Getting China’s smartphone owners to play mobile games is as easy as getting a horse to water, but getting them to drink up in-app purchases is tough. It’s also a market where it’s tough to fight off game pirates, cloners, and navigate the labyrinth of alternative app stores.
That’s why lots of game developers – no matter how large they are – look to a local partner for help. One such China-based publisher is iDreamsky, which has been entrusted to run games such as Temple Run 2, Fruit Ninja, and Doodle Jump in China. The company has nurtured Imangi Studios’ Temple Run 2 to the point that it now has 130 million gamers in China with five to six million daily active users, and about 50 million monthly active users. It’s iDreamsky’s best performer right now.
iDreamsky co-founder Jeff Lyndon says that the startup’s relationship with game studios is based on trust. The game developers, who pour in as much money into a new game as a Hollywood studio does into some movies, need to know that the startup won’t rip off the game, leak the source code, or do anything to damage the game’s brand. Jeff says that once trust is established, the developers pretty much say, “I give you the source code and you do everything to make money with it.”
iDreamsky translates the game for the Chinese market, adds in some localized artwork or other content, distributes the game to China’s hundreds of third-party Android app stores, runs local social media pages, and organizes a convenient local e-payment solution. Plus, the firm says it keeps game developers in sync with changing trends in the China market. The company even takes on the role of defender, and has helped to shut down clone games that imitated their partners’ copyrighted work.
Jeff – who has 12 years experience in the gaming field – believes that being present on as many alt app stores as possible helps thwart the cloners and deters piracy of the game.
The Shenzhen-based game publisher is running as many as 60 mobile games in China right now, and is therefore responsible for the estimated 300 million gamers on all those titles.
Caring for the Fruit Ninja
The popular Fruit Ninja game is fast approaching its third anniversary in China. As we heard from Halfbrick Studios CMO Phil Larsen last week, that’s cause for a big celebration and a massive, food-related promotion. Jeff says that iDreamsky will be spending nearly $5 million on this promotion, which will coincide with Chinese New Year towards the end of January.
Fruit Ninja also displays, Jeff points out, the uphill battle of making it big in China. When Fruit Ninja launched in China, it was already well known from launching earlier in other countries, and so it debuted in China head-to-head with pirated copies of the games and thinly-veiled clones. The team decided to add Chinese fruit to the game, as well as China crockery and backgrounds, so that the official version of the Fruit Ninja China edition game made the clones look out-of-date.
iDreamsky monetizes from its share of in-app purchases from all the games it operates in the nation, and now makes $30 million in turnover each year.
The biggest rival to iDreamsky in this space might be Yodo1, which got funding from SingTel Innov8 earlier this year. Smaller app developers who just need distribution help might turn to something like AppinChina. Clearly, China is not a market that a foreign firm can crack alone, and several businesses have popped up with services to help developers make the leap.
(Editing by Paul Bischoff)