God of Arena – Localizing a Chinese-style game for the western market

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

In this episode of LocaLAIse This!, we interview the CM (Community
Manager) of Firevale Games about the challenges of adapting and
recreating a Chinese-style game for the western market.

Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

Michelle: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse this. My name is Michelle Zhao, and I am the Managing Director for the Greater China area here at LAI Global Game Services. Our guest today is Rory Schussler, gaming community manager of Firevale’s new mobile game: God of Arena. What is unique about this team is that they are a Chinese company that achieved success in western mobile market. Today they are going to share their experience and insights about this new game. Now let’s welcome Rory.


Rory: Hi, Michelle. It’s nice to be here. I am Rory, Community Manager for God of Arena from Firevale Games. Thank you for having me on to talk about our game.


Chart 1 & 2

Facebook Community Organic Growths – The 1st month after Community Manager took over – a tremendous growth on the 3rd week.


1. Q: Could you tell our audience about your company and your new game, God of Arena?

A: Firevale was founded by some industry talents from EA, Ubisoft and Zynga. Now we are based in Beijing and we have offices in ShangHai and HongKong.

As a startup in 2012, our first game was a social game. We spent 6 months building the game and then launched the game on some social networks in China. However, the game was unfortunately not successful due to some design mistakes and the downward trend of the social game market.

On Dec 2012, we decided to cancel the social game project. We reformed the company and kicked off our first mobile game – KongFu House. We released the first version of the game on May 2013. It brought us our first income and we were pretty excited at that moment. Later on in July 2013, we started to launch the game with our publishing partners in more territories. We were so lucky. The game had great success in China Mainland, Taiwan, HongKong, Macau, South Korean and Thailand. It ranked in the top of the AppStore for all of those countries. We reached Number 1 top grossing in China, Taiwan, HongKong, Macau, and Thailand. We were Number 4 top grossing in South Korea.

2013 was our lucky year. In early 2014 we started looking into the mobile game market of North America and Europe. We wanted to make games for the world. As the first step to the West, we decided to bring our successful game (which had proven itself successful in Asia) to the western market. However, our game – KongFu House – is an eastern culture game, and to make it a western game, we would have to have changed the game background to western culture. This is no easy task. But Firevale is always like that; we get an idea and we go for it. We chose our best designers, artists and engineers and told them that there is only one goal for this project: make the new game a much better game than KongFu House. To make this happen, our team put in a lot of effort working on it, and a few months later, the western version of KongFu House, God of Arena, was born.

Now God of Arena is launched on AppStore and Google Play. Our team is continuing to work on the game, add new features, and collect feedback from our players. We are confident that we will definitely continue to improve this great game.

2. Q: After you decided you wanted to go for a western story and target market, how did your team decide on the theme for God of Arena? What are your team’s strengths and advantages that you used to make this happen?

A: The reason for choosing this story is pretty simple. Like a lot of people around the world, we like the historic setting of Rome and we think the gladiators of Rome are very cool. That’s what motivated us to build a gladiator game. If you want to make an idea become real, you have to be excited about the idea first.

Our team is a proven fighter in the industry. There are no doubts about our strength in game design, art and engineering. And since a gladiator game is definitely a western setting, we want to serve our target market in North America and Europe.

3. Q: We’re interested to hear about some of the great ideas your team came up with during development.

A: There was a lot of great creativity during the development. For example, when we started writing the story, we decided we wanted it to be something original. Then someone from the team suggested that we should add the great men from the history of Rome into the story, such as Caesar, Spartacus, etc. and let our players challenge them and even recruit them as fighters. Another idea came when we started building our competitive PVP feature, the Brave Tower. We thought about how to make a top player really feel like they are a champion. We came up with the idea of building a tower as a visual metaphor for this feature. The champion stands on the top and accepts challenges from everyone, while everyone else fights to climb up. There are a lot of great ideas that came from our team.

GOA’s Wiki pages

Q: What about moving to a different market? Could you share with us about your localization experience?

A: It was also challenging moving between two very different settings and deciding on what to do with thematic elements that don’t translate precisely. In a wuxia setting, it’s typical for all of the characters to use supernatural techniques in combat, so we made that an important gameplay element in Kongfu House. However, you don’t usually see warriors in the western classical era stories using the same kind of magical powers. We didn’t want to take it out of the game, though, so we worked hard to come up with titles and descriptions of the combat skills that didn’t seem out of place in a game about gladiators.

In terms of characters’ names and in-game dialogue, we worked with LAI’s localization team and we really like how they can come up with Greco-Roman flavor names to align with the style and setting of the historic time period. Their creative writing and translation makes the story and environment more immersive for the gamer.

 In the end, I think we struck a good balance. Characters still use attacks that can strike through a line of enemies in one blow, but it doesn’t clash with the aesthetics or take you out of the grim and brutal atmosphere that characterizes combat in the setting.

 4. Q: On the subject of translation, localization and international publishing, I am curious, did you meet any issues during the development and publishing phases?

A: Yes, we met a few more challenges in the publishing phase.

First of all, user acquisition is much more expensive than in Asia, so it’s more challenging to get people to try your game.

Secondly, there is more for the development team to learn about the preferences of western players. We needed feedback to understand what they like about the game and what they don’t like in order to serve our players better.

5. Q: How are you dealing with those issues?

A: Currently, we’re using the power of Facebook. We have integrated Facebook social features into the game. We have more features based on social systems in store on our production roadmap.

Our Facebook fan page is also an excellent way for us to collect feedback from players and to help us serve western players better. We’re also working on expanding our social media presence and using a game Wiki to help get players the information they want.

6. Q: Are there any other interesting developments related to the game?

A: There is one more thing makes all of us very excited. About 10 days after God of Arena was launched, we got an email from Apple informing us that God of Arena had been chosen as a featured game. And just before Christmas, our game was featured in Best New Games on Australia’s AppStore.

7. Q: What is next for God of Arena and Firevale?

A: For God of Arena, we plan to keep updating the game and bringing more fun to our players.

For Firevale, we will keep trying our best to build great games. Now we have stepped out from Asia, we will continue to learn from the world’s great game developers such as SuperCell, Kabam and Machine Zone. It’s our goal to make games for the whole world.

 Michelle: Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us, Rory! Hope Firevale will bring many more great games to our western players. 

Rory: Oh, thank you, Michelle.

Michelle: Back to our listeners, hope you enjoy today’s discussion with our friend Rory from Firevale Games. And as always, if you have comments, suggestion or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to email us at podcast@lai.com, or you can even twit us at LanguageAutoInc.

Global Payment System For Video Games Interview – Part 2 Transcript (LocaLAIse This! Podcast) [Michael Johnson @FastSpring and Michelle Zhao @LAI]

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

Michelle:   Hi everyone, welcome back to LocaLAIse This!, a podcast for the video game community, in which we interview experts on hot topics in game localization and global game publishing! My name is Michelle Zhao, Managing Director for Greater China here at LAI Global Game Services.


In the first part of this edition, we talked about global payment systems for video games, including its localization, challenges, tips and solutions with our guest, Michael Johnson, Director of Marketing & Business Development for FastSpring. In the second part of the episode today, we are going to discuss a little more about how you could utilize global e-commerce platform to increase your game sale.

Michael, thanks again for joining us today!

Michael:   Hi Michelle, thanks for having me!

1. Michelle:   For our game developer audience– Based on your experience, do you know which markets are most willing to spend money through e-commerce platforms in the video game industry?

