2017 Summer Trip across China: Chinese Indie Games, Publishers, E-sports, VR & More!

This article will talk about interesting game industry topics (RPG, Strategy Games, MOBA, Game License Number, Publishing in China, IP, monetization, art, risks, etc.) LAI encountered during our summer business trip (May to early August 2017) in China. 

Heading to China

Watching San Francisco’s summertime fog rolling in from the ocean, bringing continuous waves of cold, we decided to celebrate summer in a proper (red hot) way. Across the Pacific, with so many exciting events and lined-up meetings covering hot topics such as new publishing regulations and the rise of indie games in Greater China area, we packed our bags and headed East.

On the way to China, we had a short stop at Singapore, where our CEO gave a presentation, Free Tools and Strategies for Publishing Your Games Globally at Casual Connect Asia 2017. After a short flight, we continued our conversations in major cities in China, the world’s biggest consumer of games.

(Graphic from LAI’s Game Market Analyzer app)

Why China?

China has always been a focus for LAI Global Game Services, as we continue to grow from a game localization provider to a next-generation global publisher. In 2012, LAI had localized Perfect World’s titles for the Brazilian market. The following year, we had our first booth at Chinajoy – this must-attend event is the largest annual game expo in China. Since then, we started working directly with game developers and publishers like Renren games, Longtu, Gaea, Firevale, and SteamyRice from China, helping them expand their territories across the globe. We also worked to bring games back the other way with western titles like SuperHot, Hovercraft, and Aviation Empire, titles that we helped to test, localize and launch in the Greater China area.

During this trip, we attended industry gatherings, visited clients and partners in their offices, built close relationships over dinner, and concluded the tour with Chinajoy (which we actually prefer to call “Sauna-joy” because of both the unavoidable summer heat and humidity, and the passionate but sweaty crowds). Flows of information, interesting thoughts and new ideas were exchanged between the East and the West. We’d love to share some of the most relevant notes to our global game community as part of LAI’s mission to help excellent games become known worldwide.

First Stop: Shanghai

Keywords: Nijigen (二次元), Asymmetrical Server (变态服)

It’s my second time coming to IC Cafe located in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park (上海张江科技园) for this kind of smaller-sized industry gathering. Hosted by one of the industry news channels called Game Tea House (游戏茶馆), publishers, distribution channels and developers were asked to pre-register to request a special invitation to get in. Even though it was seen as a small-sized gathering, at least 200 companies registered for the event. Tables were reserved for developers who wanted to demo their projects and get feedback. Most games were mobile projects, but there were a small number of PC games; for example, a PC soccer game developed by a small team from Hangzhou.

Japanese Influence: Nijigen

One of the most exciting mobile games was a “二次元” (nijigen) style RPG game. Nijigen, the Japan-inspired subculture has been spreading like wildfire among Chinese young adults. Nijigen literally means two dimensions. It refers to a type of fictitious setting in books, manga and anime and used in ACG (Anime, Cartoon and Games) subculture. This is in contrast to the real world we live in, called “三次元” (sanjigen) , which literally means three dimensions. After the successful launch of Netease’s Onmyoji game (《阴阳师》),the Nijigen style has brought a lot of attention to both the developers and its young gamers.

(Do an image search  for “二次元” and you’ll get some visual clues about the art style like above result.)

(Under this YouTube video titled “Which one you would choose: Three Dimensional or Two Dimensional?”, almost all comments replied they would choose Two Dimensional.)

A New Trend in China

It is also a great place to network. Among the huge crowd, I spotted many familiar faces. It’s always great to reconnect with industry friends to chat about the market climate and learn about any new trends, regulations, business models and market requirements. For example, during the conversation, I learned “变态服”, or “BT服”[1] (“Asymmetrical Server”) is becoming popular among smaller development teams in China nowadays. When a game comes to the end of its product lifecycle, to attract more users and maximize the ROI, the developer puts their game “on sale” on their official server (usually) by giving the gamers VIP status for free or with huge discounts, or modifying the numbers that control game balance. This brute force approach is intended to revamp asymmetric balance to give the gamers an overwhelmingly satisfying (or shall we call it “overpowering”) experience.

At the event, I was also able to put names and faces together for industry friends who I have conversed or worked with online but never seen in person. (Later on, I am informed that there is a nickname for this type of industry meetup – “meeting your online date” (“见网友”).) Even though a mutual friend’s introduction was always preferable, I enjoyed the open atmosphere while making acquaintances with other professionals on my own and marketing our global publishing and localization service.

Second Stop: Beijing

Keywords: SLG, 玛丽苏(Mary Sue)

Winning western markets is not easy for Asian game companies. But in recent years, a few Chinese companies like Elex (HQ in Beijing) and IGG (HQ and registered in Singapore) made themselves notable in western markets by publishing western style games. To be specific, they’ve generated significant revenue all due to one specific genre: Strategy Games.

One thing to point out is that when referring to “策略游戏” (“strategy games”) in China, people like to use the acronym “SLG”. [2] It is confusing because in western terminology, SLG usually stands for Simulation Game.

Bringing Chinese Games West

In Beijing, we connected with developers that hope to achieve success in western markets with various game genres and approaches[3]: from mid-core SLG to story-mode casual games. There is a 20-person development team that just got their SLG game featured on Google Play; they hope to become the next Elex or Kabam. Much like Silicon Valley, these former colleagues started their own venture when they saw a better way to work on a project together with a leaner and flatter structure.

On the other side of the array, some developers hope to win western gamers with their unique content utilizing fun and young Asian culture. One challenge to face is content localization. It is a battle between keeping a more authentic style or massaging the content with more local flavor. It is no easy job to tell a foreign-setting story in another language while keeping the original cultural elements. It is tricky to handle translating non-equivalent concepts, and economical and cultural values. The talented and creative localizers have to figure out a way to convey the message that makes sense to users in the most natural way. As a localizer myself, the whole process of struggling to produce amazing cultural products is a true form of performing art. If you are interested in reading more about visual adaptation, check out the transcription of Game Art Internationalization and Localization – An “East Meet West” interview by LAI.

The Race to Purchase IPs

Sitting in a conference room called “玛丽苏“ (“Mary Sue”) next to the famous Xi’erqi (西二旗) Station [4]in Beijing, we were invited to discuss the localization and publishing issues for a Chinese company that targets the teenager/young female market. They hosted a community-based AVG (Adventure) game site where everyone could make their own story mode game. Even though it came from a niche market idea, its 1940,000+ members have created 5370,000 projects with 750,000 under review and 30,000 published after audit, as of Oct. 2016. Its 1200 professional contractors also authored 8500 story-mode games. Unlike many Chinese game companies that need to purchase a IP license from well-known movies or manga series to attract user traffic, this platform has a fan-based community and has already generated many well-known IPs themselves. They’ve reversed the order that a game is an after-film product by owning their own IPs and producing films based on them for additional revenue.

