The gaming economy in China has emerged as a powerful force, captivating millions of gamers and redefining the landscape of entertainment and commerce. With a massive population, rapid technological advancements, and a deep-rooted gaming culture, China has become the world’s largest gaming market, boasting immense revenue and growth opportunities.
The importance of the gaming economy in China goes beyond entertainment, it presents a vast playground for marketers to engage with a highly engaged and passionate audience.
Therefore, understanding the dynamics of this market and employing effective marketing strategies is crucial for companies aiming to tap into the immense potential it offers.
GAMING ECONOMY IN CHINA: WHY IS GAMING SO POPULAR?
The popularity and significance of gaming in Chinese culture can be attributed to several factors:
Technological Advancements: China has witnessed rapid advancements in technology, particularly in the mobile sector. The widespread availability of smartphones, affordable data plans, and the expansion of internet connectivity have made gaming accessible to a significant portion of the population.
Social Interaction and Community: Gaming provides an avenue for social interaction and community building, which holds great importance in Chinese culture. Chinese gamers often form tight-knit communities, participating in forums, streaming platforms, and esports events, fostering a sense of camaraderie.
Escapism and Entertainment: Gaming offers a form of entertainment and escapism from the pressures of daily life. Chinese society places significant emphasis on academic and professional achievements, and gaming provides an outlet for relaxation and leisure, offering a break from reality.
Esports and Competitive Spirit: Chinese culture has a strong tradition of competition and the pursuit of excellence. Esports and competitive gaming align with these values, providing a platform for players to showcase their skills, compete in tournaments, and achieve recognition. The success of Chinese esports teams and players has further elevated the status of gaming within Chinese culture.
Cultural Adaptation: The gaming industry in China has adapted to local preferences and cultural norms, incorporating elements that resonate with Chinese players. This includes incorporating Chinese mythology, history, and aesthetics into game narratives, as well as designing gameplay mechanics that align with Chinese gaming preferences.
GAMING ECONOMY IN CHINA: WHEN DID GAMING BECOME IMPORTANT?
Since the late 2000s, the gaming economy in China has continued to thrive and expand, with advancements in technology, changing gaming preferences, and evolving business models shaping its trajectory. The ongoing growth of the gaming industry showcases its importance as a significant contributor to the Chinese economy and a vital part of popular culture.
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THIS GROWTH:
Rise of the Internet and Mobile Technology: As internet connectivity improved and smartphones became more accessible, more people had access to online games and mobile gaming apps, leading to a surge in the number of gamers.
Government Support and Policy Changes: The Chinese government recognized the economic potential of the gaming industry and began implementing policies to support its growth. In 2003, the government lifted its ban on gaming consoles, opening up the market to international console manufacturers. This decision allowed for the legal distribution of consoles and console games in China, boosting the gaming industry’s overall growth.
Expansion of Online Gaming: Online gaming played a pivotal role in the development of the gaming economy in China. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) like Fantasy Westward Journey and The Legend of Mir gained immense popularity, attracting millions of players and generating substantial revenue through subscriptions and in-game purchases. The success of these MMOs paved the way for the growth of the online gaming market.
Emergence of Free-to-Play and Microtransactions: Chinese game developers embraced this model, allowing players to access games for free while monetizing through in-game purchases and virtual goods. This model proved highly profitable, attracting a large player base and contributing to the expansion of the gaming economy.
Esports and Competitive Gaming: The popularity of esports not only boosted the revenue from game sales but also generated income through sponsorships, merchandise, and media rights.
GAMING ECONOMY IN CHINA: THE MOST PLAYED GAMES
In China, the most played games can vary depending on the platform and the specific period. However, there are several popular games that have consistently enjoyed a significant player base.
The top three performing PC games in China are all published by gaming giant Tencent:
- League of Legends ($1.1 billion generated)
- Dungeon Fighter ($876 million generated)
- Cross Fire ($795 million generated)
Meanwhile the top three mobile titles are:
- Honor of Kings
- Peacekeeper Elite
- Fantasy Westward Journey
These are just a few examples, the gaming landscape is dynamic, with new games frequently emerging and gaining popularity. Cultural factors, gameplay mechanics, competitive elements, and community engagement all play a role in the success of these games among Chinese players.
CASE STUDY: LEAGUE OF LEGENDS COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES
Take the case of League of Legends (LoL, developed by Riot Games). This game has implemented several successful communication strategies in China to engage with its large player base and foster a thriving community.
Riot Games has established the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), which is one of the most popular and competitive esports leagues in China. By organizing and promoting high-profile tournaments, Riot Games effectively communicates its commitment to the competitive gaming scene, driving excitement and engagement among players and fans.