Michael:    Well, the US, Europe and APAC are definitely the largest markets; these are by markets we think all companies should potentially target. But, to get into more of the specifics of that question, it depends on the nature of the game – there is a big difference between MMOGs, Casual Games, Serious Games, etc. Out of all the games played online we know that puzzle, board game, trivia, and card games make up 34% of the total global market. Action, sports, strategy, and role-playing make up another 26%. Casual and social games make up about 19%, and a few other categories make up the rest. The key question is, where is the most profitable market for your particular type of game. After we talk with the client and figure out their goals in terms of expansion, we take a look at their games and determine which of the larger markets makes sense to target first and that’s where knowing which types of games do better in certain markets comes into play. It all depends on the client goals and their particular game type.

2. Michelle:    Which currencies does FastSpring support?

Michael:    We support more than 19 different currencies, all the major currencies like the Japanese Yen, the Chinese Yuan, Australian Dollar, the Euro, and of course the US Dollar. And we are adding to that list of supported currencies every day.

3. Michelle:    What gaming platforms do you support now?

    Our platform is geared for online games (typically subscription-style games), as well as games that run in Windows, downloadable Mac games, games written and sold for Android, and also games for iOS. So, we cover a lot of ground here, for monetizing video games globally.

4. Michelle:    How does an e-commerce platform help video game companies increase their revenue worldwide, aside from the basic currency and platform support?

Michael:    Well, without e-commerce platform, you couldn’t really sell overseas or anywhere online. And a good platform will come equipped with a verity of tools you can use to customize for your specific type of store. So those tools are what you use to increase revenue worldwide. One of the biggest tools would be to have many payment methods, so you can reach as many global markets as possible. For us specifically, we help the client figure out which individual tools or which combination of tools makes sense to their specific game. Once a company is set up with us, we take a look at their games and their current order pages.

The first thing we do is to make sure the specific store design is optimized to attract and convert the maximum amount of customers. So, product branding is important here, and by product branding, I mean, making sure that there is a cohesive visual theme for all important pages associated with the game– From the game’s main website, to the game’s app store page, and everything in between. In this industry, the game itself is the product, along with all digital media associated with it. So, it is very important that all the digital media is branded together as a whole entity, including the digital store where customers will come to purchase or download the game.

5. Michelle:    Absolutely! We know in the videogame industry, the user acquisition, conversion and retention process could be very tedious, tricky or even expensive, so branding plays a very, very important role here, and making sure you find the right solution for your digital storefront is very important as well.

Michael:    Sure. Second, we take a look at which couponing tools make the most sense, things like: cross-sells, up-sells, the name-your-own price tool, or other add-ons that customers (who typical buy a certain type of game) would be interested in.

6. Michelle:    Well, that’s smart. Who doesn’t like coupons?!

Michael:    We can also check order pages and make sure they’re optimized to get the best results on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.  Another thing we like to do is to take a look at the price points for games to make sure the price is right for a particular market the company wants to enter. We want to find that sweet spot that consumers are willing to pay, not too low but also not too high, so we have testing environments where clients can test which pricing strategy makes the most sense.

7. Michelle:    Yes, gamers from different regions have different incomes, use different currencies and prefer their own payment methods. A well-localized game must be equipped with locale-targeted monetization and pricing strategy. For example, we know for a fact that in China, Alipay, QQ coins and WeChat purchases are very popular besides paying through three big mobile phone carriers. Studies show that including culturalized elements could also increase in-game purchases, sales, in f2p games. For example, in China there are items sold for 88 cents, versus in America, some items are sold for 99 cents.

Michael:   There are other things that take place behind the scenes every time a transaction takes place and all these things help our clients increase revenue as well.

  • One is multiple merchant accounts and an intelligent payment routing infrastructure. This allows for maximum credit card acceptance rates while still effectively managing fraud risks. Having multiple merchant accounts helps sales a lot because the payment is routed to the gateway with the highest chance of succeeding, so that catches a lot of sales that otherwise would have been lost.
  • We also host the deliverables for our clients. Doing so eliminates their support or bandwidth expenses, this doesn’t really increase sales per se, but helps our clients save money that would have been spent if they used a solution that charged extra fee for file hosting. So our clients margin per game are on average larger because of this, and their lives are a tad less complicated.
  • FastSpring’s cart-abandonment tools are awesome, so if anyone listening is comparing solutions this is a great tool to have. It allows you to capture certain customer data if they abandon the checkout process. You can then followup up with that customer via an automated email function and offer things like a discount, or something similar, if they complete the purchase.
  • And sometimes a client will start by simply selling their game on their website but it’ll be a game where users like to try it before they buy it. At times we will recommend that a client think about letting customers play the game for free, fall in love with it, but in order to get to the next level, for example, the customer will have to do an in-app purchase via our embedded SDK, and purchase level-by-level or buy the entire game before they play on. So we can do things like F2P trails that expire after a designated time period.

So we like to look at the big picture, when it comes to increase the client revenue globally. A good platform will also come with great reporting tools, so you can measure the effectiveness of your store and keep track of your growth. So this is how we and our platform can be used to increase revenue from a global prospective.

8. Michelle:    Can you give us an example of how a game developer would see revenue increases by following these steps and taking the right approach to market their game globally?

Michael:    We literally sell thousands of different game products and tens of thousands of other digital assets so there are numerous examples, rather than trying to dive into a single example let me point out what our clients experience most often. What we see is that a new Client who is selling only in one currency, USD for example, and only with the most common US payment methods will see a 5-25% lift simply by turning on global payment methods and currencies (which is free to do on our platform). And by taking advantage of our optimized order forms, which use geo-IP services to automatically preset themselves in the appropriate language and currency for the consumer in any area of the world. By going that we can increase a number of orders online. In addition to these two things, making sure the correct tools that we talked about a minute ago, are utilized and structured appropriately adds to that 5-25% revenue increase as well.

Our clients like us because we are a full service solution. We have all the tools necessary, and the customer support to enable and empower companies to enter into new markets and expand their product footprint. And it’s crucial that our clients stay focused on their products and not become distracted or have to worry about the hassles of e-commerce. We are super passionate about empowering people and companies to sell easily online. So finding an easy solution, and one that offers you everything you need to be crazy successful in your business, it’s crucial.

Michelle:   Definitely!  Well thank you, Michael for a very informative discussion. Global e-commerce will only continue to become more and more vital as the world markets become more and more interconnected, so its great to hear some expert advice about the state of the industry right now, and how it can help growing businesses bloom and thrive.

Michael:   You’re welcome, Michelle! It was great to be here and discuss these things. So thanks so much for having me! I really enjoyed it.

Michelle:    It’s been a pleasure to have you!

Back to our listeners, Thanks for listening to the latest episode of LocaLAIse This! With our guest, Michael Johnson from FastSpring. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Michael directly at michael.johnson@fastspring.com. You can also check out the FastSpring.com website to get a feel for the company’s presence. And as always, if you have comments, suggestions or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to e-mail us at podcast@lai.com or, you can even tweet us @LanguageAutoInc.

Global Payment System For Video Games Interview – Part 1 Transcript (LocaLAIseThis! Podcast) [Michael Johnson @FastSpring and Michelle Zhao @ LAI]

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather


Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen! Enjoy!

Michelle:  Welcome to the latest edition of LocaLAIse This!, a podcast for the video game community, in which we interview experts on the hot topics in game localization and global game publishing! My name is Michelle Zhao, Managing Director for Greater China here at LAI Global Game Services.