Innovative Monetization

I was also quite amazed at how they’ve innovated the monetization, using not just one method, but many. For example, the gamers can pay tributes (flowers) to authors to encourage them to speed up and upload the next episodes; the authors can launch an auction allowing the highest bidder to  make decisions about where the plot will go; the gamers can pay for a feature called “God’s View” which unlocks extra content and allows the gamers to see the future or obtain a high-level understanding about the plot; the gamers can purchase extra tokens to get a hi-res poster with amazing details and fine art of the game with their favorite character…

However, the risk to consider when exporting this model is whether the game will generate enough interest and attract a large enough user base. The solutions we have come up with are a combination of PR campaigns, special interest forums, and building an English community base with both new IP content from local writers and existing Chinese games that are well-localized.

Third Stop: Chengdu

Keywords: CP, Game license (版号)

The article How to Be A B2B Pro When Working with Chinese Mobile Game Companies I wrote will give some pointers if you’re interested in navigating the market yourself. It also talks about the major game hubs in China. Chengdu is one of them. In the article, I also explained an often-used acronym which defines most companies in Chengdu:

CP = Content Provider = Game Developer

Chengdu, Strategic City of Game Industry on Hardcore Gamers published in June 2016 gives a good overall description of Chengdu. Most game companies are located in Tianfu Software Park (天府软件园). Game Tea House (located there as well) published an article with a map covering this in August 2017.

For instance, the development team TiMi-L1 (天美) studio behind the most famous mobile game in China nowadays, Strike of King (《王者荣耀》,also called King of Honor), is located here. (We will also talk more about this game later in this article.) In the recent GamesIndustry.biz podcast, you may also find content about Ubisoft’s Chengdu office. (However, China is not part of SE Asia. So Chengdu should not be considered as part of Southeast Asia market.)

I want to circle back to my B2B article which was written in 2014. Back then, the Chinese government didn’t require the licensing approval process. Thus, partnership with local Chinese publishers was not a must on the list at that time. You can find a lot of buzz on the internet nowadays talking about this. Basically, a game must have a game license number in order to be published in China. In order to get the license, the publisher or press and publishing houses must meet the qualification standards to apply for licenses. LAI is very knowledgeable about this situation and connected with the local game publishing community. Should you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us @ info@lai.com.

On August 12, 2017, GameLook’s official WeChat account posted an article saying that no South Korean companies (NCsoft, Netmarble) have been able to get any game licenses approved for publishing in China because of the political situation (THAAD deployment) since March, according to Yonhap News Agency, South Korea’s largest News Agency.

Fourth Stop: Shenzhen

Keywords: Tencent, Indie Games

On July 1, as Hong Kong commemorated the 20th anniversary of its return to China, President Xi witnessed signing of Greater Bay Area development agreement. Clustered with tech companies, and home to Tencent the largest video game company in the world (though it makes most of its money domestically), Shenzhen is the stop we wouldn’t want to miss. This article Can China’s “Greater Bay Area” Match Its New Year and San Francisco Counterparts? gives some good information about Guangdong – Hong Kong – Macau Greater Bay Area.

Tencent

According to DFC Intelligence’s report on mobile game companies released in July 2017, “China has become the world leader in games and Tencent is far and away the leading player in China.” Many believe that Tencent’s distribution coverage of WeChat and QQ has contributed heavily to its success in games with user acquisition and profiling advantages. At LAI, we used WeChat on a daily basis when in China – for instance, messaging with our clients, calling a DiDi taxi, using WeChat Pay to pay vendors on the street. Here is an article from the Economist which gives a good overview of WeChat.

One Tencent game I personally like to play is Strike of Kings. It is a MOBA game that was launched in 2015 and has many similar features to Riot Games’ League of Legends (Riot Games is also owned by Tencent). Compared to LoL, it has shorter sessions, smaller maps and simpler controls. Therefore, it also attracts many casual gamers (especially young female users) that had never played this type of game before. It is so popular that it has become a socializing phenomenon among students – if you don’t play the game and talk about which heroes you like or not, you will feel left out at school. However, its addictive gameplay also concerns a lot of parents. After People’s Daily published an article echoing these parents’ voices, reports say Tencent lost $17.5 billion in market value. Tencent has responded to the social issue by adding a daily time limit of one hour for players under the age of 12, banning them from logging into the game after 9pm, and a daily limit of two hours for players between the ages of 12 and 18.

(Strike of Kings’ login page)

Growing Popularity of E-Sports

I remember before I kicked off my summer trip, one early morning I was awakened by my parents’ “urgent” WeChat messages sent from China (their afternoon). They took photos about an E-sports scene with young crowds in their favorite shopping mall. The message said “We saw a large crowd – mostly young people- applauding and cheering in front of a big screen. We wanted to share their excitement, so sat down for half an hour to watch. But we failed to understand what was going on and felt left out. The world is developing so fast and we need your help to follow up!” It turned out that Strike of King ’s championship was hosted in this mall. The spacious hall area near the entrance of the mall used to be the retailer’s battlefield to do special promotions showcasing their newest products. But nowadays, E-sports is taking over the foot traffic audience.

With other news like “E-sports major offered by Chinese universities”, “creating an entire town dedicated to E-sports ”, and “15 billion Esports investment in the next 5 years” , I couldn’t wait to catch up with my friend who works as a project manager for E-sports promotions at Tencent IEG when I was in Shenzhen. Before the visit, I asked if I could come later in the day because of the summer heat. She answered of course, because her normal days wouldn’t end until 11pm (sometimes even between 1-3am). There were many takeaways from the 5 hour conversation, from hot topics like how live streaming on most popular channels becomes one of the most illuminating PR and marketing efforts for Strike of Kings, to high-level questions like how Tencent keeps scaling up in games as a giant by being vigilant of the market and encouraging its internal and external partners with inter-team competition.

The Rise of Indie Developers in China

Many industry friends joke about the current market situation. “There are only two game companies in China now: Tencent and Others.” To battle against a winner-takes-all situation, the concept of “indie games” is starting to spread around in China. Though only within one short year, it has shifted its meaning from a game that is created by a small group of developers without the financial support of a publisher to a game that has a unique art style and creative gameplay that does not normally follow the tried-and-true formula of “IP + market-proven code + changed art/skin”, so common with bigger investment games. It’s the publishers that are often in the “Others” category who want to be a part of the movement and are investing heavily in this trend.

