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Gamers in China: A Possible Goldmine

It is widely known that the gaming market is one of the most thriving and profitable ones all around the globe. Brands are now teeming up with gaming society to expand their rate of influence, especially among the new generations. But as brands are now crowding into globally famous gaming channels like Roblox, Minecraft or Fortnite, China is facing huge problems in this regard as a consequence of great cultural differences, strict regulations, political choices and lack of understanding of how the gaming market could be a flourishing goldmine.

Thus, all the problems mentioned above are negatively influencing the capability and the interest of brands to enter the prosperous Chinese domestic gaming market.

“Million dollars” Gamers

As of this year, the total amount of gamers within the Chinese population will amount to about 668 million, around half of the total population of China, it is questioning why luxury brands have yet to fully explore the huge market of the mainland’s gaming industry.

As reported in last year’s analysis by the government-run game industry association CGIGC, the scale of China’s gamers has reached the highest peak ever, transforming the mainland into the world’s biggest gaming market.

Gamers in China 1
Gamers in China amount to half of the total population. Photo: Long Advisory.

If brands are looking for an original way to be innovative and diversify their consumer community they sure have to invest in the goldmine that is the gamers’ base. The Chinese gaming industry, as a matter of fact, is expected to reach a market value of $66.13 billion in 2024.

Games like Genshin Impact and Honor of Kings attract millions of players per day on the mainland. There are about 100 million players a day playing Honor of Kings whereas Genshin Impact counts a total of over 60 million users per month.

Honor of Kings: one of the most popular games in China at the moment. Photo: Honor of Kings.

Issues Faced by Luxury Brands

The popular online newspaper Jing Daily published an enlightening interview with Philip Driver, founder and CEO of international game marketing agency The Game Marketer. The entrepreneur told Jing Daily that “Luxury brands are definitely overlooking significant opportunities within China’s gaming ecosystem. Chinese consumers spend huge amounts on brands, and the demographic of Chinese gamers includes a sizable portion of young, affluent individuals who are receptive to luxury brands.”

Last year luxury brands from all over the world approached the global gaming platforms, like Roblox or Fortnite. The metaverse data company Geeiq statistics shows that in 2023 over 700 luxury brands teamed up with games companies – especially Roblox – to launch in-game and virtual partnerships and activations.

But the problem lies in the Chinese soil. Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite are, indeed, banned in China. Thus, penetrating into the Chinese social and economic systems has been proven to be challenging.

Philip Driver further explains the general issues linked with luxury brands’ idle engagement with Chinese gaming communities. “There’s a lack of awareness of the gaming landscape in China and the types of games Chinese players enjoy. There are games [in China] that have millions of players, but have never been heard of outside of the country” clarifies Driver.

Also, Charles Hambro, CEO and co-founder of Geeiq draws similar conclusions with respect to Drivers. He says that: “There’s a huge education gap between China and Western brands regarding what channels are available for a brand that wants to enter the Chinese gaming market”

Government Actions and Restrictions

In addition to the substantial differences that exist between East and West even in the gaming sphere, the game market in China also has to face a further problem. One of the greatest threats to the expansion of games in the mainland is the government-imposed restrictions. As a matter of fact, in 2021 the Chinese government deliberated on more supervision of young people, opting for a controlled screen time curfew amounting to 3 hours per day. In 2023, the government intended to restrict the “gaming time” of youngsters to 40 minutes per day.

As Chinese policy is trying to safeguard young people from excessive involvement with video games, luxury brands have the task of finding a better solution to enter the mainland. Richard Hobbs, founder of Brand New Vision, explained to Jing Daily that: “Brands will need to consider longevity in the gaming market, rather than a reliance on short-term [activations] and high-hourly activity.”

“Trial and Error” Situation

It has to be said that some luxury brands tried to expand their range of influence and action in China, only to collapse into total failure.

It is the case of Burberry which tried to team up with Honor of Kings in 2021. At first, the partnership has been praised by netizens, but it didn’t last long. Tencent Holdings, the giant behind the famous game, ended its partnership with Burberry just a few days after its release. The reason is mainly cultural and political. Burberry’s statement on the use of cotton from China’s Xinjiang region has caused a backlash among fans.