This edition of LocaLAIse This! is dedicated to the global payment systems for games, and we’re very pleased to have as our guest, Michael Johnson, Director of Marketing & Business Development for FastSpring.

Michael, Welcome to LocaLAIse This!

Michael:  Hey Michelle, thanks for having me! It’s a privilege and I’m super excited to be here!

1. Michelle:   Michael, thank you for coming to talk with us about global commerce for the video game industry! We are looking forward to hearing all about your expertise in this field with FastSpring—Would you please introduce to our listeners what FastSpring is and what FastSpring does?

Michael:   Sure! FastSpring is a global e-commerce platform that supports payments and subscriptions, both online and within games. So if you’re a game developer, we do the heavy lifting for you so you can monetize and sell your game assets globally, in a multi-language and multi-currency fashion.

2. Michelle:   That sounds like a great solution, especially for developers with a global vision! Talking about selling globally, we noticed that the growth of Free-to-Play (F2P) games has been phenomenal. In China, or say, in most parts of Asia, F2P games have already dominated the market. Can you also help game developers sell their virtual goods or in-game items for this type of game?

Michael:   Sure, absolutely!  We have an embedded store solution so that items or virtual goods can be purchased from within the game itself.

3. Michelle:   Now, we know there can be a lot of complications that arise when game developers are looking to publish and sell their games in overseas markets. From your experience in the e-commerce industry, how would you explain localization to someone who might not yet be familiar with the whole process?

Michael:   Sure, so there are like two sides of localization, one is appearance and the functionality of the game itself, like how it looks and feels to the player; and the other side is transactional part, the order pages on a website or within the game itself.

To explain the order pages part, it is good to think about, you know, taking a trip into a foreign country: you are at a store, and you want to buy a souvenir; or maybe you are going to a restaurant for dinner. But you can’t understand what the items on the menu are because you can’t understand the language. And of course, the price displayed in that particular local currency, so you don’t know how much it costs because you didn’t convert your money into the local currency when you arrived at your destination. So localization from a transactional stand point means translating those order pages in the correct language or dialect, and being able to convert that currency in accepted local currency methods as well. So customers around the globe can make purchases and business can make more money. Localization is all about being ready for opportunities in the other areas of the world. When you have a customer in another country wants to purchase your product, you need to be ready for that.

The other part of localization is taxes. This is not the most fun part. But every country has their own tax rates and laws. One thing that is helpful about our platform is we automatically handle the collection of Value Added Taxes, or VAT tax. And it is important to get this part of localization correct, because it is something very important for selling overseas. So that is another kind of localization that is critically important.

4. Michelle:   Great analogy! Based on your experience, what is the current role or status and what are some of the challenges of providing a global e-commerce platform, as a whole industry in and of itself?

Michael:   So over the past decade the world has become a very small place in terms of selling online. There are particular challenges or fears that often times paralyze companies from selling aboard. One of the biggest is not getting paid and lack of integrity and quality of financial institution overseas.  No one wants to be duped or be a victim of fraud or have their hard work undervalued, through the scope of a different economy. This economic variability is always a concern for those looking to expand their business overseas.

Companies are also challenged in regards to global tax collection and compliance, and this part alone can seem particularly overwhelming. Tax laws change on a regular basis and keeping up with that can be a full time job. Companies are afraid of getting the tax part wrong and having a foreign bureau come after them for back taxes, penalties, or whatever. So tax compliance can be complicated enough in your home country, let alone in another country. As you can imagine, getting the tax part wrong is a risk businesses should not have to deal with. It’s important to find an e-commerce partner who handles international taxes as a part of their overall solution!

Some other challenges with selling globally include currency conversion, order page translation, and of course, pirated sales. The odds of someone ripping your game off increase if you start to sell in unfamiliar markets. And this is also another deterrent for companies considering global sales. We have many Digital Rights Management options to choose from to avoid pirated sales. Luckily, currency conversion and order page translation these days happen automatically based on a customer’s IP location; however, there are some solutions in the industry that charge a fee for adding new currencies to your store. So its’ important to be mindful of what’s included or what’s not included in the solutions that you may be looking at. We don’t think businesses should be charged if they want to offer customers that a variety of payment methods or currencies.

As challenging or intimidating as it may seem, selling overseas, the benefits of it far out way the difficulties! We specialize in helping companies see the advantages of global sales, and help them navigate their way through turbulent water so that they can reap the benefits of the global market.

5. Michelle:   Michael, can you tell us a bit about some of the solutions you see in the global e-commerce space?  Maybe share some industry-related advice for listeners who are still in the beginning phases of learning about global sales?

Michael:   Yes, absolutely! There is definitely a lot to know, and it’s always going to be changing! Solutions in the industry handle currency exchange and monetization in a variety of ways and some charge extra fees to do these two things.

When it comes to monetization or anything really, we recommend that you try to limit your liabilities as much as possible.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Determine what the liabilities of solution A would be as opposed to solution B. Make a list.
  • Know what accounts are included, what accounts are NOT included, who delivers the product to the end customers, who handles and is responsible for fraud. So, in order to monetize and sell online or in-game a lot of things are needed to facilitate a transaction and 90% of that transaction happens in the background. Things like: merchant accounts, gateways, payment methods, fulfillment methods, fraud services, taxes services, banking relationships, and optimized payment routing technologies. They are part of every transaction and a good solution will have multiple layers of each for redundancy purposes. Be cautious of solutions with low advertised rates because a lot of them require you to setup things like your own merchant account and handle fulfillment and taxes. But doing that also exposes a company to a lot of liabilities and additional fees that add up quickly. So if you go for a solution that isn’t full service, it probably means that you have to provide those things, like your own merchant account, which exposes you to extra liabilities.
  • Make sure there are no fees for turning on different currencies. I know there are some solutions that will charge a fee just to turn on or off a specific currency or a payment method. Some of these fees can be expensive depending on how big your business is. I’ve heard some fees for turning on the Euro currency, for example, it could be several thousand of dollars, just for turning those on or off! So pay attention to those fees.

  • And things like in-game stores or purchasing are a given these days. If a solution doesn’t offer in-game stores or some kind of in-game purchase, it may be good to pass on that solution.
  • Selling online is probably going to be the biggest part of your revenue so it’s critical to have customer service that’s available to you 24/7/365. It’s easy to overlook this part in order to get what seems like a cheaper rate. If you have an online business, the e-commerce solution you choose is absolutely critical to your success in the long run. If something were to go wrong, or you’re launching a new product or have a very tight deadline, you need to be able to actually get in touch with your ecommerce provider. So look for solutions with high customer reviews and ones that have won customer service awards in their industry.

Michelle:   Thank you, Michael!

Back to our listeners, thanks for listening to our first part of the episode.  For the later part, we will further discuss how e-commerce platform helps video game companies increase their revenue worldwide.  I’d like to thank our guest Michael Johnson from FastSpring for his contribution to this topic. If you have any questions, you could reach out to Michael directly at michael.johnson@fastspring.com. You can also check out the FastSpring.com website to get a feel for the company’s presence. And as always, if you have comments, suggestions or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to e-mail us at podcast@lai.com or, you can even tweet us at LanguageAutoInc.

2015 Language & Translation Conferences

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather


Here is an updated list of upcoming conferences in language and translation, all around the globe, for 2015. Please feel free to contact us if you know of other related conferences that you don’t see posted here– The more the merrier!


January 9, 2015: Legal Translation Symposium, University of Roehampton, London, UK.

January 29-31, 2015: AIETI7 New Horizons in Translation and Interpreting Studies, Málaga, Spain.