In addition, League of Legends collaborates with popular Chinese influencers and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to expand its reach and create engaging content. By partnering with them, League of Legends can tap into their influence, attract new players, and enhance brand visibility through content creation, live streaming, and event participation.
Another key point, League of Legends maintains a strong presence on Chinese social media platforms, such as Weibo and Douyin. These platforms allow direct communication with the player community, sharing updates, game content, and engaging with player feedback. Riot Games leverages social media to create hype around new game releases, updates, and esports events.
With this intention, Riot Games puts a significant emphasis on the production value of its esports events in China. From visually stunning arenas to impressive stage setups and immersive broadcasts, Riot Games creates a spectacle that captivates both live and online audiences. The high production quality contributes to the overall excitement and engagement surrounding League of Legends esports in China.
CASE STUDY: LEAGUE OF LEGENDS EVENTS
League of Legends in China incorporates localized game content and events tailored to the preferences and interests of Chinese players. This includes introducing Chinese-themed skins, collaborating with Chinese artists, and organizing special in-game events during cultural festivals. By acknowledging and embracing Chinese culture, League of Legends strengthens its connection with the local player base and fosters a sense of pride.
Riot Games actively encourages player engagement and values player feedback in China. They organize community events, surveys, and open forums to involve players in the game’s development process. This approach allows the company to stay connected with the player community.
As a result, through these communication strategies, League of Legends has successfully built a passionate and engaged community in China. League of Legends effectively communicates its dedication to the Chinese gaming community, fostering brand loyalty and a strong player base.
THE FUTURE OF GAME ECONOMY IN CHINA: POTENTIAL TRENDS
There are several potential trends and factors could shape the future of the gaming economy in China.
Firstly, mobile gaming is likely to maintain its dominant position in China’s gaming economy. With the increasing penetration of smartphones and the growing popularity of mobile esports, the revenue from mobile games is expected to rise further. The development of high-quality mobile games, coupled with advancements in mobile technology such as 5G, may lead to even more immersive and engaging gaming experiences.
The government’s support for esports, along with the establishment of esports infrastructure and investment in professional teams and tournaments, will contribute to its growth. Esports viewership, sponsorship deals, and merchandise sales are expected to solidify China’s position as a global leader in competitive gaming.
Secondly, emerging technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and cloud gaming are likely to have a significant impact on the gaming economy in China. As these technologies become more accessible and refined, they have the potential to revolutionize gaming experiences, enabling more immersive gameplay and fostering new revenue streams.
THE FUTURE OF GAME ECONOMY IN CHINA: EXPECTATIONS
We can expect to see increased integration between gaming and other industries, such as entertainment, media, and e-commerce. Collaboration between game developers, content creators, and streaming platforms may create synergies and provide additional avenues for monetization. Cross-platform gaming experiences that bridge the gap between consoles, PCs, and mobile devices may become more prevalent, enabling players to connect and engage across different platforms.
Also, Chinese game developers and publishers are increasingly looking to expand their presence in international markets. We can expect to see more collaborations, partnerships, and investments by Chinese gaming companies in global ventures. At the same time, international game developers and publishers will continue to explore opportunities to enter the Chinese market.
HOW IMPORTANT DIGITAL COMMUNICATION IS IN THE GAMING SECTOR
As in any other industry, online marketing and communication are also critical to the gaming economy. As for the PC market, consumer spending on video games in 2021 exceeded that of the previous year by 4.3 percent, reaching about $11 billion. Instead, the mobile games market grew 8 percent in the past year, reaching $35 billion in spending (source: gamesindustry.biz).
To contribute to the success of gaming products and brands, it is critical to recognize the importance of the roles of communications and marketing in promoting gaming experiences and connections with players. Therefore, it is necessary to create a communication strategy that works in several areas, including community management, social media management, marketing, and public relations.
As we just mentioned, social media are the best and most profitable way to promote video games. However, one must keep in mind that Chinese social media work differently from Western social media. One must first become familiar with the most popular Chinese social media platforms, such as WeChat, Weibo, Douyin (TikTok), and Bilibili. As, each platform has unique characteristics, demographics, and user behavior, so you need to adapt your approach accordingly.
Then, one must also keep in mind the difference between Chinese social (WeChat, Weibo, Douyin) and search (Baidu, Sogou, 360 Search) communication platforms. Social communication platforms emphasize social interaction, content sharing, and community building, while search communication platforms focus on information retrieval and delivering search results based on user queries. Social platforms also facilitate user-generated content and influencer marketing, while search platforms serve as gateways to online resources and offer advertising opportunities.
Long Advisory supports Western companies that are intent on promoting both products and services in the Chinese market. Accompanying them step by step in the process of creating marketing and communication strategies tailored to the company.
Long Advisory digital marketing agency in China
Long Advisory supports American and European 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.
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