Also, other brands incurred these kinds of difficulties while dealing with China’s gaming market. The Bulgari x Honor of Kings‘ collaboration on digital jewellery came to an end due to an oversight by the luxury brand. Bulgari, indeed, listed Taiwan as a separate country from China, and this mistake was the cause of its failure. Thus, Chinese gamers decided to boycott the partnership. As a consequence, the hashtag “#BvlgariWho will be the first to terminate the contract” on Weibo received over 34.8 million views.

Luxury brands should be fully aware of political and government new laws and guidelines, in order to not run into any problem while operating in China. Many believe that the political Chinese atmosphere could act as a dissuasion for brands from engaging with gamers on the mainland. Young gamers are, for example, believed to be pro-China, that’s why they reacted with aggressiveness during the Burberry and Bulgari scandals.

Bulgari x Honor of Kings
The Bulgari x Honor of Kings collaboration was terminated after backlash from Chinese fans of the game. Photo: Bulgari.

How to Please the Gaming Public in China

As different approaches have proven to be a failure and have backfired on luxury brands, the question is: How to please Chinese gamers?

Probably there is no high demand for partnerships with luxury brands in the gaming community, as demonstrated by the lack of success of the Bulgari x Honor of Kings collaboration. Recently, Honor of Kings teamed up with Hello Kitty and this unusual partnership gained way more interest and views on the Chinese online social platforms.

Honor of Kings x Hello Kitty
Honor of Kings x Hello Kitty collaboration. Photo: Honor of Kings.

While John Zhang, a financial analyst and a gamer himself based in Shanghai, told Jing Daily that gamers in China are not really interested in luxury brands, Hobbs thinks differently.

He believes that luxury brands should be prepared to face any type of challenge with the help of specialists who know everything about the Chinese environment. Driver also believes that luxury brands must dare more. Brands should not try to copy and paste the exact same concept used in Western countries. Luxury brands should offer a unique point of view, they should demonstrate a profound understanding of the culture and tradition in China. They have to focus on gamers who have different tastes, requests and necessities of those of Western gaming communities.

Brands should also take into account utility while creating in-game products. Gamers want to have customized luxury skins which can also give them new skills, buffs or special effects. They ask for “luxury skins or items which are unique or have special in-game features” as Zhang says.

Interest in High Luxury Brands In China, by Long Advisory

If You Can’t Have It IRL, You Can Have It In Game

We all know that luxury brands are quite expensive, and many youngsters don’t have the money to spend on such high-rated items in real life. Thus, having the possibility of buying a luxury skin or item in the game could encourage gamers to spend for their “first luxury product“.

Chinese gamers have also pointed out that they would buy a physical gaming object sponsored by luxury brands as far as it proves to be useful, such as headphones or gaming mouse.

Girls account for almost half of the gaming population in China. Hence, focusing on products sponsored by luxury brands which broaden the aesthetics of the “gamer girl” could also be fundamental for the brands’ success in the country.

gamers in China
The Chinese community of gamers is one of the largest. Photo: Long Advisory.

The Chinese gaming market is probably the most difficult one in which one could aspire to have success. Luxury brands should demonstrate the skills of both dexterity and respect while facing the gaming environment in China. They have to take into account political and cultural sensitivity, they should surely broaden their understanding of the mainland and pay attention to the actual usefulness of in-game skins and items. It comes with greater risk, but it could result in being highly satisfactory and remunerative.

Long Advisory digital marketing agency in China

Long Advisory supports Western companies in China through digital marketing. In fact, our experience has led us to believe that today, the best and most convenient approach to making your brand well-known in China is through a digital approach. Furthermore, thanks to our know-how, we know how to make your brand known to potential Chinese consumers. With the effective coordination of Long Advisory, your company will see a new rise in the largest market in the world: China.

Long Advisory is a digital marketing agency specializing in developing digital marketing solutions tailored for the Chinese market. 

Interested in expanding your brand in China? Contact us for more info and details at info@longadvisory.eu

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