March 27-28, 2015: Translation & Localization Conference. Warsaw, Poland.

April 23-25, 2015: ITI Conference 2015. Newcastle Gateshead, UK.

May 1-2, 2015: BP15. Zagreb, Croatia.

May 27-29, 2015: IV International Conference on Corpus Use and Learning to Translate. University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain.

June 1-7, 2015: Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference. Middlebury, Vermont, USA.

June  27-28, 2015: NZSTI Conference 2015, New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters. Wellington, New Zealand.

August 24-27, 2015: 15th International Conference on Translation, PPA15. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

November 4-7, 2015: ATA 16th Annual Conference, American Translators Association. Miami, Florida, USA.


2015 Video Game Conferences

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

An updated list of upcoming video game industry conferences for 2015, around the globe. Please feel free to contact us if you know of other conferences that you do not see listed here!


January 6-9, 2015: CES 2015, Las Vegas Hilton & Casino, Las Vegas, NV, USA

January 13-14, 2015: Pocket Gamer Connects London, Vinopolis, London, UK

January 19, 2015: NexGen Developers Day, London, UK

January 19-21, 2015: MGF London, 155 Bishopsgate, London, UK

January 22-25, 2015: Central European Games Conference, Vienna, Austria

January 23-25, 2015: PAX South 2015, Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, TX, USA

January 23-25, 2015: Global Game Jam 2015, Worldwide

January 28, 2015: GameDevHacker: Past Trends and Future Bets, Microsoft Corporation, NYC, USA

January 28-February 1, 2015: Taipei Game Show 2015, Taipei World Trade Center, Taipei, Taiwan

February 3-5, 2015: ICE Totally Gaming 2015, ExCel London, London, UK

February 3-5, 2015: D.I.C.E. Summit 2015, Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, NV, USA

February 3-5, 2015: GameOn-Arabia ‘2015, Arab Open University, Muscat, Oman

February 4-6, 2015: Casual Connect Europe 2015, Beurs Van Berlage, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

February 9-10, 2015: Winter Nights Mobile Games Conference 2015, Park Inn Pulkovskaya Hotel, Saint Petersburg, Russia

February 9-13, 2015: Animex International Festival of Animation & Computer Games 2015, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK

February 13-15, 2015: IndieCade East 2015, Museum of the Moving Image, NYC, USA

February 15-17, 2015: Digital Kids Conference, Javits Convention Center, NYC, USA

February 27-March 1, 2015: i3D 2015 (ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics and Games), San Francisco, CA, USA

March 2-5, 2015: Mobile World Congress 2015, Fira Gran Via, Barcelona, Spain

March 2-5, 2015: Game Connection America 2015, City View at Metreon, San Francisco, CA, USA

March 2-6, 2015: GDC 2015, Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA, USA

March 4, 2015: Cartoon Games 2015, Centre de congrés de Lyon, Lyon, France

March 6-8, 2015: PAX East 2015, Boston Convention Center, Boston, MA, USA

March 12, 2015: PCR Awards 2015, Royal Garden Hotel, London, UK

March 12-14, 2015: EGX Rezzed 2015, Tobacco Dock, London, UK

March 13-17, 2015: SXSW Interactive 2015, Austin, TX, USA

March 13-15, 2015: SXSW Gaming 2015, Palmer Events Center, Austin, TX, USA

March 14, 2015: Futurefest 2015, Vinopolis, London, UK

March 16-20, 2015: CeBIT 2015, Messegelände, Hanover, Germany

March 17-20, 2015: GPU Technology Conference 2015, San Jose McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, CA, USA

March 17-20, 2015: NVScene, San Jose McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, CA, USA

May 11-12, 2015: Pocket Gamer Connects San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

June 10-12, 2015: Mobile Gaming, USA, San Francisco, CA, USA

June 16-18, 2015: E3 2015, Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA

August 11-13, 2015: Casual Connect, USA, San Francisco, CA, USA

September 7-8, 2015: Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

October 2-4, 2015: XPO, Cox Business Center, Tulsa, OK, USA

October 25-27, 2015: GDC China 2015, Shanghai, China

November 19-22, 2015: G-Star 2015 Global Game Exhibition, Busan, South Korea


Game Art Internationalization and Localization Interview with Lillian Lee

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Our latest installment of LocaLAIse This! takes a look at game localization from an artist standpoint. LAI’s Managing Director of China interviews Lillian Lee, our newest Game Art Localization Consultant with 12+ years in the industry. Lillian has served as an artist for AAA games such as The Darkness 2 and BioShock 2, and her expertise in Asian culture has been a tremendous asset in her work as an artist across studios, including Ubisoft and Red 5 Studios.

Below is the transcript of the interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

Game Localization – Art [Featuring Lillian Lee, Game Art Localization Consultant, LAI Global Game Services]


Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse this. My name is Michelle Zhao, and I am the Managing Director for Greater China area here at LAI Global Game Services. Today we are very happy to introduce the newest member of our team, Lillian Lee. Lillian is a game artist and is truly an industry veteran. Now she is also working as an art localization specialist for us here at LAI Global Game Services.  So today we are featuring the artistic aspect of Game Localization. Let’s welcome Lillian.


Q: Lillian, do you mind simply introducing yourself? As I know, you have worked and lived in China for 8 years and North America for 5 years as a game artist.

A: Hi Everyone, my name is Lillian.  I joined the game industry back in 1999, and I have developed PC, web, mobile, console, and online games in China, the United States and Canada.

During my experience in different countries, I have met so many interesting people and made many projects that I am pretty proud of.

For example: the Virtual life series for PC back in 2000.

More recently: Bioshock 2, Darkness 2 are both console games I have worked on.

And the online sci-fi games: Firefall and Warframe which are still very popular in the current game market.

Q: Now my first question is: What do you find are the most interesting facts as a game industry professional who has worked in the two different cultures?

Well, let me think…I think people in different country’s development studios have different work attitudes and team structures.


1.     Work Attitudes
Usually, people in western studios are very creative and very thoughtful.  They have a tendency to dig deeply into a single asset, to focus on certain ideas and to be willing to put more time into lots of ideas. However, hard and creative work always consumes more time to complete, which can make the art design or production take longer than the original schedule.


On the other hand, people in eastern companies are more focused on making the product on time with ok quality. They usually do not focus so much on specific ideas. Their goals are to follow what they are told to do and work quickly and finish the work on time ….  so they might not think so much about the depth of content.


For example, a Western artist could spend one or two weeks to create an art item in the game while a Chinese game artist might only take 3 or 4 days for the same model.


Through this process, I realized that professional developers and artists look at details in different ways. They must be willing to adjust every tiny aspect when it is necessary. That is important when you are willing to make a world class game.


2.     Team Structures
In China, most game development teams are divided into very small groups.  For instance one environmental game art team will be made of many small sub-teams.  Each sub-team will contain 4 to 6 team members. So the whole team will have a top leader and several sub team leaders.


However in North America, the team organization structure is much flatter. One leader might oversee 15-30 team members.  That brings potential issues. One is that some junior guys might lack sufficient training or help. And, if this leader is not available or is away for a long time, the whole team may panic a little without direction or everyone could be waiting for him before proceeding with the next step. This can affect quality and time.


(Different cover art styles for the same game in different markets)


Q: It’s good to know those differences. As a game art veteran, could you give us some general tips on Art Internationalization/Localization (western vs. eastern examples)

(Different cover art styles for the same game in different markets)

A: Sure, I can give several tips here:

First, let’s talk about color: color can have different possible meanings to different cultures.