We met with two companies in Shenzhen who have similar needs. They hoped to import westernindie games” to China, and asked for LAI’s help. They are not alone. Other Chinese publishers from Chengdu, Beijing and Shanghai have also signed partner agreements with LAI. They each have a unique specialty in genre and attribution channels. If you are a developer that is interested in checking out China’s market, we can match you up with one of these publishers who are eager for creative western style games.

(A western developer talks about their experience as their game was taken down by the Chinese government without a proper game license in China at this year’s Chinajoy. )

Teaming up with DFC Intelligence, LAI developed a free tool GMA (Game Market Analyzer) app for iOS to support the global game community powered by actual global market data and match-making service on the app. Here is the Press Release for more info. We are always adding regional publishers and partners to our free app. To support this initiative, our team is running an official GMA contest with free game localization as the price.

Last Stop: Shanghai (Chinajoy)

Keywords: VR
Chinajoy is the largest annual game show in China and Asia. It is held in Shanghai New International Expo Center each year around the end of July, usually 3 days for B2B exhibition area and 4 days for B2C. There are also conferences with different themes (CDEC/CGBC/CGDC/WMGC) going on at the same time, and an area for Cosplay competition. It is the busiest time for BD (business development) professionals during the year. Industry organizations and large companies will also sponsor events in the afternoon or for after-event parties in the night. It is very common for a BD to attend 4 or 5 parties or private gatherings each day to meet as many industry friends as possible. At least one of the dinner gatherings will be spicy crayfish.

VR

A big difference I noticed this year compared to last year is the intensity of VR. Last year, VR sessions had the largest ballroom and were packed with excited people at the CGDC conference. Well, this year, it was in the corner room at the very end of the hall. William, one of the speakers for the VR session started his speech with “only the real VR fans are in the room now”.  At VR sessions, most of the speakers gave a good overview on their target gamers and platforms from their perspectives. Besides choosing a good theme and storyline, user behavior seems to be the center of game design consideration. For instance, as HTC has invested heavily in China for its VR experience stores, HTC Vive is usually considered by developers presented in Chinajoy as an experience-oriented device generating big movements (when standing up) and exhilaration in a short period of time for first time VR users, like shooting games. PSVR is considered as a home device that hardcore gamers play sitting down and are more comfortable spending a longer time on a more immersive story mode game.

Here are some additional information from Tencent about VR market consumer profiling in China.

(Source from: https://virtualrealitypop.com/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-chinese-vr-market-ccd8a5c5b85c)

In conclusion, it was a very rewarding trip, reconnecting with industry friends while getting updates on the biggest game market on the planet and establishing new partnerships.

If you’re interested in knowing more about any of the topics I’ve touched on in this article, or if you have any other questions about terms I’ve used, or anything about global publishing or China publishing, feel free to shoot me an e-mail (michelle@lai.com) or LAI (info@lai.com). We may be able to help out.

About LAI Global Game Services

LAI Global Game Services is a full service game localization, marketing, and publishing company with 25 years of experience in the video game industry.

LAI opened its doors in 1993, back when the original Doom was released!

The company’s free iOS app, the Game Market Analyzer (GMA), is available on the App Store. GMA helps developers and publishers easily assess the best global markets for their games.

Feedback submitted about GMA to info@lai.com can qualify you for a chance to win free game localization! (Read contest details for more information.)


[1] Later on, I found an interesting article by Game House’s CEO Jialun Wang about the popularity of BT服 among smaller developers who have difficulty applying for a game license. It is only available in Chinese though: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/27577381

[2] Reference from Baidu Zhidao (Baidu knowledge): https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/5019620.html)

[3] There is a four-character saying in Chinese: 殊途同归 (reach the same goal with different approaches).

[4] Xi’erqi Station is next to Zhongguancun Science Park – many people consider it as China’s Silicon Valley. Xi’erqi is also famous for being crowded in rush hour. Business Insider featured it back in 2013 with a video.

How LAI adapted Mind Mould for the Asian market

by Michelle Zhao, Director – Global Publishing of LAI Global Game Services

asia infographic

The Asian market is doubtlessly one of the largest, most lucrative and fastest growing markets in the mobile gaming space. Market research firm Niko Partners predicts the Chinese market alone will reach $8.3 billion in 2017. [1] China is also well-known for its complex mobile gaming marketplace.

greater-china_game market

At LAI, our 24 years of focused video game localization experience gives us an advantage over other publishers of knowing how to navigate through the complex Asian market landscape and its cultural expectations, from both a B2B and a B2C perspective.

As a flagship project, we worked with indie game developer Sillywalk on their mobile game “Mind Mould“, performing all necessary localization steps to ensure it would be received well in the global market, and subsequently publishing the game on iOS. Currently, Mind Mould is available in 12 languages, with soft-launch campaigns in Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Australia and Japan. The following article is a case study on how we adapted Mind Mould for China. The points mentioned are also applicable to the Asia market, in general.

Mind Mould ( 脑力魔矩 in Simplified Chinese) was designed by a European development team. It is a combination of tetris and tangram, a shape-filling puzzle game with a new game play design. It has unique and simple game rules, addictive tapping, rotating and dragging, and an exotic art aesthetic. It is a F2P casual game, available for download from the iOS AppStore.

Below is a list of the areas we focused on as we localized and culturalized Mind Mould for the Chinese market.

a list of the areas we focused on as we localized and culturalized Mind

We now describe each of these areas in detail below, the challenges we faced when localizing Mind Mould for China, and the solutions we developed.

Part 1:  Text Localization

text localization

Text localization for video games starts with translation, but also involves many additional considerations. In general, well-localized text must meet the following requirements:

1.Translations must appear natural to gamers in the target market. This requires that the localizers who do the actual work must be native speakers of the target language, avid gamers, and experienced translators. 

2. The game’s UI poses additional challenges. The text must be displayed in the correct font, and text strings must be the appropriate length so they properly fit in the available screen space. For Mind Mould, we compared several different Chinese fonts recommended by our native-language localization team of experts, to determine which would best integrate into the game. 

If you are localizing a game for Asian markets (China/Japan/Korea), here are some examples of fonts to consider:

Japanese: HGP or HGS or HG創英角ポップ体 (TrueType)

Traditional Chinese: 方正超粗黑繁体 (TrueType)

Simplified Chinese: 迷你简方叠体.ttf or 汉仪菱心体简 (TrueType)

Korean: 서울한강 장체BL (Open Type)

3. There must be functional equivalency to the local market. Due to cultural differences, certain jokes/humor/puns/idioms can’t be literally translated. Transcreation – the concept of rewriting text during translation to make it more culturally suitable – must be used to create new text in the target language that performs the same function of the source but is appropriate for the native market.

