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Key Learnings From Top Asian Video Game Marketing Campaigns in the USA

By Yuliya Gorenko 0 comments
In recent years, the APAC region has been the main driver for global gaming expansion. China alone accounts for more than one-quarter of all global game revenues, reaching $37.9 billion in 2018. Yet, top video game publishers are looking to explore other markets, and choosing the USA as a strategic geo target. 

When introducing a game to the North American market, many publishers come up against a crucial challenge: the success of a game within APAC does not guarantee it will get recognition among American players. That’s why coming up with an effective video game marketing strategy becomes crucial.

As a specialized gaming influencer agency, Cloutboost has experience advertising Asian video games on the US market. In this blog post, we study the peculiarities of both markets and the challenges for video game marketing in the USA. We also share some tips on effective promotion of Asian mobile games in North America, based on successful case studies.

APAC Video Game Market

Reports state that the Asia-Pacific region will generate around $72.2 billion of game revenues in 2019, and half of it will come from China. With the somewhat smaller growth in the console games segment, mobile gaming takes first place with 45% of the global market.

global-gaming-market

However, the tightening of regulations in China has influenced the market significantly. In 2018, the country changed its gaming regulator and some of its policies aiming to reduce the screen time of those under the age of 16. Since 2018 the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) is responsible for implementing control over online video games, including new video games operated online. It will explore an age-appropriate reminder system in line with China’s national conditions, and take measures to limit the amount of time minors spend on games. 

For the game publishers, it means that any product, even a free one, has to acquire a license to be published in China. And while the state resumed issuing licenses after a freeze period in 2018, not a single game that received licenses comes from Tencent or Netease, the top gaming companies in China. 

That said, Tencent is investing in the Western market, cooperating with Epic Games, Supercell, Ubisoft, Frontier Developments, and Rovio Entertainment. Other Asian game giants like Jagex, Outfit 7, and Netease are acquiring shares in development studios outside China. 

Why Consider the US Market?

Strict regulations are not the only reason for shifting focus westward. The American market does hold considerable potential for Asian games since it is the world’s biggest gaming hub with a varied audience and mild regulations. For the first time since 2015, it is predicted to be the largest nationwide gaming market this year, with $36.9 billion in revenues. So while the Chinese industry experiences a drop in console games, the USA takes over its position in this segment. 

global-games-market

With their slowdown in-game revenues, Chinese giants recognize Western expansion as a necessity. Stats are positive about this direction: app publishers reported 1.5 billion overseas downloads via Google Play and iOS App Store in the first half of this year.

Key Facts About the US Gaming Market

American gaming differs in demographics, mentality, and preferences from the Asian version. To start advertising your video game in the USA, marketers from APAC companies should consider these key points about American gamers:

  • The US is the world’s second-largest mobile games market: 70% of American players prefer to play on their smartphones; 
  • 50% of mobile gamers who play at least once a week are women;
  • Out of all Chinese games, strategies are the most popular on the US market: 89% of the aggregated revenues of the top five mobile Chinese games in the U.S come from the strategies Lords Mobile, Guns of Glory, King of Avalon, Clash of Kings, and Love Nikki;
  • The “pay-to-win” model, quite popular in China, is usually frowned upon in the West.  

Keeping in mind these facts, isn’t it sufficiently easy for the APAC game companies to compete in the US market? As it turns out, there are some non-obvious challenges that marketers and advertisers often overlook when running a video game marketing campaign.  

Challenges Asian Game Publishers Face in the US

If we take a successful Eastern video game with thousands of downloads and fan clubs across APAC and bring it to US consumers in its original form, will it gain global recognition? Usually not, believes Mantin Lu from Seasun Inc. An Asian game not only needs a thorough marketing strategy and full-fledged advertising campaign, but it also has to be adapted for American users. 

First of all, origin stories and cultural references are usually unclear for Western consumers. More than that, the Chinese literature is context and pun-heavy due to the use of speech tones. Translating the game directly won’t make any sense to the players. Instead, publishers should opt for localization with possible explanatory additions. 