For example: In the west, the color red is considered an aggressive color that makes people think of blood, fire, and other scary elements. A Stop sign is red!! It makes you think of danger.


However, in China, red is considered a happy color that represents good elements in holidays especially like the Chinese New Year.  And also for traditional Chinese wedding dress.


(Chinese wedding)

To contrast that, let’s talk about the color white. As you know, that is a typical color for western wedding dresses. But in China, white is the color used for traditional funerals.

(Chinese traditional funeral clothes vs Western wedding)

So, we have to think very carefully about what colors are used when you are designing art for different cultures.


After that, let’s talk About the Shape:

Hmm, I’d like to use the dragon as a quick example.  The mental image that pops up when I say the word ‘dragon’ is different between western and eastern cultures.

In western tales, the dragon is often pictured as a dinosaur shaped animal. It is wild and scary, it is a fire-breathing monster!!

But, In the east, the dragon has more of an auspicious image. It’s usually a sign of power and good luck. So when you mention a game about dragons, the Chinese will never imagine the same type of dragon perceived in the western society.

In addition, some other things to consider are removing sensitive culture, religious, and political elements. You want to remove those culture tabooswhichmake your audience uncomfortable or could be potentially banned by the government.

(Dragons: East on the Left, West on the Right.)

Q: My next question is: Will certain Logo styles help to sell the game when people are searching on the App Store?

Yes!  That is for sure!!

Hmm, Logos are the first selling window of the game.  You need to make your game stand out quickly in the game logo ocean.   It is essential that you use some bright color and high contrast to draw the player’s attention, like a cute and beautiful style is always very welcome in China, or very unique design to be eye-catching. A good example is Minecraft’s logo matches the simple and unique art style and it blends nicely with the game.  This helps the game stand out visually compared to the other games in the market.

Bottom line, this logo is also part of your game, so it is very important to maintain the same art style and also convey the deep meaning to your game as well.


Do you have some additional tips for us in terms of UI and icon design?

A:  I think each game has its own unique style.  But a golden rule is that this style must be meaningful and make a connection to players in different cultures.  When I’m analyzing a game for art localization, I don’t just update the icon or UI with localized text, I dig deeper into why it should be changed and how it should be specifically designed to appeal to a certain target audience. In the meanwhile it must also still match the established style which comes from the original game.

Making a good UI design has so many aspects to it!  This is like asking the question, how do I become a millionaire?  The answer is, there are many paths to reach the same goal, however the same path is not appropriate for every game.


So here are a few tips:

  •  First, You’ll need to focus on your intended target audience group.  There’s not one simple solution to cover all situations. It’s a very creative process to customize a localized Logo and UI to the projected market.
  • Then, you have to know what kind of circumstance the player will be in when they are playing a particular game.  Will they play it at home or on the way to somewhere?

For example, in China, many mobile games are played on a shaking bus or metro train.  So, this will affect how they can use the icons and buttons.

It is better to design a simple game UI and icons that are not too complicated.  So:

  • The UI or icons should be designed to be very bright without too many small details or too colorful.  It is very easy to wear your eyes out during these moving conditions, and there are moments where it is hard for your fingers to press a button accurately.  People might get annoyed very quickly.


  • On the other side, all buttons should be easy to find. Most of the time, people are playing games just to relax and enjoy a little spare time. If the game screen is too busy, it’s hard to press precisely or even difficult to find where the button is.  If that happens, you will lose this player forever in just a few minutes.


All in all, it is very important to have a deep understanding of each particular game you are working on while doing the localization. This understanding will help you make better UI and icons that match the existing game as well as help to consolidate the whole game play experience!


Q: From your observation, what are the art style preferences in the different game markets you’ve worked for (west vs. east)?


A: In the Chinese market, the mainstream art style is cute and beautiful. However, in the West, we often find more varieties in art style.  So as a general rule, in China, people prefer only a very few particular art styles.

At the same time, we believe the definition of beauty also needs to be localized  For example: Shrek and Mulan. Those are popular cartoon images in US. However in China, people might consider they are not that pretty because of how they look. Shrek is neither cute, nor handsome. Many Chinese audiences don’t think Mulan in the Disney movie represents an Asian beauty in their eyes. Mulan is a very famous story in China, so people all expect that she should be very beautiful and brave.

(Mulan -Disney vs.a Chinese version)

(Mulan’s image from the Chinese movie Hua Mulan)

In China, many Chinese players find Japanese or Korean cartoon styles cute and perfectly beautiful characters very appealing.  The reason behind this is in China in earlier times, most players could not afford a gaming console and also it really was not accessible.  So many players have a long history of playing free Korean or Japanese online games or watching Japanese cartoon TV series.  People are quite familiar with those styles after so many years of exposure.

To help you visualize the art styles let me give you a few examples:

Japanese Games

  • SAGA2, Secret of Mana, and the very famous one: Final Fantasy series

Korean Game

  • Blade & Soul and AION.

Japanese Cartoons

  • Mobile Suit Gundam, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball.

(A comparison between US and Japanese version of a very popular Japanese show)

Another significant group of popular games are ones themed in ancient Chinese history stories. These games are usually supported by the government because they are considered to carry forward history and culture. So those game themes and style are very popular in China as well.


Q: Last question: As a native Chinese speaker, what are your suggestions for a western game going into Chinese market?

A: Well, I know that in China, because the population is so huge, all public facilities including the transportation system are crowded. Waiting in queues is very common in everyday life. In the larger cities, people will consistently spend one or two hours commuting.  While waiting in the queue or transferring to the bus or metro, people play games to make this time more enjoyable. It’s important to design mobile game modes around these typical settings.

Here are few tips:

  1. The game is not very complicated.  It should be very easy to handle in just a few minutes from the start.
  2. The game has an on-hold function.  This allows players to easily get into and out of the game for a short time. Like getting off the bus or getting on the bus.
  3. With slow or limited internet access during commute or waiting time, people can still play certain social or online games without noticing the poor connection.
  4. The game could do better if they connected with Chinese social media like Weibo, Renren or Wechat. Which helps the players in their own social circle to play the game and communicate all the time.
  5. In China game playing is very limited to a certain group of people.  A majority of the players are in the age range of 6-28 years old. This demographic has a high impact on the desired art style – cute and beautiful, which makes the popular art style lean towards a younger crowd.
  • On the other side, because of the population size, people in China are highly competitive. This is seen through how they compare their social status with each other through their cars, clothing, and even games.  When it comes to games what matters most is who has the better weapons, armors, scores, and even nicer in-game skins.
  • Games will need to offer possible functions like a ranking list, different item levels, different skin styles, armor, and special items to purchase.
  • Oh, I have to mention this: Showing off is really an important ability to lot of Chinese game players. That is the whole reason why free to play online games are so popular! There is a new word:  Chinese pronunciation:土豪 (English meaning: The new money or newly rich),those people are establishing their online virtual social status by buying so many expensive and super cool weapons or skins. Yeah, I know it sounds quite crazy, but it is a true phenomena really happening everyday In China’s game world.

Oh, don’t forget, In China, obeying government policy is very vital because if a game contains porn, violence, or bloody content, it will be permanently banned.

(Final Fantasy art style is viewed as perfectly beautiful in many Asian eyes.)


