumers’ habits in terms of social media.

Promote your Video Game Franchise on Baidu

As the most popular search engine in China by far, Baidu simply is a step you can’t skip in China. Considered as the “Chinese Google”, Baidu is the most popular Chinese Search Engine and stands as the 5th most consulted website in the world. As of 2021, it represents 71.9% of the Chinese market share. In comparison, only 4% of internet research is done with Google in China. If you want to be ranked on the first pages of Baidu, you will have to create a Chinese Website, as well as post qualitative and quantitative content. E-reputation is also a key part of your ranking on Baidu.

Honor of Kings on Baidu
Honor of Kings on Baidu

When looking for video game news, gamers will most likely search for it on Baidu at the beginning. They will be able to browse for videos, pictures, news, articles, be redirected to an online store, etc.

If you want to know how to take advantage of Baidu, you can read our full article:

Complete Guide to Baidu SEO

Host your game on WeChat (微信) & more

Launched by Chinese giant Tencent in 2011, WeChat was at the beginning only a mobile messaging app. And even though new features were introduced, this functionality remains the core of the app. Marketed as Weixin (微信) in China, it was then rebranded as WeChat in 2012 for the international market. In 2018, WeChat reached 1 billion users and is now the most used social media in China as of 2021 far beyond Weibo.

genshin impact wechat
Genshin Impact on WeChat

As the most popular app in China, WeChat has now over 1.2 million monthly active users. Thus, WeChat is a must-have if you want to promote your video game company. It really is a lucrative marketing platform with its plethora of different functionalities and most of the video game companies have already joined the platform.

video game companies on wechat
video game companies on wechat
  • Mini-games / Mini-programs

For example, the small AI mobile game ‘Caihua Xiaoge’ (猜画小歌) based on drawing recognition went viral on WeChat a few years ago.

AI mobile game ‘Caihua Xiaoge
(© 动点科技)

The rule was simple: draw accurately for the game to be able to recognize your drawing thanks to Google’s image recognition system.

If you want more information about WeChat, you can read our full article:

WeChat Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

  • H5 Brochure

Following the success of WeChat, one of the latest trends in the constantly evolving world of digital marketing is HTML 5 content, allowing developers to create interactive material for marketing campaigns.

League of Legends on WeChat
League of Legends on WeChat

H5 brochures have become a critically valuable asset to have successful advertising campaigns. Many video game companies have created those brochures to promote their brand and games.

If you want to create your H5 Brochure, you can read our full article

Guide to WeChat H5 Brochure

Weibo (微博)

Launched in 2009 by the Chinese technology company Sina Corporation (新浪), Weibo is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. As its name indicates (“micro-blog”), Weibo provides micro-blogging services and is often compared to Twitter. However, it has evolved into a microblogging hybrid with Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and YouTube over the years.

Genshin Impact’s Official Weibo Account
Genshin Impact’s Official Weibo Account

Weibo is a powerful tool for every company, especially for gaming companies. You will need to regularly post content about your video games, events, updates, as well as to communicate with your community. If you want to increase your e-reputation, Weibo is a must-have and almost all companies have both WeChat and Weibo.

You can also read our full article on Weibo:

Guide to use Weibo for Beginners

Bilibili (哔哩哔哩)

Launched in 2010, Bilibili, also known as ‘B Site’ (B站) is a Chinese video sharing website based in Shanghai, themed around animations, comics, and games. Since the mid-2010s, Bilibili has begun to reach a wider audience from its original niche market that was mainly focused on animation and games. Over the years, it has become one of the major Chinese video on demand over-the-top streaming platforms, with programs critically acclaimed and popular documentaries, variety shows, and other original shows. Users using Bilibili can watch gameplays, anime, listen to music, dance, drama, etc. But the most interesting feature for gamers is Bilibili’s live streaming platform, allowing them to directly interact with streamers. So, if you want to promote your games in China, Bilibili is one of the most popular platforms for Chinese gamers.

For example, it is pretty common to see some videos featuring video game players, or game-related content. You can also collaborate with some KOL (Key Opinion Leader) gamers to try your game and share their experience with their community.