A common practice to localize text strings is for the developer to send over the text in an Excel file to the localization team. Experienced developers will also include related graphics and comments to help the linguists better understand the context. If the budget and schedule allow, the linguists will also prefer playing the game to get a better understanding of the UI and game narrative. This is the best-case scenario.

However, when translating UI strings, it is usually the case that the linguists do not have enough information or context to know exactly what the text means.  In such cases, the linguists must make assumptions based on their experience and understanding of the game. This often works fine but it is by no means foolproof. Mistakes will inevitably occur because the linguists will only receive fragmented information or content without any meaningful context, and won’t be able to see the big picture of how the text fits in the game.

There are a few factors to consider:

games

1) Most developers fail to realize that linguists can’t be as knowledgeable about the game as they themselves are. If developers don’t explain the usage of a particular string, linguists won’t know exactly how or where the string will be used. This can lead to inappropriate assumptions by the linguists, and thus the translation will be inappropriate for the context.

languages

2) Most developers don’t have enough knowledge of foreign languages to be aware of the differences in grammar usage.  A shortcut to save development time or code space that is frequently used is to build sentences by programmatically combining phrases or sentence fragments. Although this may work in English, it will often fail and produce awkward or grammatically incorrect sentences in the target language.

In the worst case, developers may seek to save time (and money) by using free online machine translation tools (like Google Translate) to translate the text. This can be a recipe for disaster if the goal is to achieve correct and appropriate translations.

MindMould SetFor example, in Mind Mould, a “set” consists of 4 levels of the game. On the home screen, there are buttons for “Set 1” “Set 2” “Set 3” and “Set 4”. To save time, the developer initially replaced “set” with its Simplified Chinese Google translation “设置” (which means “to set up”). Google Translate has no knowledge of the context in which a particular phrase is used, so not only was the meaning incorrect, the translation was also grammatically incorrect.

The solution to these translation issues is to do linguistic testing after the localized game is built. During this phase, these types of errors can be easily identified and corrected. The testers can also suggest better translations to the localization team if they see fit. In our case, being able to see all translations in context within the game allowed us to adjust and optimize those areas that we felt could be improved.

Part 2: Game Lore

The original game did not have a storyline, so we decided to create one to generate additional interest and achievements in the game.

(Two Mouldian pets)

 

Our developers really liked the idea of finding something related to Chinese mythology. We brainstormed a few options based on the art style of the game, including Nuwa restoring the world and Kuafu shooting the nine sons of the sun to save the Earth. After a few rounds of discussion, we decided to create a universe called Mouldia (魔迪拉, pronounced “Mo Di La”). We modernized the story of Nuwa, and localized it for Asian markets by adding some cute pets (Mouldia’s citizens) that gamers could collect and wake up. We internationalized the game to minimize the changes between localized versions by keeping the naming general – referring to the central character as “The Goddess” instead of the more culture-specific “Nuwa”.

Here is the narrative we created:

“A long time ago, the old world of Mouldia was peaceful. It was a wonderful place for all creatures to live in harmony. One day a fight between the gods Water and Fire began. It turned Mouldia into a chaotic world where only ruined pieces of steel and iron remained. The savior goddess happened to visit and tried to use unique pieces of stone to save beautiful Mouldia. But the citizens of Mouldia remained asleep, waiting to be awakened by the goddess.”

English Cutscene video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Il7FXq75tE

Chinese Cutscene video:

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTM1NTQ4NTQwNA==.html

The player can restore the old world of Mouldia step by step by solving the puzzles, motivated by pets that will be unlocked along the way.  By establishing some general goals and achievements, players can be expected to return to the game, keeping the retention rate high.

MindMould-Asian logo

Part 3: Visual Art

When we first came to evaluate this game as Mind Mould’s publisher, we really loved the art style of the game. We decided to change as little as possible for localization, so as to keep it authentic and exotic. The areas we eventually decided to change included the following:

  • Goddess
  • Pets
  • Dragon Skin
  • Game Icon

dragon skin

As talented as ever, our European artists did awesome work creating the pets and dragon skin background. However, the goddess figure was a higher level cultural concept that was more difficult to grasp when creating the Chinese version. We discovered the culture gap was difficult to close even after sending over dozens of referential pictures and written descriptions to the artist.  In the end, we asked our own art localization specialist to help complete the design.

Below you can see the evolution of the design concept.

Phase I  Conception

European Artist: 

Conception-European

LAI Art Specialist:

 

Phase II  Development (Goddess with Background)

European Artist: 

LAI Art Specialist:

Phase III: Post-Development (Marketing Visual Work)

Western Market:

Asian Market:


Part 4: Cutscene and Audio Art

In order to explain the storyline and mission of the game with an exciting animation, we decided to create a cutscene (English and Chinese) and play it right after the game starts to load. To minimize the size of the media, our award-winning native Chinese writer narrowed the script down to 5 sentences for voiceover. In the meantime, we synched the music with the script and the video to make sure they mixed well together. The tricky part was to pick the right talent and specific style for the voiceover. Luckily, we had the luxury of having a native speaker on board to be the judge, giving some guidance during the recording. We contacted our studios in Los Angeles and Shanghai, and decided that our Shanghai studio offered the best choice of voice talent because of the higher quality of the talent pool. As I explained to our LA studio producer and PMs (who are non-Mandarin speakers), unlike picking English-speaking talents (where slight regional accents are sometimes acceptable), the Mandarin voiceover talents have to have absolutely no regional accent. Usually talents from Northern China (Beijing or Northeast China) have a better natural performance since Mandarin is based on the Northern Chinese dialect. The audience will expect a clear and accurate standard Mandarin performance in any media product. Otherwise, it will be viewed as a bad quality product or unprofessional.

Though Shanghai is a southern city, it attracts talented young migrants from all over China. Something unrelated but worth pointing out is that Shanghai has a very foreigner-friendly business environment – it is a very international city and very open-minded. LA doesn’t have the same talent landscape even though they may have more experienced directors, best industry practice and cutting-edge equipment.

Anecdote 1: The audience is your best teacher

During a Beijing localization conference, we showed a small video clip of our draft cutscene to the audience. It was the almost ready-to-release version: the actress did a great job of narrating; sound mix and video effects worked well. Most importantly, the native Chinese linguists on our team didn’t see anything wrong with this version. And as expected, the audience applauded for the demo. But what we didn’t know until after the event, was one of our audience members wrote us a very encouraging and helpful email pointing out a commonly-mistaken pronunciation for a Chinese character: chuang1which was misread as 苍 (cang1) in the term 满目疮痍. It turned out this audience member was a professional audio auditor specializing in pronunciation issues, so we were fortunate that he was in the audience. We were happy that we were able to fix the issue before we published the game.