Another aspect of the same challenge is that American players are used to a more relaxed manner of mobile gaming. They prefer simple clickers rather than complex story-based experiences. 

Taste and culture may be an issue for top APAC gaming providers, as well. However, with cultural lines blurring, introducing a product with a unique Eastern flavor can be beneficial. Everything boils down to the proper choice of a video game marketing strategy as well as partners who will help bring the game to the new, unfamiliar market. 

Influencer Marketing in Asia and in the USA – Key Differences

Marketing is exponentially tougher when you do not understand the culture, language, technology, and social media preferences of the new audience. But influencer marketing is one of the instruments that can help integrate a new game into the US environment. 

It is crucial, though, to understand that there is a significant difference in appropriate influencer marketing approach from region to region.

US gamers are inclined to follow their idols, aka gaming influencers, in the choice of practically everything, from food to games. 

As for Asian gamers, they have another vision of an “influencer.” Since eSports are extremely popular in Asia, professional gamers are the ones who are followed and looked up to. 

A model or a fashion blogger cannot become a gaming influencer in China, but can easily be one in the USA. 

Leveraging Gaming Influencers To Promote Asian Games in the US Market

Among the top 15 Chinese games which generated the highest overseas revenue in the first half of 2018, Lords Mobile and Castle Clash from IGG ranked No.1 and No.12, respectively. Lords Mobile used several types of influencer marketing on YouTube: from non-gaming YouTubers to real-life and Minecraft animation videos that have millions of views. It should be noted that IGG continues to use gaming sponsorships to keep up interest in the game up even when success is already apparent – new popular sponsored videos were published only several months ago. 

Another earlier example is King of Avalon: Dragon Warfare by FunPlus, which reached the #1 iOS overall grossing daily rank in the US and Australia in November 2016. The game is still popular despite the presence of competitors and the non-native market. Influencer marketing works great for games, but it is quite a challenge to launch the strategy with gaming influencers from a foreign country who have an unfamiliar mentality. Yan Geng, a former Global Marketing Manager at IGG, confirms:

Chinese marketers find it difficult to reach out to certain big influencers or manage them. The behavior of influencers is usually very different from corporate people, so working together as a team requires mutual understanding and great communication skills.” 

To enter the new market more smoothly, the APAC companies consider partnering with gaming influencer agencies that are operating within the US gaming space. This kind of cooperation will eliminate the majority of issues that arise because of variations in culture, mentality, and gaming peculiarities. 

“Influencer marketing can be an effective way of gaining players or retention rate improvement at all stages from a new game launch to years after when the operation still runs,” says Yan Geng, and Cloutboost confirms this statement through its own experience with APAC companies.

Video Game Marketing Case Study by Cloutboost

Lilith Games, one of the leading Chinese mobile game studios, has partnered with Cloutboost to introduce its new RPG card game, AFK Arena, to the North American audience. With the help of the top gaming influencers, Cloutboost highlighted the product’s fun gameplay that is enabled without too much effort from the player – just like American users prefer it.

The Cloutboost team built a clear and consistent video game marketing strategy and combined gaming sponsorships on YouTube with Twitter and Instagram. As a result, AFK Arena took 13th place on the US Google Play free game ranking and 26th on App Store, outrunning the legendary Fortnite. 

Summing Up

Lords Mobile (IGG), Guns of Glory (FunPlus), King of Avalon (FunPlus), Legacy of Discord, Rise of Kingdoms(Lilith Games), AFK Arena (Lilith Games), Arena of Valor, Cyber Hunter – all these games have been launched successfully in the US market, and influencer marketing was one of the pillars of their strategy. Leveraging properly targeted gaming influencers, publishers can reach more hardcore players as well as highlight some casual aspects of the game. 

To accomplish that, partnering with a video game advertising agency that has experience in the Western market is critical. Choosing YouTube and Twitch sponsorships, building partnerships, and creating a video game marketing strategy targeted explicitly towards the American players are the essential tasks an Asian gaming company can delegate to its marketing partner. You can overcome any challenges once you choose strong allies to back you up.