Douyin (抖音)

Released in 2016 by the Chinese tech company Bytedance, Douyin is one of the most popular social media apps in China. You have probably already heard of its Western version: Tik Tok. Douyin (抖音) literally means “vibrant music” and we can say that its name perfectly matches the short-form videos (less than the 60s) allowing users to combine it with dynamic background music and creative filters. This short-video content format immediately distinguishes Douyin from traditional Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, in which the content still focuses on text, images, and longer videos.

Honor of Kings’ topic on Douyin
Honor of Kings’ topic on Douyin

With more than 600 million daily active users in China as of 2021, it is one of the most promising and lucrative apps in the world. Even though it was at first an online sharing platform for short videos, it has now become an entire empire of technologies, combining artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and even e-commerce. Douyin is reshaping how information is created, shared, and consumed online. So, for gaming companies in China, Douyin can be a powerful tool for advertising. For example, you can collaborate with KOLs to promote your games and goods.

If you want to know more about Douyin, you can read our full articles:

Introduction to Douyin Paid Advertising

Douyin’s Flagship Stores

Xiaohongshu

Founded in 2013, Xiaohongshu (小红书) also known as ‘The Little Red Book’ and ‘RED’, is a social media and one of the world’s largest community e-commerce platforms. Over the years, it has grown to become China’s foremost shopping platform in terms of beauty, fashion and luxury products. In 2018, it was listed on Forbes’ “Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in China 2018” list. As of 2021, Xiaohongshu is boasting over 300 million registered users and 85 million monthly active users.

Honor of Kings’ topic on Xiaohongshu
Honor of Kings’ topic on Xiaohongshu

Even though Xiaohongshu is not a video game platform, many netizens are posting video game-related topics, reviews, tips, and pictures on it, as you can see in the above picture.

Tmall (天猫)

Founded in 2008 under the famous Alibaba group, Tmall (天猫), is a subsidiary of the e-commerce website Taobao (淘宝网). Its target market is primarily B2C (Business-To-Consumer). It allows both local Chinese and international companies to sell their products through the platform in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Tmall stands out from its competitor’s thanks to its strict standards in terms of quality and renown.

Ubisoft on Tmall
Ubisoft on Tmall

As you can see, many video game companies are using Tmall, such as Ubisoft. You will also be able to find all kind of goods related to video games (hoodies with characters printed on them, toys, etc.) directly on Tmall

You can also read our full guide on Tmall:

Tmall: The Ultimate Guide

China Game streaming: so hot right now

Following an increase in terms of gamers’ number and quality content, the rise of China’s e-sport industry has led to a boom in in-game live streaming. Even if in Western countries the live-streaming phenomenon is pretty recent with platforms such as Discord and Twitch, live streaming in China has been developed since early 2006 with companies like YY. According to Newzoo’s latest report, China is also the largest market for game live streaming, with an audience of 193.0 million spectators as of 2021.

proportion of game live stream china
( © 中国底片)

Game streaming has been increasing over the years, representing 35% of global streaming as of 2021.

China Love Mini-game Playable ads

Similar to WeChat’s mini-games, playable ads are probably one of the best ways to promote your mobile game. When browsing on the web, Chinese netizens will see your ad, and click on it to play for an average of 15-30 seconds. If they are satisfied with your game, they can click on it and be redirected to the Playstore / Appstore.

However, playable ads do not only apply to mobile games but also in real life for brands that are not even in the gaming industry.

nike mini game

For example, the famous brand Nike used video games to promote its products, allowing consumers to create an avatar in order to play and go as far as possible in the game (similar to Mario Bros).

Collaborating with other brands

As millennials and Gen Z are searching for a holistic shopping experience that will last longer than just the purchasing moment, collaborating with other brands such as video game companies can be extremely rewarding for both brands.

Burburry-x-tencent-collab
Honor of Kings & Burberry ( © Burberry)

From fast fashion to luxury, forward-thinking apparel companies have been collaborating with the gaming industry. In fact, esports and gaming have become powerful tools for brands.

china brand collab Honor of Kings and MAC
Honor of Kings and MAC

Moreover, one of the most powerful tools is to include virtual designs and apparel through the game for example to promote a new collection and attract new consumers that may want to buy them in real life.

Forever 21 & Overwatch - china brands collab
Forever 21 & Overwatch ( © Invenglobal)

In November 2019, fast fashion brand Forever 21 released its new collection featuring the popular first-person shooter game Overwatch.