Offline eventsOffline Events:  We hosted and attended events featuring Mind Mould to warm up the market and get user’s feedback. These events included game or localization industry conferences, design or localization classes in universities, and salon events. We are planning other events in the future to meet up with our global gamers and fans.

Part 5: Game Design

Based on the local gamers’ payment habits and affordability, we adjusted the game economy according to answers we received on a questionnaire completed by our Chinese testers.

Social features are a good way to organically grow your community, while keeping up the retention rate. We decided to use the local social media (Weibo/WeChat) since Facebook and Twitter are not an option in China. Be aware that Weibo and WeChat APIs are very China-centric (almost all the service content is in Chinese), so they are typically not very friendly to foreign developers (they are also very strict about only giving permission to businesses with official licenses, sometimes excluding non-Chinese companies).

Other features we decided to add are news and a daily Gotcha (spinning wheel). Gamers can easily find them in the main menu. We hope gamers will be encouraged to always come back and enjoy their free gifts.

Anecdote 2: Adding more guidance for gamers

Too difficult to play?

postcard
Mind Mould Giveaways

Friends and family are always our first test bunnies and can be relied on to give us the most honest  feedback. One of our friends really loved playing Mind Mould (she played for many uninterrupted hours according to our analytics). She told us our game was awesome but “inhumanly” challenging to play. Of course, we loved to hear the first part of her feedback but we were confused about the latter part. So we asked her to show us how she played. It turned out that she forgot to use a very important feature of the game — the “mirroring” function, which enables a player to flip a piece by 180 degrees by double clicking.  We could understand how the game would become very difficult and frustrating (especially at higher levels) without knowing about this feature!  We were actually in awe because she still managed to play for so many hours without using one of the main tools of the game. Of course, that would be really hard!

After receiving more feedback (either by watching other people play our game or from the gamers’ testing reports), we noticed that even players who finished the tutorial still did not learn enough to adopt all the rules of the game – even though the rules are quite simple. I once heard a gamer who loves to play casual games comment, “I love to play casual games with a relaxed mindset, so don’t expect me to act like I’m in a classroom to learn all the rules – especially when I’m just getting started and still deciding if your game is worth my while”. Therefore, to enhance the gamer experience, we decided to add more tip windows on the first 4 levels to remind the gamer to use the main game’s functions which they might not have learned from the tutorial.

Part 6: Testing

linguistic qa

Local testing played an important role for us in helping to improve the user experience of the game. We conducted several rounds of functional, linguistic, UI and UX focused testing in China.

Our internal testing team (made up of native speakers) did most of the functional, linguistic, and UI testing. We wanted to share the test results with our European development team, so to get a large number of testers who were also able to rewrite their report, questionnaire and UI feedback in English, we worked with a local university and found students and teachers from their English college to conduct this part of testing. A gamer experience test was conducted later on with the help from an outsourcing agency based in Beijing.

After we finished internal and student testing, we worked with a professional testing company located in Beijing in order to get real local gamers to do an A/B testing. We collected enough data and feedback to run analytics and fine-tune the levels and monetization specifics.

Part 7:  Soft-launching

audience

Prior to soft-launching, we engaged a professional ASO team who is part of our network to fine-tune our keywords in the target languages for the iOS AppStore.

Before the huge release in China, we picked Taiwan and Singapore as our soft-launch markets because of the smaller market size and similar culture and language preferences (Simplified Chinese is used in Singapore, Traditional Chinese in Taiwan).

We ran online marketing campaigns via ad networks, our own social media and video channels as well as reaching out to youtubers/streamers.

Youtuber’s review:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fywGrYlI9o&t=4s

We produced an iTunes podcast interviewing the developers and blogged the transcript. So far it is one of the most popular episodes of our LocaLAIse This! series.

[1] http://venturebeat.com/2016/09/06/niko-chinas-mobile-game-market-will-hit-8-3-billion-in-2017/

 

Want to Release Your Game in China? Find Yourself a Quality Partner!


By Karin Skoog (@KarinESkoog) & Michelle Zhao (@MengxueZhao)

We frequently see articles about Chinese regulations on Gamasutra and across industry sites, with talk of consoles being banned and then reintroduced. The Chinese games
market is a complicated space, particularly if you don’t have local ties to China.

If you’re a mobile games developer, you may have noticed that the market became even more complicated this past year.

Yet another regulation introduced will prohibit your mobile game from being released in China unless you navigate very carefully.

Market Opportunity in China

China represents a huge market potential, but it is likely most mobile game developers who try to enter the Chinese market in the near future will fail.

  • China is currently the “most valuable [mobile games market] in the world” according to GamesIndustry.biz.

  • A recent report from Niko Partners estimates 465 million mobile players in China by the end of 2016, generating $1.3 billion from mobile game exports, nearly doubling to $2.1 billion by 2020.

  • Just yesterday, TechCrunch posted an article stating China has surpassed the US in iOS App Store revenue, with Chinese mobile games consumption far exceeding the US (driving 75% of App Store revenue!).

Graphic from TechCrunch’s “China overtakes the U.S. in iOS App Store revenue.

An Overview of Video Games in China

To understand the new regulations, it helps to take a look at the evolution of video games in China:

Although Mario games were widely played in China beginning in the 1980s, it was World of Warcraft that kicked off computer games with its beta in 2005.

It took time for computer games to take off in China due to slow internet connections, but when they did, they quickly drew the attention of Chinese authorities, causing a number to be censored or banned. As creative products (like video games) gain in popularity in China, Chinese authorities crack down and regulate.

Now that mobile games have exploded in popularity – even surpassing PC game popularity in China – we are starting to see the repercussions. (See the graph below from our partner, DFC Intelligence, showing the rise of mobile gamers in China vs. PC gamers.)

Mobile games snuck up on Chinese authorities at an even greater rate than PC games of the prior decade – suddenly appearing and then rapidly spreading to the masses. To the government, games seemed to come with a host of problems due to their widespread popularity, including an influx of lawsuits and IP issues with international entities.

As with PC games from decades before, mobile games have entered a period of careful scrutiny, which brings us to new, present-day regulations.

New Chinese Regulations

China’s governing body of creative media (the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film, and Television) is the organization responsible for bans on select books and movies, game consoles (in prior years), excessive gore in games, and now, mobile games.

According to this new regulation, any game perceived as being a “story-based game” is subject to review by the State Administration. The approval process can be time consuming due to the limited number of people currently reviewing submissions.

