How Asian Publishers Succeed in the US Mobile Gaming Market

Mobile gaming has taken the world by storm, and the United States is no exception. With the mobile gaming market projected to reach $338 billion by 2030, it's no surprise that publishers from around the world are eager to enter this lucrative market. 

For game publishers based in China and Japan, overseas markets provide opportunities for international expansion and monetization for gaming publishers of all sizes. In recent years, Asian mobile game publishers have been particularly successful in bringing their games to the Western market, including the US. So, what is the secret to their success?

Publishers HQ'd in China Drive 1/3 of Consumer Game Spend Worldwide

Source: data.ai

Adapt or Die

Marketing mobile games in the USA can be a complex process, as the market is highly competitive and constantly evolving. To effectively market a mobile game, Asian publishers learned how to adapt to the unique demands of the US market. This includes tailoring games to Western audiences, which often means making changes to in-game content, graphics, and even gameplay mechanics. Asian publishers have also shown a willingness to collaborate with Western developers, creating hybrid games that combine elements from both markets.

In 2020, the Chinese mobile game publisher NetEase Games launched the game "LifeAfter" in the US market. "LifeAfter" is a survival game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where players must scavenge for resources, build shelters, and fend off zombies. Since its launch in 2018, the game has garnered nearly 200 million registered players and was rated as one the most competitive games of 2019 on Google Play.

To adapt the game for the US market, NetEase made several changes to the game's content and graphics. For example, they added new features such as firearms and vehicles, which are more commonly used in Western survival games. They also redesigned the game's user interface and added new character customization options to make it more appealing to US players. The efforts paid off, and "LifeAfter" became a hit in the US, reaching the top of the App Store charts and generating millions in revenue.

Data-Driven Marketing

Another critical aspect of Asian publishers success is their data-driven approach to marketing. This approach is heavily emphasized by Eric Benjamin Seufert, a leading expert in mobile game marketing and the author of the book "Freemium Economics: Leveraging Analytics and User Segmentation to Drive Revenue." Seufert argues that mobile game marketing is not an art, but a science. He believes that success in this field is achieved through rigorous experimentation and data analysis, rather than relying solely on intuition or creativity.

Asian publishers have a wealth of experience in the mobile gaming industry, having been at the forefront of the market for many years. As such, they have access to a wealth of data and insights that can be used to inform their marketing strategies. This data includes everything from user behavior and preferences to market trends and competition analysis.

For example, Tencent's popular game Honor of Kings, which  the leading free game app in China with about 3.14 million downloads, was launched in the USA under the name Arena of Valor. To adapt the game for the US market, Tencent conducted extensive research and analysis of player behavior and preferences. They studied the existing MOBA games in the US market, analyzed player feedback and reviews, and conducted user surveys to understand the needs and preferences of US players.

Based on this data, Tencent made several changes to the game's content and mechanics to tailor it to the US market. For example, they simplified the game's controls and user interface to make it more accessible to new players. They also added new game modes and characters that were more popular among US players. To promote the game, Tencent used a data-driven approach to optimize their advertising and user acquisition strategy. They used real-time data analytics to monitor the performance of their ads, and used A/B testing to optimize their ad placement and messaging. They also used targeted advertising to reach specific demographics and segments of the US player base.

As a result of the data-driven approach to promotion, Tencent's efforts to tailor Arena of Valor to the US market proved successful. The game was downloaded over 1 million times in the US on the Apple App Store and Google Play, and generated over $3 million in revenue, according to market researcher Sensor Tower.

However, it's important to note that data-driven marketing is not a silver bullet for success in the mobile game industry. As Seufert points out, the industry is constantly evolving, and marketers must be willing to adapt and experiment to stay ahead of the curve. This requires a deep understanding of the gaming market, as well as a willingness to take risks and try new strategies.

Influencer Marketing

In addition to data-driven marketing, Asian publishers have also leveraged influencer marketing to promote their games in the US. By partnering with popular YouTubers and Twitch streamers, Asian publishers have been able to generate buzz around their games and reach new audiences. This approach has proven particularly effective in the US, where influencers have a significant impact on consumer behavior.

AFK Arena is a popular mobile role-playing game developed by the Chinese game company Lilith Games. To promote the game in the US market, Lilith Games launched a highly successful influencer campaign.

The campaign involved partnering with popular influencers across various Social Media platforms, who created sponsored content featuring AFK Arena. The content included gameplay footage, tutorials, reviews, and sponsored posts. The influencers also ran giveaways and other promotions to engage their audiences.

The influencer campaign was a huge success, with the sponsored content generating millions of views and engagements. The game reached the top of the App Store charts in the US, and generated millions of dollars in revenue for Lilith Games.

Strategic Partnerships

Another tactic Asian publishers have been successfully implementing is forming strategic partnerships with US companies. Such alliances help them overcome the cultural and language barriers that may exist when trying to enter a new market. US companies provide Asian publishers with access to distribution networks and marketing channels that may be difficult to establish on their own. Finally, partnerships also provide Asian publishers with technical support and development expertise that can help them optimize the game for different platforms and ensure that it meets the technical standards required by the US market. 

For example, in January 2021, Tencent Games announced a partnership with Qualcomm to develop a series of mobile gaming projects. The two companies work together to optimize Tencent's mobile games for Qualcomm's Snapdragon Elite Gaming platform, which is designed to enhance the gaming experience on mobile devices.

"With the advent and integration of 5G applications marking the new generation of connectivity, the landscape of mobile gaming will forever be changed as real-time and immersive gaming becomes faster and more powerful."

Final Thoughts

Asian mobile game publishers have seen great success in the US market by adapting their games to the unique demands of Western audiences and using a data-driven approach to marketing. They have leveraged influencer marketing to generate buzz around their games and have formed strategic partnerships with US companies to help promote their titles. By combining these strategies with a deep understanding of the gaming market, Asian publishers have been able to outperform their competitors.. As the mobile gaming market continues to grow, it's clear that these strategies will continue to be critical to success in the industry.

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