Earlier this month, market intelligence firm Niko Partners published a report stating that mobile games revenue in China is expected to hit US$5.5 billion by the end of this year and US$11.1 billion by 2019.

Lisa Hanson

Lisa Hanson, Managing Partner and Partner, Niko Partners

The 90-page report also touched on other issues important to many Asia-based gaming studios such as mobile social casino gaming, Tencent’s rising market share in China, user behavioural data and market growth.

In an official statement, Lisa Hanson, Managing Partner and Founder, Niko Partners said that game developers should look into how they can fill various voids for gamers since that is a key step towards garnering popularity.

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Hanson also chats with e27 on how game developers should think about succeeding with a foreign title in China, hit games in 2016 and more.

Here are the edited excerpts:

You mentioned that “hoping to make it big with an international title lobbed to a Chinese publisher for localisation is not an effective path to success”. Why is that because it seems to be a clear go-to strategy for many international developers/publishers — building ‘relationships’ with Chinese publishers, etc.?

It is imperative for foreign developers who wish to enter China to build relationships with publishers in China. You can’t really get your games into China without working with a domestic publisher.

What we meant by that statement is that the publishers want to license great games that are built with the Chinese market in mind, for Chinese gamers, based on analysis and understanding of demand and behaviour. They want the developers to do this work before building a game and pitching it to them, as it provides a faster path to success.

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Game developers who think that they can just attempt to succeed with a foreign title without understanding the market will probably be very surprised by the outcome.

Tencent owns a massive amount of market share — in fact, 50 per cent in 2014 — according to the report. How does that affect local indie studios’ attitudes towards launching their games domestically versus overseas?

Tencent is the big force in the market to be reckoned with, and the company offers many paths to success when working with it to launch games in China.

Sure, it can be intimidating for smaller studios to try to succeed with Tencent in the market, but Tencent thrives off of those indie games as well as bigger titles, and indie studios will reach a far broader audience using distributor/publishers such as Tencent and many others than they would on their own.

For Chinese studios or firms investing in Southeast Asia, where is the best market to start with, and how?

Southeast Asia is an exciting growth region, but the biggest market there now is Vietnam. We think that Vietnam and Indonesia are two of the more interesting markets. In Vietnam, a company should partner with a local publisher, and in Indonesia, a mobile game developer can use Google Play and the App Store to get its game out.

Will the Chinese government regulate social casino games, or is that genre generally considered safe and lucrative even though gambling itself is illegal in the country?

The word “casino” is already in the gray area for regulations. Gambling is illegal, so if it appears to the government that these social casino games are promoting or facilitating gambling, then it will be an issue and they will be shut down.

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What will be other hit-genres in 2016 for China?

The popularity of genres moves quite quickly. Airplane shooters, other types of shooters, Match-3 casual games and strategy games all seem to be hot now and for next year.