Photo: copyright 2019 Steel Media Ltd.

17 factoids on mobile games trends from Pocket Gamer Connects Hong Kong 2019

Maxon Pugovsky
Jul 21, 2019 · 6 min read

[UPDATED on July 31: added slides of 2 presentations]

July 17 and 18 I’ve spent at #PGCHongKong fully immersed in networking and listening to speeches of the industry colleagues. Here are interesting factoids on mobile games development from the show:

1.Chinese internet giant ByteDance is considering enabling instant games inside TikTok, their flagship Western app. The games are already available inside Chinese counterpart Douyin.

2.AppAnnie: growth of revenue on mature markets like USA in 2018 was fueled by Chinese devs, who deliver top quality games capable to enter top grossing ranks.

3.Chinese Android fragmentation. We all heard about hundreds of Android stores in China, but just 10 stores generate 80% of Android downloads in China. Here they are, according to Tencent speaker:

Just make 10 builds, integrate 10 SDKs and prepare 10 sets of marketing assets. Easy-peasy!

4.Modern [grey] App Store Optimization (ASO). So you wanna be on top of the search results under the keyword let’s say Warhammer. The agency has several thousand users in a target market and gives them task via the system: open App Store, search for “Warhammer”, scroll and find the app, install it, play for 3 mins. Reward for the user: X or 0.X dollars. And eventually your app climbs to the upper position tricking the search algorithms as being the most relevant for the desired keyword.

5.For Japanese market it’s very important to have characters with a deep story and its development in the game. Just translating the texts won’t help in conquering the hearts of Japanese players.

Photo: copyright 2019 Steel Media Ltd.

6.Japanese CY Games (released Rage of Bahamut in 2011) creates ultra detailed fantasy costumes by hand for the upcoming console title Project Awekening. They take shots of a person dressed in the costume simultaneously with 260 photo cameras inside a special chamber, and create 3D model of the character based on the captured images. It takes months to design and create a single costume. Seems the release of the game is not going to happen soon.

7.For localization in Southeast Asia (SEA) you need to add 3 languages: Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese. For Philippines and Singapore English is kind of native. No need to localize midcore and hardcore games in Malay — sophisticated players in urban territories know English well. [But I would note that for our game BoBoiBoy Galaxy Run, which we developed in Gameloft Saigon studio, Malay localization was a must, as it was targeted for children and based on Malaysian IP].

Photo: copyright 2019 Steel Media Ltd.

8.The most obscure platform for games. American prisoners nowadays can use special tablets Jpay inside a closed ecosystem. Inmates or their relatives can pay for the games on the tablet. There are 3 million prisoners in the US — the market you would never think about.

9.Cool tech. Genvid provides interactive overlay for game streams on Twitch and YouTube, which allows monetize viewers. It’s already integrated in Counter-Strike by Valve. Viewers can click on the screen and choose camera perspective from any of the players, extend map, upvote for players, etc. Also possible to give feedback into the game — for example, viewers can spawn enemies or power-ups for player. Extended capabilities for viewers could be paid.

10.Influencer agency and media company Madeviral is planning to organize B2C games festival Game Fever in Bangkok in autumn 2020. Next Asian Pocket Gamer Connects could happen there at the same time.

Try alpha version of the indie game Dominus displayed on a laptop. Photo: copyright 2019 Steel Media Ltd.

Below are the most valuable speeches I’ve visited. I will add the links to videos later, when they are published on YouTube (maybe adding a couple more after reviewing videos again). I’m revealing just one factoid from each session, but there is much more valuable info in those videos. So in order of interestingness:

11.Monetization Design: The Dark Side of Gacha by Vladimir Krasilnikov, Pixonic (War Robots). Aggressive gacha in the game can damage team’s velocity and productivity. How? By getting backlash from players => developers start thinking that they are doing something wrong and shy of their work, morale drops, drawing down speed and productivity.

Photo: copyright 2019 Steel Media Ltd.

12.Deconstruction of Chinese Mobile Game Monetization by Monte Sigman, iDreamSky. You should always tell Chinese player what to do next via quest system and setting clear goals. If you leave them in a free play mode without a task they are going to churn.

13.SEA Game Market Insights and How Not to Waste Your Precious Marketing Dollar by Don Sim, Madeviral. Don’t try to release moba, because Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends dominate the space, but new RPGs come out regularly in SEA and can fight for positions in top grossing ranks. (Slides are provided by the author).

14.Game Market in India by Anuj Tandon, Yoozoo Games. Game downloads exploded in India in the past 2 years thanks to operator JIO, which introduced affordable data tariffs. Indian mobile gamers pay very little because Google Play doesn’t accept payments via mobile wallets popular in India. Yet. But they are working on integrating them. Also India is the only country where Google Play allows users to get money FROM their account. This fuels market of real money betting apps.

15.Working with Both Eastern and Western Developers as a Service Provider by Owen Shen, Twisted Hand Studio. In China 95% of deals are made at the dinner table accompanied by heavy alcohol drinking. It’s hard for Chinese people to accommodate to Western culture and go starlight to the business without “dancing” around the partner for the long time. (Slides are provided by the author).

16.The Chinese Mobile Market in 2019 by Miley Chen, Tencent. Nowadays a game with a novel gameplay or unusual mix of genres have a good chance for success in China, if you look beyond top 10 grossing dominated by RPGs form Tencent and NetEase.

17.How Monster Strike Became the Biggest Mobile Game in the World by Langer Lee, Mixi. Monster Strike is a multifaceted business with events, anime, movies, esports, and merchandise around the game. And to make it successful all business branches work very close with Monster Strike game team to make proper integrations and cross-promotions.


Big thanks to participants for sharing insights and to organizers for putting the whole event together and providing nice photos for this article!


P.S. Do you want some more? Join a Facebook group GameDevSEA, which I’m moderating, to connect with game developers in Southeast Asia. And see the list of events for game developers in Asia in the 2nd part of the year.

Photo: copyright 2019 Steel Media Ltd.

Maxon Pugovsky

Written by

Chief Creative Dreamer. Mobile Games Producer at Gameloft. Ukrainian expat living in Saigon, Vietnam.

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