This is big news because this approval process is the biggest barrier ever imposed on video game developers looking to enter China. The vast number of mobile games flooding the marketplace quickly drew the attention of Chinese authorities and led to the biggest crackdown on games in China to date.

The new regulation was put into effect in July, and since the start of 2016, only 22 non-Chinese mobile games have been released in China (according to a list updated by the State Administration on August 29th).

Among the foreign games approved and released this year, the majority were MAJOR foreign IPs, such as Temple Run, Candy Soda Legend, Angry Birds, Subway Surfers, Fruit Ninja, and Monument Valley.

When The New Regulation Comes into Effect

If you go to China and check out the App Store now, you will find thousands of unapproved games. The original plan was to pull unapproved games from the marketplace October 1st (but the deadline was extended to December 31st), meaning that any games released in China before this year are likely to be pulled if they don’t attain approval from Chinese authorities.

There has been speculation over whether China’s State Administration has the resources and time to pull so many games from the marketplace. However, the new regulation made such big news this summer because many believe China will follow through on this regulation.

It may take some time for unapproved games to be pulled (possibly longer than the anticipated end of year deadline), but it is something developers should take note of, to ensure their own games aren’t at risk of being pulled from the Chinese market.

Submission Process

There are currently two types of approval processes – an expedited approval process for games without a storyline and an extensive approval process for games with any kind of a storyline.

- Simplified/Expedited Approval Process: Non-Story Based Games

Here is a brief look at what is required for the simplified approval process:

  • No storyline or an extremely simple storyline.

  • Regulations currently state that the copyright must be owned by a Chinese individual or entity.

This means you absolutely must have a Chinese publisher to assist in bringing your game to the Chinese marketplace.

  • No political, military, nationalities, or religious content.

- Extensive Approval Process: Story Based Games

All other games must undergo an extensive approval process, often taking 2-4 months for approval (in some cases, approval can even take up to 6 months!). If the studio has a good relationship with the government, it is possible to get approval within 40 days.

Here is what’s required for the approval of story-based games:

  • Submit games 20 days before launch.

  • Submit an extensive amount of paperwork.

  • Send a smartphone to Chinese authorities with a build of the game, functioning SIM card, and data plan for each version of the game (i.e. Android and iPhone).

  • Within one week of launch, submit additional paperwork and details to Chinese authorities.

Where Does this Leave Indie Devs?

Based on the games released in China this past year, many publishers in China are focused on bringing over games they know will be a hit – games that already made it big and are guaranteed to bring in the big bucks.

This means that it is increasingly more difficult for mobile game developers without an already established IP to launch a mobile game within the Chinese market. This isn’t to say it can’t be done or that developers shouldn’t target China – the Chinese mobile market alone brings in more revenue than the US!

China has already surpassed US revenue from mobile games!

This simply means that foreign developers looking to release mobile games in China must find a reputable local partner interested in publishing their games.

It is now essential for mobile game developers to work with local partners, as foreign entities are no longer allowed to publish in China. With larger Chinese publishers appearing to support only well-established IPs (i.e. Candy Crush), it may take some time to find a partner willing to publish your game, but quality partners do exist.

A Few Words of Caution

It can be difficult to conduct business in China as a foreigner. It isn’t uncommon encounter scams and to receive false information from people who claim to be looking out for your best interest.

We want to provide you with a few words of caution:

  • Be wary of scams – there are many scam artist “publishers” or “agents” who are more than willing to take your money.

  • Some people may try to convince you they are an “authorized agent” who can take care of the review process for you. This is not the case! These kinds of scams are a known problem for foreign developers trying to enter the Chinese market. Chinese authorities already released an official answer to clarify that no such “authorized agents” exist.

  • Some developers claim this entire process is one big ruse for corruption, forcing developers to share revenue with already large, local publishers. As with any part of business, don’t enter into any deals you don’t feel comfortable with!

Why is a Partner Key to Success in China?

 

China is a country where personal relationships (guan-xi) hold an incredibly amount of importance. Without going through ‘relationship-based channels,’ it is very possible the game you spent so much time and effort developing (and even localizing) for the Chinese market may end up never being released in China.

Find Yourself a Quality Partner

It can be challenging, to say the least, to know which companies you can trust. We would like to take the time to introduce our company – LAI Global Games Services – as we have been helping game developers navigate the global marketplace for decades. LAI has long-standing roots in China and thorough knowledge of the marketplace, as well as localization considerations for the region.

LAI’s office in China.

LAI has decades of experience in the Asian games market. We started out localizing content for Japanese companies back in 1993, and today, we have offices in China, Japan, and the San Francisco Bay Area, offering game publishing services and 35+ languages for game localization.

Due to our long-standing relationship with companies in China, LAI is in the unique position to offer game developers advice on entry into the Chinese market, as well as the best opportunity to actually launch your game in China.

How LAI Global Game Services Can Help You!

We work directly with local authorities and experts in the Chinese market to ensure games have the best opportunity to succeed. This includes:

  1. Helping your company understand the rules within the Chinese marketplace and localization considerations (such as eliminating ALL English characters in the game to diminish the possibility of rejection by Chinese authorities);

  1. Navigating the local market to help you find the most suitable Chinese publishers to match YOUR NEEDS, saving you time and money;

  1. Working as a liaison with the publisher in China to oversee and assist with any operations as needed, including:

  1. B2B business tips in China.

  2. Process interpretation.

  3. Assistance to help avoid misunderstandings, errors resulting from miscommunication/culture shock.

Reach Out to LAI!

We are always more than happy to assist with any questions you might have about current regulations or partnerships in China.

You can reach out to us @LAIGlobalGame or info@lai.com, or better yet, you can contact our CEO, David Lakritz, directly at dave@lai.com! We look forward to your questions and comments!

Visit www.lai.com for more information.

Making Mind Mould Available in Global Markets – Interview with Indie Developers from SillyWalk Games

In this podcast, indie developers Arman Kayhan and Levon Sebuhyan of Sillywalk Games discuss the challenges and lessons learned from taking their game Mind Mould to global markets. 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 Director for Global Publishing here at LAI Global Game Services. Our guests today are Levon and Arman from SillyWalk Games. They are an indie team based in Europe. Mind Mould, which is also called Nao Li Mo Ju in Chinese, is their newest mobile puzzle game designed with a global interest. They have overcome many difficulties to solve their own puzzle of getting the game ready for a global launch. They have expended quite some efforts to localize their game especially for Asian market. I believe their journey to the East story will particually interest our western listeners. Now let’s welcome Levon and Arman to share their experience with us.

Levon and Arman: Hi, Michelle. It’s nice to be here. Thank you for having me on to talk about our game.