All in all, think deeply and carefully about the following questions when you are considering localizing a western game for the Chinese market:

  1. Who are the major players you are aiming for?
  2. What are their game play habits?
  3. What does their lifestyle look like?
  4. What are their favorite images, styles, stories and game prototypes?
  5. What are their game consumption habits?
  6. What type of game design would players play for one day? One week? One month? One year or even longer?
  7. How do you want to build user retention within a game?

Once you can clearly answer all of these questions, I think you are good to go!


Lillian, Thank you very much for joining us and sharing your tips and experience about Art Localization today. We’ve learned a lot from you about art design in the east and west, and Does and Don’ts while East Meets West.

For our podcast followers, thanks for listening. We hope you find today’s podcast interesting and useful. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us by emails. Our email address is info@lai.com


Thanks again, we will see you soon.




facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather




Detailed Implementation Rules for Cultural Market Opening in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone










Detailed Implementation Rules for Cultural Market Opening in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

In January 2014, China lifted a thirteen-year ban on the sale and manufacture of gaming consoles. This has generated great excitement about the future of the video game industry in China. On April 21, the government of Shanghai announced Detailed Implementation Rules for Cultural Market Opening in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone. As many of us interested to see the content in English, LAI translated its Chinese version [1] from the Shanghai municipal government website.

Translator: Chung-Kuan John Chen

Editor: Michelle Zhao

Detailed Implementation Rules for Cultural Market Opening in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone

These Implementation Rules have been written in accordance with the State Council’s Notice on Releasing the Comprehensive Plan for the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, the State Council’s Decision to Temporarily Adjust Relevant Administrative Laws and State Council Regulated Special Administrative Measures for Approval or Access in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone, and the Ministry of Culture’s Notice on Implementing Cultural Market Management Policies in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.

I. Foreign-invested enterprises may engage in the production and sales of game and entertainment devices. Game and entertainment devices may be sold to the domestic market after passing content review by the relevant authorities.


(I) Foreign-invested enterprises that have obtained licenses from the commercial authorities in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (hereafter known as the Pilot FTZ), and whose licenses state that their business includes “manufacturing and selling game and entertainment products,” may submit their products to content review by the Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV.


(II) Game and entertainment devices and related products sold in the domestic market should not infringe on intellectual property rights, and should aid in the dissemination of scientific, artistic, and cultural knowledge, benefiting the healthy development of young people. Products may not contain content banned by Article 13 of the Entertainment Venue Management Law, nor may they allow for point betting, coin return, token return, or other gambling features. Text on the product itself, in games, and in instructions should be in the Chinese language.

(III) Foreign-invested enterprises engaged in the manufacture and sales of game consoles should submit the following documents along with physical copies of the product pre-loaded with the game content when applying for content review:


1. The Application Form for Content Review for Game Console Market Access and the Game Console Content Review Document Checklist.

2. A photocopy of the company’s business license.

3. Documents to prove that the game and entertainment device and any game content complies with intellectual property laws, including proof of intellectual property ownership or licensing.

4. Video files or demonstrations of all video content contained within the product. This refers to all content in the final retail version of the product, including video content that does not appear in normal game play. (Files should be submitted on CD-ROM or DVD.)

5. Electronic images that reflect and match the final retail version of the product. There should be one image of the product’s front and two of the product’s sides. The images should be submitted in JPG format with a resolution no lower than 800×600 pixels.


6. Audio files of background music and songs contained in the product, as well as song title lists and electronic text files of lyrics in both Chinese and foreign-language versions.

7. Electronic text of all dialogue, narration, descriptions, and instructions in the product, in Chinese and foreign-language versions.

8. A plan to provide content for the game device. If the plan involves providing content online, Online Cultural Operations Licenses for content providers should also be submitted.

(IV) The Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV should reach a decision in its review within 20 workdays of the application being received. Products that pass the review will receive a Game Device Content Review Confirmation Form, which will also be filed with the Ministry of Culture. Products that do not pass the review will receive a written explanation of the reasons.


(V) After the foreign-invested enterprise receives the Game Device Content Review Confirmation Form, it may begin selling its game and entertainment console in the domestic market. If there are changes or upgrades in the product’s content, model, or make, the product should undergo another content review by the Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV.


(VI) The foreign-invested enterprise is responsible for ensuring the quality of the game device it manufactures and sells. The product should adhere to all relevant standards and rules set by the central and municipal government. All products sold on the domestic market should carry the product name, manufacturer name, and manufacturer address in Chinese on both the product itself and the packaging.


(VII) Foreign-invested enterprises which sell game devices to the domestic market should submit a copy of the Game Device Content Review Confirmation Form to customs in addition to the usual customs procedures.


(VIII) Companies that supply content for game devices online should obtain an Online Cultural Operation License in accordance with the regulations set out by the Ministry of Culture in the Provisional Rules for Cultural Management on the Internet and the Provisional Guidelines for Managing Online Games. All game products should be licensed by the Ministry of Culture. Companies that supply content through other means should also follow relevant regulations.


(IX) Commercial, quality supervision, and customs authorities should administer their respective duties in regulating these foreign-invested enterprises. The Pilot Free Trade Zone Administrative Committee (hereafter known as the Administrative Committee) will be responsible for the day-to-day supervision of relevant foreign-invested enterprises.

II. Equity ratio restrictions are abolished for foreign-invested entertainment artists’  agencies. The establishment of wholly owned foreign entertainment artists’ agencies are now permitted, and they may provide services within the municipality of Shanghai.


(I) Foreign-invested enterprises in the Pilot FTZ that have obtained business licenses from the commercial authorities may apply for a commercial performance license for entertainment artists’ agencies and performance venue operator certificate from the Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV.  Foreign shareholder equity ratio restrictions do not apply to jointly owned or collaborative entertainment artists’ agencies and performance venues.


(II) Foreign-invested entertainment artists’ agencies that wish to apply for a commercial performance license should submit the following documents:


1.  The Entertainment Artists’ Agency Establishment Application Form.

2. A photocopy of the company’s business license.

3. Certificates for at least 3 entertainment agents working full-time at the agency.


(III) The Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV should reach a decision in its review within 20 workdays of the application being received. Agencies that pass the review will receive a commercial performance license. Agencies that do not pass the review will receive a written explanation of the reasons.

(IV) Foreign-invested enterprises that wish to establish performance venues in the Pilot FTZ’s service trade sector should file with the Bureau of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV within 20 workdays of obtaining their business license. The following documents should be submitted:


1. The Performance Venue Operator Filing Form.

2. A photocopy of the company’s business license.

3. Photocopies of approval documents from the fire safety and public health authorities.

4. Maps and interior plans of the performance venue.


(V) Legally established entertainment artists’ agencies in the Pilot FTZ that organize commercial performances should adhere to the following regulations:


1. Commercial performances in the Pilot FTZ require the approval of the Administrative Committee. For performances by domestic groups and artists, the Administrative Committee should reach a decision within 3 workdays of the request; for performances involving groups or artists from foreign countries, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan, the Administrative Committee should reach a decision within 20 workdays of the request.

2. Commercial performances involving groups or artists from foreign countries, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan require the approval of the Bureau of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV. The Bureau should reach a decision within 20 workdays of the request. Commercial performances by domestic groups or artists require the approval of the cultural authority of the district or county in which the performance takes place. The authority should reach a decision within 3 workdays of the request.


(VI) Commercial performances in performance venues legally established in the Pilot FTZ require the approval of the Administrative Committee. The Administrative Committee should reach a decision within 3 workdays of the request


III. Wholly-owned foreign entertainment venues may provide services in the Pilot FTZ.


(I) Foreign-invested enterprises in the Pilot FTZ that have obtained business licenses from the commercial authorities may apply for an entertainment operation license from the Administrative Committee. During the planning and construction stages, the enterprise may consult with the Administrative Committee.  The Committee should provide guidance according to relevant laws and regulations.


