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News  22, May 2014

How can Asian devs best break into the West?

Animoca’s Robby Yung talks about the potential revenue Asian developers can make by tapping into the Western mobile gaming audiences

As great as it is to break out into the Asian market with mobile games, there’s always that sense of wanting to expand to Western territories like North America for the sake of worldwide relevance. Mobile games company Animoca offers good reasons for Asian developers to expand to the West.

Chief among them is that North America represents the largest revenue opportunity for mobile games, at least according to the company’s Business Development Associate Robby Yung. There’s also the difference in culture that shows that Westerners are more willing to spend for apps, and make in-app purchases. Furthermore, in-game advertising is far more mature and distribution is less complicated. In Asia, distribution is extremely fragmented as compared to the US.

But what are the ways for Asian game developers to break into the Western market? Yung had the answer:

Utilise free-to-play
According to Yung, while the US has average downloads compared to China’s huge download numbers, the spending power for in-app purchases is stronger in the US. A chart that Yung showed comparing numbers also took piracy into account, which is why China’s numbers are big in the first place. “Freemium apps are on the rise in the US because usage of apps doubled for iOS users and more so for Android users between the beginning of 2012 and end of 2013,” he informed.

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Understand the Western gamer
As a general rule, they’re key early adopters who can influence others, and also earn more disposable income. Yung said that this predisposition in the ethnic community is what favours the mobile industry in North America. Yung brought up the power of aesthetics; Western gamers prefer the Western artwork style of Star Girls, while Asian gamers prefer the anime look of Beauty Idol. The kicker is that both games are similar in tone and mechanics. Animoca essentially expanded the market by changing the art style for a similar game.

Yung brought up Astro Boy, a classic anime brand from Japan that’s supposedly niche in America. “That niche fanbase was a beachhead that gained a lot of momentum for (Astro Boy Dash) in the US because we found there were a lot of existing Astro Boy fans (who were in hiding).” He said that using the anime IP and combining it with the endless running mechanic is a way for Animoca to hit new markets in the region. While an Asian-made game will resonate with some audiences in America, the safest bet is to first handle the game’s localisation, then utilise their social media channels and user acquisition networks smartly to target that demographic.

Use the right platform
According to data from Animoca and various other sources, Android platform usage is on the rise in the US, thanks to Google Play and Amazon getting pushed. Between 2012 and 2013, he said that Android app usage and downloads more than doubled when compared to iOS apps.

Use a combination of app stores, ad networks and social media for distribution
While Chinese app stores are a dime a dozen, US app stores are streamlined. If a developer previously worked in China, the transition to making games for the US is easier. “You work with Google, you work with Amazon, you basically can cover the entire market. Distribution is much more straightforward,” he noted. In-game advertising in the West is mature because there’s a variety of types available. Advertising revenue is substantial for apps, with the types of ads like interstitial and video apps, to even ads that play manually for users in exchange for free in-game bonuses, helping developers out in getting good earnings.

Yung also said to make use of mass niches, like Chinese Americans (4 million) and Filipino Americans (3.4 million). He suggested that this is a place where Asian developers can enter a market to target those niches and target the community pre-disposed to aesthetics and content from Asia.

Build the right kind of game
Yung advised developers in Asia to think about the midcore and casual market if they’re focussed on doing a hardcore game for mobile. “I encourage (developers) to take into account female audiences as they’re a very large portion of the US gaming market.” He added that the best genres that are trending worldwide right now are puzzle games. Now, that’s something for you to think about, Asian devs.

Jonathan Toyad

Jonathan Toyad

If you want an elaborate answer on who would win in a fight between Ultraman and Godzilla, Jonathan Toyad is your man. A six-year veteran in the game journalism industry, he did words and videos for outlets such as GameSpot, GameAxis, IGN and Stuff.TV. Fears coyotes and scorched earths.

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