Michelle: OK, let’s begin our interview with the 1st question:

1. How did you come up with the concept?

Levon and Arman:  We were playing a lot of shape filling puzzle games in that time. After a while we figured out that, every single one of it is actually same. They give you a shape to fill and there is only one solution for it, so either you find it or you fail. So it was a matter of time and more tries.

Since we were in love with the puzzle concepts, specially the shape filling ones, we wanted to hold on to the main concept but make some changes to push players to the next level on that genre. That was the time we started working on Mind Mould.

2. Michelle:  Comparing to other puzzle games, what makes your game unique?

Levon and Arman: We created a game in which players can find their own solutions for every single level. Even though it’s your 4th or 5th time with the same level, you wonder how solutions will vary with your choice of filling the puzzles. Because of that, Mind Mould players should push their creativity and visualization skills.

3. Michelle: As an indie game developer, it’s no easy job to develop a game for the global market. Any struggles you met during development?

Levon and Arman: Yeah, of course, of course. Being an indie developer team has many struggles actually. First of all you are a small team and that means that there is more and more work to do per person. The biggest struggle is the limited skill tree, I mean you are a team consisting of 3-4 people. Everyone has his unique skill set, but other than that if something new comes up, you are forced to learn new skill to get the job done. That takes time and makes your project go slower. But that is just how it is as an indie developer.

4. Michelle: When you are looking into the market to launch, why are you particularly interested in Chinese market?

Levon and Arman: We knew China is a huge market with a lot of potential to go. Year by year it’s pace of growth increased and we wanted to be part of this.

Michelle: You are right – according to a few research institutes like Newzoo and TalkingData, China’s mobile games market will reach $6.5 billion in revenues this year (2015), more than one fifth of the $30.1 billion generated worldwide. This positions China as the world’s biggest market for smartphone and tablet games, ahead of the US with an anticipated $6.0 billion in revenues this year (2015). And the most popular mobile games are among either really hard-core games like MOBA games, or extremely casual games.

5. In terms of localization, what have you worked on to make the game more appealing in the other market?

Levon and Arman: Players must have fun playing your game, and it starts with the proper localization. We wanted them to feel Mind Mould like one of their own.

So other than classic translation work, we started to read about the history and mythology of the country. We re-created our cut-scene, mascot, colors and music to be closer to the Chinese culture.

Michelle: Exactly! While the first touch of localization is the language and locale, it seems that you have put a great deal of thoughts on the habits, favorites and gameplay of local gamers. From our experience, we knew that Chinese users normally stick to a game more than Western gamers within a short time period. But they are also early quitters in front of difficulties in games.

 

6. Next question is a follow up to this: any difficulties you meet when localizing it? What lessons have you learned?

Levon and Arman: We face with many difficulties actually. Most significant one was working with Asian fonts. We used to work with Latin fonts, but Asian fonts are something new for us. Like, if there is a mix-up in the texts, we wont notice it immediately. And also the layout and readability is not easy to check for us. Certain graphic effects will work fine on Western fonts, but will mess up on Asian fonts. So that was the difficulty we face.

Michelle: I’ve heard that later on, you’ve worked out the issues during the testing phase with the help from LAI’s Asian game localization experts. That’s great news!

7.  And talking about testing, what have you found out from the gamers in other cultures during testing?

Levon and Arman: We figured out in China, players expect to see lots of tips in the game. The players are more familiar with a busier window comparing to western gamers. That was a real surprise for us.

Another thing we learned from testing phrase is that gamers will have different preferences and leave very different comments. We will listen to their ideas but can’t integrate all, of course.

8. Michelle: What are other tips you could give to developers looking into publishing their game overseas?

Levon and Arman: First of all, It is important to work with a localization company. It is a must actually. You can’t afford to make big mistakes regarding culture and language. Publishing a game is hard enough by itself, imagine what would happen if elements of the game would be offending to people in those culture.

Michelle: Thank you very much for sharing your story with us, Levon and Arman! Hope Mind Mould a global success!

Levon and Arman: Oh, thank you, Michelle.

 

Michelle: Back to our listeners, hope you enjoy today’s discussion with our friend Levon and Arman from SillyWalk 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.

God of Arena – Localizing a Chinese-style Game for the Western Market

In this episode of LocaLAIse This!, we interview the Community Manager (CM) 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.

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

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

Rory: 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. Michelle:   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?

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

Rory:   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

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

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

Rory:    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. Michelle:    How are you dealing with those issues?

Rory:   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. Michelle:    Are there any other interesting developments related to the game?

Rory:   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. Michelle:    What is next for God of Arena and Firevale?

Rory:   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]

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?

Michael:
    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]

 

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.

Game Art Internationalization and Localization Interview with Lillian Lee

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.)

Conclusion

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.

 

 

关注主机游戏:中国上海自贸区文化市场开放细则

1月初,中国政府解除了长达13年的游戏主机生产和销售禁令,给中国游戏市场未来注入一支新的兴奋剂。4月21日,上海市政府公布了《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》。LAI在此转载,内容摘自上海市政府网站:

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

英文版请查看:

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

 

市政府办公厅印发市文广影视局等制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》

沪府办发〔2014〕18号
上海市人民政府办公厅关于印发市文广影视局等五部门制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》的通知

各区、县人民政府,市政府各委、办、局:
市文广影视局、市工商局、市质量技监局、上海海关、中国(上海)自由贸易试验区管委会制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》已经市政府同意,现印发给你们,请认真按照执行。
上海市人民政府办公厅
2014年4月10日
中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则


根据《国务院关于印发中国(上海)自由贸易试验区总体方案的通知》(国发〔2013〕38号)、《国务院关于在中国(上海)自由贸易试验区内暂时调整有关行政法规和国务院文件规定的行政审批或者准入特别管理措施的决定》(国发〔2013〕51号)和《文化部关于实施中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场管理政策的通知》(文市发〔2013〕47号),制定本实施细则。
一、允许外资企业从事游戏游艺设备的生产和销售,通过文化主管部门内容审查的游戏游艺设备可面向国内市场销售。
(一)中国(上海)自由贸易试验区(以下简称“自贸试验区”)内取得工商部门核发的营业执照且营业执照经营范围载明“生产游戏游艺设备及销售其产品”的外商投资企业,可向市文广影视局申请内容审查。
(二)向国内市场销售的游戏游艺设备,应当具有合法知识产权,有利于传播科学、艺术、人文知识,有益于青少年健康成长。不得含有《娱乐场所管理条例》(国令〔2006〕458号)第十三条的禁止内容,不得含有押分、退币、退钢珠等赌博功能。设备外观、游戏内容、游戏方法说明应当使用我国通用语言文字。
(三)从事游戏游艺设备的生产和销售的外商投资企业申请内容审查时,应当提交预装游戏内容的游戏游艺设备和以下材料:

 


1.《游戏游艺机市场准入机型机种内容审核申请表》和《游戏游艺机产品内容审核材料登记表》;
2.企业营业执照复印件;
3.与游戏游艺内容相关的知识产权证明材料,包括该游戏游艺产品的知识产权证明文件或者该游戏游艺产品的知识产权授权文件;
4.游戏游艺设备中内容全过程的视频文件或者游戏游艺软件的视频演示(DEMO)文件,视频文件或者视频演示文件是指游戏游艺设备最终上市版本中的所有游戏游艺内容,包括不会在正常游戏进行过程中出现的内容的视频文件(以CD-ROM或DVD光盘为载体);
5.能够反映产品整体外观并与实际销售产品一致的电子图片,其中,一张正面图,两张侧面图,格式统一为“*.JPG”,图片分辨率不低于800×600;
6.游戏游艺使用的音频文件、名称列表和歌词的电子文本,电子文本应当是游戏游艺设备中使用的全部背景音乐、歌曲的名称列表、音频文件和歌词的中外文对照文本;
7.游戏游艺内容中全部对白、旁白、描述性文字以及操作说明的中外文电子文本;
8.为游戏游艺设备提供游戏游艺内容的方案,其中,在网络上为游戏游艺设备提供游戏内容的,应当提交提供游戏内容的企业的《网络文化经营许可证》。


(四)市文广影视局应当自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出审批决定。符合规定条件的,出具《游戏游艺设备内容审核确认单》,并报文化部备案;不符合规定条件的,书面说明理由。
(五)外商投资企业取得《游戏游艺设备内容审核确认单》后,可以向国内市场销售其游戏游艺设备。游戏游艺设备的游戏游艺内容、机型、机种有升级、改版等实质性变更的,应当重新向市文广影视局申请内容审查。
(六)外商投资企业应当对其生产及销售的游戏游艺设备的产品质量负责,产品应当符合国家和本市有关标准和规定。在向国内市场销售的产品及其包装上,应当用中文标明产品名称、生产厂厂名和地址。
(七)向国内销售其游戏游艺设备的外商投资企业在办理游戏游艺设备内销手续时,除按照正常管理规定办理海关手续外,还应当向海关部门一并提交市文广影视局出具的《游戏游艺设备内容审核确认单》。
(八)在网络上为游戏游艺设备提供游戏内容的企业应当遵守文化部发布的《互联网文化管理暂行规定》、《网络游戏管理暂行办法》规定,取得《网络文化经营许可证》;游戏产品应当取得文化部的批准文件。通过其他途径为游戏游艺设备提供内容的按照国家有关规定执行。
(九)工商部门、质量技监部门和海关按照各自职能,行使相关管理职责。自贸试验区管理委员会(以下简称“自贸试验区管委会”)负责有关外资企业的日常监管。


二、取消外资演出经纪机构的股比限制,允许设立外商独资演出经纪机构,在上海市行政区域内提供服务。
(一)自贸试验区内取得工商部门核发的营业执照的外商投资企业,可向市文广影视局申请演出经纪机构《营业性演出许可证》和演出场所经营单位备案证明。其中,设立合资、合作演出经纪机构和演出场所,不受外国投资者的外资股比限制。
(二)外商投资演出经纪机构申请《营业性演出许可证》的,应当提交以下材料:
1.《设立演出经纪机构申请登记表》;
2.企业营业执照复印件;
3.3名以上专职演出经纪人员的资格证书。
(三)市文广影视局自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出审批决定。准予许可的,核发《营业性演出许可证》;不予许可的,书面说明理由。
(四)外商投资企业在自贸试验区服务贸易区域内设立演出场所的,应当自取得营业执照之日起20个工作日内,向市文广影视局申请备案,并提交以下材料:
1.《演出场所经营单位备案表》;
2.企业营业执照复印件;
3.消防、卫生等行政管理部门的批准文件复印件;
4.演出场所的方位图与内部平面图。
(五)自贸试验区内依法设立的演出经纪机构举办营业性演出活动的,按照下列规定办理:
1.在自贸试验区内举办营业性演出的,应当向自贸试验区管委会提出申请。其中,对举办国内文艺表演团体与演员参加的营业性演出的,自贸试验区管委会应当自受理申请之日起3个工作日内作出决定。对举办涉外及涉港澳台营业性演出的,自贸试验区管委会应当自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出决定。
2.在自贸试验区外、上海市行政区域内举办涉外或涉港澳台营业性演出的,应当向市文广影视局提出申请,市文广影视局应当自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出决定。举办国内文艺表演团体与演员参加的营业性演出的,应当向演出举办所在地的区(县)文化行政部门提出申请,区(县)文化行政部门应当自受理申请之日起3个工作日内作出决定。
(六)自贸试验区内依法设立的演出场所在本场所内举办营业性演出的,应当向自贸试验区管委会提出申请,自贸试验区管委会应当自受理申请之日起3个工作日内作出决定。
三、允许设立外商独资的娱乐场所,在自贸试验区内提供服务。
(一)自贸试验区内取得工商部门核发的营业执照的外商投资企业,可向自贸试验区管委会申请《娱乐经营许可证》。外商投资娱乐场所在筹建阶段,可向自贸试验区管委会咨询,自贸试验区管委会应当依法为外资企业提供指导。
(二)外商投资企业在自贸试验区服务贸易区域内设立娱乐场所的,应当符合《娱乐场所管理条例》(国令〔2006〕458号)、《娱乐场所管理办法》(文化部令〔2013〕55号)等法规、规章规定的设立条件,并向自贸试验区管委会提交相关申请材料。自贸试验区管委会自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出决定。准予许可的,核发《娱乐经营许可证》;不予许可的,书面说明理由。


四、外商投资企业从事游戏游艺设备生产和销售情况、外商投资演出经纪机构、演出场所、娱乐场所的经营活动情况,纳入上海文化市场经营主体诚信管理体系。
五、香港特别行政区、澳门特别行政区、台湾地区投资者和在国外居住的中国公民在自贸试验区内设立企业从事游戏游艺设备生产和销售、设立演出经纪机构、演出场所和娱乐场所的,适用本实施细则。
六、本实施细则自印发之日起施行。
上海市文化广播影视管理局
上海市工商行政管理局
上海市质量技术监督局
中华人民共和国上海海关
中国(上海)自由贸易试验区管理委员会
2014年3月31日

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

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