China has come online with smartphones at an incredible rate, and this has it on pace to rule the world when it comes to spending on smartphone and tablet games.
The Asian superpower is set to generate approximately $6.5 billion in revenues this year with games like Hearthstone taking a respectable chunk of that, according to industry intelligence firms Newzoo and TalkingData. That’s more than triple the $1.8 billion the country generated for mobile games in 2013, and it’s also up significantly from the $4.4 billion in 2014. And that growth has the country primed to displace the United States as the most lucrative mobile-gaming territory on Earth. This spike in growth in China as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ have found significant success in that market, and this — combined with Android’s existing popularity — has more Chinese people playing games on their smartphones than ever before. With worldwide spending on iOS, Android, and other phone platforms set to reach $30.1 billion this year, China alone will make up more than 20 percent of that.
Newzoo predicts the U.S. will generate around $6 billion, so more than 40 percent of mobile spending worldwide happens in these two countries. This is why more developers are trying to build games that are easier to localize and make appealing to audiences both in the East and West. But it’s not as easy as building a universally appealing game, and that’s because the Chinese market is still such a labyrinth.
While iOS is growing in China and giving developers a simple way to reach a ton of consumers in that country, Android is still a confusing mess, where developers need to partner with middlemen to have a chance at viability. Google Play has a minuscule presence in China, and dozens of Android app store alternatives have popped up in its place.
“Globally, Google Play will take 38 percent of the [revenue] pie, while other Android app stores will account for 18 percent of total revenues,” reads the Newzoo report. “Most impressively, local Android app stores in China alone will generate revenues of $3.6 billion in 2015, or 12 percent of the global mobile games market.”
Apple’s mobile operating system, however, will make $12.5 billion worldwide, which is 42 percent of expected global revenues. Of that total, China will produce $2.3 billion.
“The remaining $600 million from China’s mobile games market is generated by Google Play and feature phones,” reads the report.
But even while Android is larger in China, Apple has a chance to surge ahead by offering a wider variety of app experiences. That’s because foreign developers can avoid working with Chinese publishers and distributors — and evade giving up 60 percent or more of their revenues to other companies — by simply going iOS exclusive. This option is likely looking more and more appealing because Apple is growing rapidly in China.
“The iPhone 6 surpassed the iPhone 5s just this May as the most used iOS device in China,” reads the report. “Illustrative of Apple’s successful move to bigger screens is the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus took third position following a month-on-month jump of 27 percent, or an astounding additional 10 million devices used, compared to April. These recent developments will most probably lead to an upward adjustment of projected iOS game revenues for China.”