China’s domestic game market is expected to grow from $$30.8 billion in 2018 to $41.5 billion in 2023. During the same time, the number of PC and mobile gamers is expected to grow to 767 million players, according to a report from market researcher Niko Partners.

Niko Partners said in its 2019 China PC Online Games Market Report and 2019 China Mobile Games Market Report that China will continue to grow despite a temporary game licensing freeze that lasted nine months in 2018.

After that freeze, the State Administration of Press and Publication (SAPP) introduced new regulations, but Niko Partners said that demand for games on PC and mobile devices remains strong. Revenue in 2018 was up 11.5% over 2017, even with the freeze on new game licenses.

Key takeaways

Above: A scene from Shanghai’s ChinaJoy event.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

China is the world’s largest market for PC online games. China domestic PC online game revenue was $15.21 billion in 2018. Revenue is forecast to remain strong, reaching $16 billion by 2023, but the growth rate is relatively slow.


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Meanwhile, China’s domestic mobile game revenue was $15.63 billion in 2018, up 28.9% from the previous year. Revenue is forecast to reach $25.5 billion by 2023.

There were 312.4 million PC online gamers in 2018, and 79.7 million (26%) of them spend money in games. The number of PC online gamers is projected to reach 354 million in 2023. (More than the population of the entire United States).

There were 598 million mobile gamers in 2018, and 239 million (40%) of them spend money in games. The number of mobile gamers is projected to reach 728 million in 2023. 95% of gamers in China play mobile games. The total combined figure for PC and online players is 767 million since there is a lot of overlap with players on both platforms.

Top game companies

Tencent's Arena of Valor esports game draws a crowd at E3 2018.

Above: Tencent’s Arena of Valor esports game draws a crowd at E3 2018.

Image Credit: Tencent America

Tencent and NetEase remained the top two game PC and mobile publishers in China. Foreign-developed games comprised about 60% of total PC games revenue in the market.

And China’s 138,000 internet cafes are still a very important part of Chinese online gaming, even more important for gamers engaged with esports.

Esports is the most important long-term driver of growth for the PC online games market. PC esports game revenue was $6.3 billion in 2018, up 11.1% from a year earlier and accounting for 41.4% of total PC online games revenue. This figure is projected reach $9.5 billion in 2023, accounting for 59.4% of PC online games revenue.

Mobile esports game revenue was $5.6B in 2018, and accounted for 36% of total mobile games revenue. This figure is projected to reach $11.5B in 2023, 45% of the mobile games market revenue.

“China deserves the attention of games and hardware companies worldwide,” said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner of Niko Partners, in a statement. “China’s PC online games market in accounts for more than 50% of PC online games revenue worldwide and China’s mobile games market is worth 25% of the world’s mobile games market – and rising.”

Cosmas Hanson moderated a panel on games in China at our GamesBeat Summit 2019 event. I’ve embedded it in the story.

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