Global gaming

Despite there being around 200 million gamers in China, ‘gamification’ has not yet made it into their vocabulary

By Dom Raban, managing director at Corporation Pop

 The UK is the number one choice for secondary education and the second most popular destination for undergraduate and postgraduate study, according to the Hurun Research Institute’s latest report on the lifestyle trends of China’s wealthiest. So, how do you tap in to this market?

Of all the world’s internet users more than one in five connect from China. Of those 676 million people, more than half are under the age of 29. That’s a hell of a lot of young people online and with the vast majority surfing on their mobiles; this is one of the most effective platforms for reaching them.    

Games are a natural go-to place for young people, regardless of whether they’re domiciled here or in China. But unlike the UK, and despite there being around 200 million gamers in China, ‘gamification’ has not yet made it into their vocabulary.

This doesn’t mean it’s not in play though; brands like Smart, Uniqlo and Nike are already using gamification successfully and the social gaming landscape is developing rapidly. Social games have emerged as a convenient alternative for students to gain a sense of release, evident in the rise of Sina Weibo as one of China’s most influential social platforms. 

There’s no doubting the evidence stacks up for using gamification as an effective way of reaching the student market in China, but once you’ve made this decision things become more complex.   

We recently launched a game on Sina Weibo to engage students in China with NCUK programmes as a route to a UK degree. In the project’s development there were a myriad of considerations, from game build as software development kits are often in Chinese, to gameplay – China’s gamers have half the retention rate of their western counterparts, they play much faster and consume more content. 

If you are considering this route, there are some linguistic, cultural and behavioural fundamentals that need to be understood.

Among the hundreds of mutually unintelligible spoken languages, Mandarin and Cantonese are used most frequently, but don’t expect somebody to understand them both. Again there are two written languages commonly used, but somebody who reads Traditional Chinese cannot be expected to be able to read Simplified, so Chinese websites often have three regional variants. My best tip here is to work with someone who is a native speaker or find a team who has access to specialist input.

In a country that places more emphasis than most on symbolic meaning, the use of colour should be applied cautiously. Black is associated with evil and corruption. White has associations with death and funerals. Yellow is sometimes associated with pornography. While red is generally a safe bet, overuse can seem clichéd and overly reminiscent of celebrations. 

We’ve already looked at why a ‘mobile first’ approach should be an important part of your strategy, but if you’re targeting desktop users beware the curse of legacy versions of Internet Explorer. The widespread piracy of Windows XP in China means prolific use of the operating system’s (OS) old browser, IE6. Any web developer will confirm that supporting any version of IE is a pain, but at least a third of browsing in China is through IE6 so it shouldn’t be ignored.

If you’re developing an app, Android is by far the most popular mobile OS. Don’t imagine though that a submission to the Android and Apple stores will suffice. In China there are more than 500 app stores and Google Play isn’t one of them (iTunes is). Attempting to submit to all 500 will be a major headache, so take a pragmatic approach by focusing on a handful. 

If you’re planning a social campaign it pays to understand the landscape. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are banned in China and your choice of platform will depend on your target demographic and activity. Consider popular sites QZone, Weibo, WeChat and Ren Ren. 

Navigating the Chinese market may be a minefield, but don’t be put off. It offers amazing opportunities and with the right help and support the results can be immensely rewarding. 

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