Promoting your brand in China With video games

With video games being one of China’s most lucrative markets, brands have to be creative to attract customers, especially the younger generation that has an increasing purchasing power. Since Coke and Volkswagen were among the first to use online games to advertise their products (2005-2006), many other brands have followed the same path. Thus, selling online game-related virtual items has also been a “mini-economy”.

Burberry’s surf video game

In 2019, Burberry launched its first-ever video game ‘B Bounce’, which was available for online players on Burberry’s website, or on a giant screen in Burberry’s flagship store. By playing this game, players had to control a small deer dressed in one of three of Burberry’s new range of puffer jackets. If they reached 1500 meters in the game, players could win a real puffer jacket (worth over £1000).

“We thought about the behaviors of casual gamers as we created the concept. It’s really about building brand value around a product with a community that already exists. Secondly, it is about surprise and delight storytelling. Gaming is the new frontier of storytelling – there’s a huge narrative here. There’s a great advantage to being able to surprise and delight your consumer with brand messages.”

Rachelle Waller, Burberry’s Vice President of Digital Marketing
(‘B Surf Game’ © Burberry)
(‘B Surf Game’ © Burberry)

Leading video game companies in the world & China

what are the video games company making the most money

According to a research conducted by Newzoo, Tencent is the public company with the highest revenues from video games worldwide, raking up almost $20 billion in 2018 from its gaming operations, much more than Sony and Microsoft. Tencent’s growth is expected to be even more important in the years to come.

Leading Chinese Video Game Companies: Tencent

chinese video game leading companies

In 2019, the Chinese entertainment giant Tencent topped the online gaming industry with annual revenues of about 350 billion yuan, two-third of which was generated by its mobile games. Its domestic rivals NetEase, 37 Interactive Entertainment, and Perfect World were still far behind.

Tencent: The Leader in the Chinese Gaming Industry

You probably already have heard of Tencent (腾讯), one of China’s biggest companies. Tencent is known for its app WeChat (微信) which was released in 2011. In fact, Tencent is a vast ecosystem of applications and services, specialized in many new technologies-related industries, including video games.

tencent game
 (© Tencent)

When we think about the major publishers and manufacturers in the gaming market, we instinctively think of Nintendo, Sony, Ubisoft, Microsoft, Sega, Apple, Electronic Arts, Activision-Blizzard, and many others. However, we tend to forget the main player in this industry: the Chinese company Tencent. Tencent has been one of the leaders in the video game industry for several years, with a turnover of $12.9 billion as of 2019. Tencent has many popular games, including ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Honor of Kings’, one of the world’s highest-grossing mobile games. Tencent probably even has its fingerprints on some of your favorite games as it holds a stake in many companies’ video games.

Four of the biggest games involved with Tencent
Four of the biggest games involved with Tencent
Tencent WeGame Platform
 Tencent’s WeGame platform
 Tencent’s WeGame platform (© Paper Geek)

Introduced in 2017, WeGame is Tencent’s flagship game portal on which players can find games, game content, gaming info, purchases, top downloads, live streaming, and community services, which is pretty much like an open ecosystem for gaming. WeGame is considered an upgraded version of TGP (Tencent Games Platform) that already has more than 200 million active users and over 4.5 billion downloads. The platform supports both Chinese and global users (with different storefronts). As of 2020, WeGame had approximately 70 million monthly active users.

NetEase (网易)

netease
(© NetEase)

Online gaming has been a cornerstone of many Chinese technology companies, such as NetEase, providing online services centered on content, community, communications, and commerce. Founded in 1997 by Ding Lei (丁磊), NetEase is one of the largest Internet and video game companies in the world. It develops and operates online PC and mobile games, advertising services, email services, as well as e-commerce platforms in China. Some of you might have heard of its music-streaming service “NetEase Music”, or its online course platform with educational content (launched in 2014).

NetEase most popular video games

Tianxia III, Heroes of Tang Dynasty Zero, Ghost II, the Westward Journey series, Nostos and Onmyoji, the Lord of the Rings: Rise to War (ios and Android), etc. It has also partnered with the American developer and publisher Blizzard Entertainment for the Chinese version of the games World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, and Overwatch.

