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Apr 24 2023
After China's crackdown on new mobile gaming apps, the country seems to be back on track with an expected total of over 1,100 gaming licenses to be issued this year, a return to 2020 levels, according to industry experts.
The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), responsible for game licenses, approved 288 games in Q1 2023, including 261 domestic and 27 imported games, accounting for 56% of total licenses issued in 2022. Although the industry may not reach pre-2018 levels of game approvals, positive signs of recovery are evident.
This presents an enormous opportunity for app developers to enter a lucrative sector. So, what should you consider when localizing your app/game for the Chinese market? We've included all of the information and recommendations you'll need to properly localize your app/game in China.
When it comes to entering the Chinese app market, there are notable differences between iOS and Android. Apple has a smaller market share in China but boasts a loyal user base, making it easier to target iOS users. The rules for App Store Optimization (ASO) and ranking are consistent worldwide, simplifying the process of launching an iOS app in China.
On the other hand, Android dominates the Chinese market, but presents challenges for non-Chinese app developers. Google lacks a constant presence in China, and there are over 200 local app stores, each with its own regulations. Localizing an Android app for China may require negotiating with each app store individually, leading to additional costs and time.
The most popular app stores for Android in China are:
When deciding between iOS and Android for entering the Chinese app market, it's crucial to consider the target audience and their buying behavior. Apple users in China tend to be more loyal and spend more on apps than Android users. Therefore, choosing iOS may be the right path if your target audience is willing to pay for premium accounts.
⚡ Android vs iOS: Which Platform to Build Your App for First?
However, launching both iOS and Android versions of your app simultaneously in China can be expensive and inefficient. Careful consideration should be given to prioritize the platform that aligns with your app's target audience and revenue strategy. Ultimately, understanding the unique characteristics of the Chinese app market and the differences between iOS and Android can help you make informed decisions for a successful app launch in China.
China is a difficult market to break into for app/game creators, especially because Chinese mobile customers are picky. It is also critical to adapt your software to the local culture in order to make it feel like it was designed just for China. To assist you, we have outlined the various things to consider while localizing your app/game into Chinese.
When entering the Chinese app market, it's important to translate your app title to cater to the local audience. While popular international brands and games often keep their original names in other markets, they often adopt new titles in China. However, caution should be exercised, and it's advisable to work with a local translator to avoid too literal translations that may sound confusing or deviate from the original English name.
Phonetic translations may not always resonate with your brand image, as they can have different meanings or negative connotations in Chinese. As a result, some apps and games opt for new titles that highlight the core gameplay and features that are most appealing to the target users in China.
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In the App Store, it's common to see international apps using a careful phonetic translation while also including their English brand name in brackets. This approach allows for a balance between maintaining brand consistency and providing a localized title that is relevant and appealing to Chinese users.
In the app title, use your most relevant Chinese keywords (like you would in English). Choose keywords that have a high volume and will increase visibility for your app.
You can also use our keyword research tool, Appranking, to get inspiration on the best keywords to add to your app's title and subtitle.
Once you've made your decision, don't forget to track the influence of the keywords you add to your app's metadata on app installs on a regular basis. In ASOWorld, you can create keyword lists and see how many installs they bring to your app. This will allow you to easily filter out and replace underperforming terms. Check for terms that are driving installs for your competition.
When it comes to mobile games in China's app stores, the game icon frequently resembles a game character. Even when we look at the top games in the Games (Card) category - a genre that is not frequently linked with a storyline or characters in the West - we see that 9 out of the top 10 apps in the Chinese market have a character in their symbol.
When we examine the use of characters in games in China and the United States, we can notice that characters in China are more realistic or less cartoon-like. In comparison to the United States, Chinese designers use a lot of tiny lines and intricacies in their symbols.
Apps in China, like in the Western world, frequently feature logos or brand names in the app icon. However, Chinese branding and logos frequently differ from those seen in the Western world. Because brand names are occasionally condensed to two or three characters, the logo and app icon represent the complete brand name.
Another key point to remember is to consider the meaning of the color you pick when designing your app icon. Because the color red is linked with money and success in Chinese culture, most apps in the Shopping category use it or a close approximation of it.
Chinese is a concise language that requires fewer characters than English but has complex characters. It is recommended to use a larger font for in-app/game text.
There are two types of Chinese to choose from: Simplified Chinese (zh-CN) and Traditional Chinese Taiwan (zh-TW), depending on the target region. Simplified characters are used in mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia, while Traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau.
Younger users may not prefer Traditional Chinese, especially in mainland China. It is recommended to default your app/game to Simplified Chinese, but offering the option to switch between the two may increase outreach and retention rate.
Chinese language has different writing styles and expectations, so human translation is important to ensure appropriate messaging for the target audience.
QR codes are widely used in China's mobile app market, with many apps/games using them to link to promotions or display interesting features. Integrating QR codes into your app/game can show users promotions, deals, or lead them to social networking pages. For example, China's social network app Renren has integrated animated visual QR codes to entertain users and increase engagement with the app.
It's crucial to be mindful of certain topics that are negatively received in China's culture and avoid displaying elements such as blood, skeletons, skulls, drugs, and behaviors like sexual content, drinking, and gambling in your app/game to avoid being banned from app stores. Politics, particularly defaming the Chinese government, is also a sensitive topic to be avoided.
Apps in China often pop up and disappear quickly, so it's recommended to update your app/game at least every 2-3 weeks to stay relevant in the fast-paced market.
Frequent updates not only keep your app/game up-to-date but also tend to drive more positive reviews from users, which is important in the Chinese market.
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China's app market presents both a huge opportunity and a challenge for mobile app developers. Seize industry opportunities, especially the potential of the Chinese market in the game industry will be huge. Anyone looking to break into this market has to really understand what works in China's app market.
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