China’s game market is expected to grow from $26 billion in 2017 to $35 billion by 2021, according to a new forecast by Asian market researcher Niko Partners.

China will enjoy strong growth in digital gamers and games revenue in the next five years, and mobile game usage and revenue will overtake PC online games by 2018.

Mobile game revenue is the fastest-growing segment, and it will be 58 percent of total games revenue in 2021.

PC online games will grow by a very modest 1.5 percent compound annual growth rate through 2021. But there will be major changes within PC games. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are in decline and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) and first-person shooters (FPS) are ascending.

Above: PC games are on the rise in China.

Image Credit: Niko Partners

TV-based games revenue (excluding consoles sold on the gray market or without manufacturer permission) will only account for 1.2 percent of the market by 2021, with PlayStation 4 currently leading the console wars by a large margin.

“We expect an increase in sales of gray market consoles as the global launch of new consoles occurs prior to the official entry into China,” said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner of Niko Partners.

44 percent of the Chinese population plays games now, and that will grow to 54 percent of the population, and almost 90 percent of all Internet users, in 2021.

Niko said that esports is a driver of demand for PC and mobile games and is also a driver in the uptick of use of Internet cafes to play PC games.

“With $26 billion in domestic digital games revenue in 2017, the Chinese games market is the single most important market in the world for PC and mobile games,” said Cosmas Hanson, in a statement. “There are nearly 600 million gamers in China, which is nearly two times the population of the United States, and with the proper effort to get to know them and the regulations of the country, this user base presents a great opportunity for global game developers and publishers.”

Niko’s methodology for the 67-page report included an online survey of 1,000 gamers, interviews with executives at major Chinese games companies, payment companies, mobile game developers, and gamer profiles. Cosmas Hanson moderated a panel at our GamesBeat Summit 2017 event on Tuesday.

Above: Chinese players are willing to pay for mobile games.

Image Credit: Niko Partners
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