Chinese Games Overseas

Bolstered by China’s large domestic market and economic development, Chinese companies have succeeded in producing some of the highest-grossing games in the world. Many games designed by Chinese companies were exported to overseas markets, especially in Asia at the beginning. But, some small local companies were able to not only conquer the Chinese market but also conquer the worldwide market.

The Success of Genshin Impact

genshin impact visuel - chinese video game
(© Genshin Impact)

Released in 2020 by the Shanghai video game developer and publisher miHoYo, Genshin Impact (原神), is a free-to-play action role-playing game featuring a fantasy open world heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In the beginning, miHoyo was not considered a big company in the Chinese market, but it was still able to attract millions of players around the world thanks to its anime-like design and powerful marketing and advertising communication.

genshin impact animation- chinese video game

The success was so huge that even big companies like Sony have partnered with Genshin Impact, creating a surge in demand for PS4 from Chinese players.

Genshin Impact x Sony - china brand collab
Genshin Impact x Sony

Among many games to choose from, Sony decided to promote Genshin Impact as a PlayStation exclusive. Thus, Sony has more PlayStation 4 consoles running Genshin Impact than any other game.

Genshin Impact Limited Event in Chinese KFC - brand collab china
Genshin Impact Limited Event in Chinese KFC (© VINplays)

Following its huge success across the world, Genshin Impact’s collaboration with KFC in China has witnessed a massive gathering of fans, queuing for long hours. Chinese KFC is offering a variety of Genshin Impact-themed merchandise for each meal. Due to large gatherings, even the police had to intervene to ensure the social distancing rules.

Genshin Impact’s success is unbelievable all across China, and people talk about it everywhere on social media and platforms such as Bilibili, with gamers sharing gameplay of the game or creating funny videos about it.

Videos about Genshin Impact on Bilibili
Videos about Genshin Impact on Bilibili

Recently, miHoYo even organized an exhibition about it, reuniting thousands of fans all across China. It was also the opportunity for players to meet in real life, as well as wear cosplays of their favorite character.

Genshin Impact’s Exhibition in China
Genshin Impact’s Exhibition in China
Genshin Impact’s Exhibition in China

Black Myth Wukong: A Promising Upcoming Game

china video game -Black Myth: Wukong)
(© Black Myth: Wukong)

Black Myth: Wukong’ (黑神话) has recently been one of the hottest video game topics following the release of its 13-minute pre-alpha gameplay video which had nearly 2 million views on YouTube and 10 million views on Bilibili. The game that is supposed to be released in 2023 on PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, and Xbox One is based on the classical 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West. The single-player will be able to control the famous ‘Monkey King’ Sun Wukong (孙悟空) to fight against an assortment of enemies.

china video game -Black Myth: Wukong) - website
Black Myth: Wukong’s Official Website

China Video Game Industry Conclusion: Key points

china video game industry key points -gma
china video game industry key points
china video game industry key points

Contact us & start promoting your video game in China

It is clear that China has become the market to conquer for gaming companies that want to expand their activities overseas. However, as you probably already know, the Chinese market is completely different from what you might be accustomed to. In order to successfully enter this competitive market, you will need experts who fully understand the subtleties of China.

Contact us!

gma agency

GMA is a digital marketing agency based in Shanghai, with experts all around the world. Depending on your needs and the scope of work, we will adapt our marketing strategy in order for you to get the most out of the Chinese video game industry.

Our marketing services for china

  • SEO

Our focus is to promote your business with your target closely in mind. We use digital tools including Baidu SEO and SEM, E-PR, Media Buying (DSP) & Community Management. Then, we also manage marketing and advertising campaigns to assure their optimization & success.

As of 2021, we have worked with more than 800 western brands

  • Lead generation

To be effective in your lead generation, you need to develop a good e-reputation. Online advertising & quality content will help you to develop your e-reputation. We have lead generation experts who will help you increase your lead generation.

  • Digital Solutions
  • Website Creation, Development & Auditing
  • Baidu Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media Marketing (WeChat & Weibo)
  • Reputation Management & Community Development.
  • Public Relations & Exposure in Chinese E-Media.
  • Analytics, monthly reports & analysis from our team of experts.

Of course, if you have any questions or inquiries about our services or the gaming industry in general, do not hesitate to contact us and we will reply within 24 hours.

Read more about the video game market in China:

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