(II) Foreign-invested enterprises that wish to establish entertainment venues in the Pilot FTZ should fulfill the conditions as set by laws and regulations including the Entertainment Venue Management Law and the Entertainment Venue Management Rules. The Administrative Committee should reach a decision within 20 workdays of the request for approval.  Enterprises that receive approval will receive an entertainment operation license. Enterprises that do not receive approval will receive a written explanation of the reasons.


IV. The manufacturing and sale of game and entertainment devices by foreign-invested enterprises, as well as the operations of foreign-invested entertainment artists’ agencies, performance venues, and entertainment venues, will be part of the integrity management system of the Shanghai cultural market.


V. These rules also apply to investors from the Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan region, as well as Chinese citizens from overseas, who wish to establish enterprises in the Pilot FTZ to manufacture and sell game and entertainment consoles or establish entertainment artists’ agencies, performance venues, and entertainment venues.


VI. These rules come into force starting on the day of public release.


Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Film, and TV

Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce

Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision

People’s Republic of China Shanghai Customs

China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Administrative Committee

[1] http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/shanghai/node2314/node2319/node12344/u26ai38861.html

How To Be A B2B Pro When Working With Chinese Mobile Game Companies

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

How To Be A B2B Pro When Working With Chinese Mobile Game Companies

By Michelle Zhao, Managing Director – Greater China, LAI Global Game Services

Before we get into the data, let’s take a look around China:

Waiting in queues

In the subway car

The lucrative market

By the end of 2013, China had a $13 billion revenue game industry and 490 million players according to GPC, the China Game Publishers Association Publications Committee. Accounting for $1.8 billion, with 310 million mobile gamers, the mobile gaming market has been especially hot, seeing the largest growth in 2013 after rising 246.9% from the previous year. With the open policy of 4G license issuing (Dec. 2013) and economic growth in 2nd and 3rd tier cities, more people are expected to play mobile games. It is estimated that hardcore mobile games will be taking over half of the mobile game market in 2014. (Hardcore game mobile growth: 8% in 2008, 42% in 2013, 52% est. in 2014[1])

(From Newzoo’s report on Chinese Video Game Market 2013)

Though a business partner is not required for mobile games (according to Chinese law, foreign companies must partner with a Chinese service provider to run their online games in the country), the complex and highly fragmented market structure raises the bar extremely high for foreign companies to enter. Many times, local partners and 3rd party agencies are necessary to assist you with localization and publishing.

Characteristics of the market

 The Chinese mobile game market shows different characteristics from western markets:


  • Most Chinese mobile gamers started playing online games first, so they are more into games with interactive modes (playing with groups, or pvp fighting).


  • There are over 200 publishing and distribution platforms and stores in China. Since Google Play is not widely available in China and the Android market has captured over half of the market, major app stores like 360 Mobile Assistant, Tencent MyApp, Wandoujia, UC AppStore, Gfan Market, the Baidu app store, Anzhi Market, and Alibaba are considered the key to the market.

  • Android stores operated by the three main mobile carriers (China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom) have a very significant market share (up to 30% by some estimates[2]); carrier billing is the dominant billing channel for Android apps.


  • Revenue share doesn’t favor game developers (just last year it was between 90/10 and 50/50 publisher/developer) but it is getting better for developers.


  • Preloading by handset manufacturers plays an important role in distribution.


How to approach developers and publishers


Mobile game developers in China often work in teams of 10-15, or sometimes even smaller. With limited capital and unfavorable revenue share, they seek publishers to put up all the money (revenue share and a minimum distribution guarantee) so they are often passive during negotiations.


As mentioned earlier, publishing a mobile game in China is more complex than in the West due in part to the number of app stores, overlapping roles of publisher/app store/3rd party companies, and multiple revenue shares. Publishers usually lead the marketing campaigns, and perform other necessary adaptations and efforts.


Talk the talk


The most frequent word you will hear spoken by industry people at industry gatherings is “distribution channel” (“Qudao” or“渠道”). Compared to its neighbor Japan, China has more variety in terms of marketing and distribution channels. In Japan, the marketing approach is more straightforward: 3 to 4 marketing companies and ads on TV (6 channels). Game quality speaks more than distribution. However, in China, the big players show their own prowess to sell their games: Punchbox (Chukong) will seek money from VCs and make huge investments on ads; Tencent uses its platform to get all the consumers’ attention; Shanda puts more effort on branding their games.


English acronyms are often used in China as industry jargon. However, be aware of the differences– they might not mean what you think. Here are a few examples: At a game show event in the B2B area, you will often hear lots of BDs (business development folks) say they’re looking for “CP”. “CP” here stands for “content provider”. However, it is actually equivalent to “game developer” in English-speaking markets.


Another common term is “SP” (service provider), which refers to companies who offer B2B services such as monetization, app store optimization, and in-game ads.

Also, some famous mobile game titles are often referred to by acronyms like “COC” for “Clash of Clans”. Similar acronyms are often used when referring to game genre.




  • Beijing: This is where more established companies and many indie gamers are located. Zhongguan Village is considered to be the next Silicon Valley by many international investors.
  • Shanghai and surrounding area: Also has more established companies.  Usually companies have their marketing office in Shanghai and R&D in neighboring cities, Suzhou and Hangzhou.
  • Chengdu: Tianfu Software Park is where most video game companies reside. Bigger companies like Perfect World, Tencent, Ubisoft and Shanda have their R&D center or development team here. This area also has many smaller, newer companies, many with an overseas market focus.
  • Guangzhou and Shengzhen: This area has many game developers who were originally in the online game business, and are now shifting focus into mobile gaming.
  • Nanjing: Big carrier companies have their gaming operations here.
  • Dalian: Many video game and software parks with a long outsourcing history are located here (a large percentage are devoted to IT outsourcing for Japan).

Major conferences/shows and inside-circle parties


Shanghai: ChinaJoy (largest, national), Game Connection Asia, GDC-Asia

Beijing: GMIC, GMGC, TFC

Chengdu: GMGDC

Guangzhou: Guangzhou Game Show


Inside-circle parties are usually hosted by large publishing companies during a conference or show week. Sometimes they are closed-door events. You often need to get an invite from a connection/friend in the industry and pre-register, as the seats are limited. Be prepared for a huge crowd and bring a few hundred business cards and a happy face. Usually there are no rules about formal dress, and most attendees come dressed in business casual. Some events are hosted in a casual atmosphere: a huge café shop, a roof club, or even in nightclubs. As a well-connected industry BD (business developer) during a major conference week, it’s common to attend several parties in one night. For example, last GMGDC (Nov. 2013 in Chengdu), there were 20 inside-circle parties in 4 nights. A well-connected BD in China knows who is the key contact of your potential partner/clients to talk to and always follows the market trends and their competitors’ next move.


Social Media


WeChat groups (US equivalent: WhatsApp): you can register a few local game community groups and add friends here. Each day you can monitor what is going on by reading their posts.

QQ group chat (US equivalent: skype): Some event organizers will invite you to join their chat group too, e.g.: ChinaJoy.

Weibo (US equivalent: Twitter)

Doubai/Renren (US equivalent: Google+/Facebook)

Buzz.com (US equivalent: Meetup)

(Social Media Marketing Channels in China in 2014)


Know how to follow up


Chinese B2B contacts appreciate more direct communication compared to the West. Many of them prefer to keep in contact with you via phone and WeChat.


The video game industry is a young industry in China, and so is the average age of its industry professionals (born in 1980s and 1990s). It is not hard to start a conversation as almost everyone in the industry carries a passion for games and an open mind to new things. However, one thing you often find is that these highly mobile professionals won’t stay with one company for too long. I know of a few cases where people changed their email address after only 3 months – because they had already changed employers! At a party, someone once told me they considered themselves to be an industry veteran because they stayed with one company for a surprisingly long time – two entire years(!)


When making contacts at Chinese game companies, the BD is the first person you’ll talk to. Once they understand your purpose to engage with their company (or say they are convinced that your service provides potential value to them), they will refer you to the director of the internal department you are interested in talking to.


Though most industry professionals are from the younger generation and many have studied overseas, you still can’t ignore the importance of Guanxi (connections) when you are doing business in China. It is a unique skill to have – it is a combination of art and techniques of building your network with real work, friendship, trust, favors, dinners, and parties.


Final remarks


Chinese companies view western companies as prestigious but they tend to worry that foreigners do not understand the business culture necessary to get work done in China. Larger companies or some small companies whose founders have overseas experience should be able to communicate with English-speaking companies adequately, but for deeper engagement and networking, it is necessary that you have some employees who are proficient in Chinese. If that’s not feasible, you should consider working through 3rd party companies who have the expertise and the necessary language skills.


LAI Global Game Services (a unit of Language Automation, Inc.) can help you navigate the complex business climate and marketing and publishing challenges needed to achieve success in the China market.


Feel free to contact me directly (michelle@lai.com) and I’ll be happy to provide assistance and guidance.



[1] Data from App Operation Group (App运营之家, A Chinese industry WeChat group)

[2] Reference: Newzoo’s  2014 China Games Market Trend Report

Video Games & Global Valentine’s Day Traditions, Part 1

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

A Brief History of Valentine’s Day


To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.

Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,

And dupp’d the chamber-door;

Let in the maid, that out a maid

Never departed more.

-          Hamlet


Valentine’s Day is already here! To some people, it means doing something romantic for a loved one. And to some game developers, it means adding holiday-themed content to their games. This may mean adding hearts, Cupid arrows, and pink items, such as in Angry Birds Seasons, or it may mean letter and gift deliveries depending on relationships with in-game characters, such as in Animal Crossing.


The holiday, as we know it today, is said to have its roots in 14th century England. According to scholars, February 14th first became associated with love and romance thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer, the “Father of English literature” and notable poet of the Middle Ages. Chaucer’s writing supposedly incorporates the first written record of Valentine’s Day:


For this was on seynt Volantynys day

              Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

-          Parlement of Foules (1382)


There are many legends and stories associated with the birth of this holiday, including feasts that gave rise to courtly love and the belief in the Middle Ages that birds actually paired couples together. Over the centuries, Valentine’s Day evolved into a day to express love to others via flowers, candies, and cards, spreading from Medieval England to other parts of Europe and, more recently, to Asia, which is often attributed to the spread of American pop culture, as some Valentine’s Day celebrations didn’t begin until just a couple decades ago.


Although this holiday is now in many countries around the world, it certainly doesn’t mean the day is celebrated uniformly throughout. While many people globally are familiar with the way Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, that doesn’t mean gamers in every country know of American Valentine traditions or would even appreciate the integration of these customs in local video games.


In this multi-part article, we will cover the different ways Valentine’s Day is celebrated internationally and how game content based on real-world traditions necessitates adaption (or localization) for each given market:



Age-Old Tradition of Romance – China

China’s equivalent of Valentine’s Day stretches back many centuries to the Han Dynasty (a dynasty lasting from 206BC to 220AD). This celebration is known as the Qi Xi Festival, and it takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar (this year on August 2nd). (It is also called the Magpie or Double Seventh Festival.)


There are multiple legends surrounding this holiday. These legends speak of two lovers, the Cowherd (Niu Lang) and Weaver Maid (Zhi Nu), who are only able to cross the Milky Way once a year in order to be together. One legend says that the Weaver Girl came down from heaven to marry the Cowherd and have children with him, but when the God of Heaven realized this had happened, he ordered Queen Mother of the Western Heavens to return Zhi Nu back to the heavens. Another legend says that Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were fairies on the opposite sides of the Milky Way, and when they were together, they would neglect their work, so the Jade Emperor of Heaven only permitted them to meet once a year.


Game Examples

There are many aspects of Chinese legend and history that game developers can draw upon when creating game content for the Chinese market, and Chinese gamers respond positively to this cultural content. Thus, numerous games have been created for the Qi Xi Festival. Perhaps a more well-known game example is from Google. Last year, Google released a Google Doodle game for the Qi Xi Festival, where users create a bridge of magpies so the two lovers can meet.


Larger games, like MMOs, also work to incorporate local content when possible. There is an MMO set in ancient China, Conquer Online, that had a Qi Xi quest a couple years ago, where players gathered items and summoned the magpies to bring “happiness to the Herd-boy and the Weaving-girl.” This kind of culturally-focused content tends to have positive effects on sales, as gamers appreciate game content that incorporates local traditions.


While it is now common for women to receive chocolate or flowers on White Day, in some parts of China, traditional aspects of the Qi Xi festival are still celebrated, with girls displaying their domestic skills. Common celebrations in the past for girls included competitions for threading needles under low light conditions, praying to Zhi Nu for wisdoms, reciting prayers, and wishing for a good future husband. In addition to competitions for young girls, the Qi Xi Festival was also a time of celebration for newlyweds. Young women would also place fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder out for Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, throwing half of the face powder onto the roof and using the other half amongst themselves, signifying shared beauty with Zhi Nu.



Beware! – Not Everyone Celebrates Valentine’s Day

When bringing Valentine’s Day-themed content to other countries, it is crucial to keep in mind that there are a number of countries that do not permit Valentine’s Day celebrations, due to religious beliefs and/or political parties. This is because some people believe Valentine’s Day has associations with Christianity or is symbolic of the penetration of Western culture.


It is important to keep this in mind and to learn which countries do not allow the celebration of Valentine’s Day, as often the sale of red items, romantic cards, flowers, and other such gifts is banned (such as in Saudi Arabia). There have even been reports of protesters and volunteers in some countries attacking couples and burning Valentine’s Day cards (such as in India). Despite the widespread animosity toward the holiday in some areas of the world, some couples in these countries may celebrate Valentine’s Day in the privacy of their homes, buying flowers and gifts on the black market or vacationing in a country like Dubai in order to celebrate the day.


It follows that Valentine-related content would not go over well in countries where there is unrest surrounding the holiday. Instead, game developers that typically create holiday-themed game content (such as Rovio) find other ways to stay relevant across global markets. It was reported last year by IGN that Rovio is studying the Middle East in order to effectively communicate stories from the region. As Rovio’s COO, Harri Koponen said, “There is a long Arabic history and lots of interesting stories that need to be told in the region, like One Thousand and One Nights. We are always developing more local content – we have been focusing on themes recently.”


While Valentine content could cause intense problems when released in certain parts of the world, there are ways to pay homage to historical traditions without unintentionally making a cultural or political statement with the inclusion of the Western version of the holiday in games. For example, game developers looking to integrate local traditions related to love and romance may look to ancient India, where the Kamadeva, the Lord of Love, was celebrated.



In the next part of this article, we will take a closer look at other global traditions surrounding love, romance, and Valentine’s Day.