Chinese ACG Mobile Games Are Now Topping Japanese & Korean Gaming Charts

In the past couple of years, there has been a number of Chinese ACG mobile games, originally inspired by Japanese anime & manga, that have become top grossing games in Japan and South Korea.

By Cheng (Orange) Qi, Guest Columnist

July, 2019.

Why Chinese Developers Made ACG Mobile Games in the First Place?

1. Young people in China, especially those born after 1985 and especially those after 1990 (Generation Z), have been greatly influenced by Japanese ACG (Anime, Comic and Games) culture.

As these young people graduated from high school or university, ACG started to become a very important subculture in China. Many of today’s well-known development teams or companies were founded around 2010, when these young people were in their early to mid-20s.

  • MICA Team was founded in 2008, and then developed Girls’ Frontline
  • miHoYo was founded in 2012, and then developed Collapse Gakuen 3
  • Bilibili was founded in 2009, and then became the biggest ACG streaming and video platform in China – publishing many successful ACG games

2. At first there were not many teams actually developing ACG specific games. These early teams, a decade ago, created these types of games for the simple reason – that they love them so much.

But after the success of several early ACG games in China, more and more developers and publishers started flooded the market. Currently, there are hundreds of studios / companies developing ACG games in China.

With a profitable market outlook, due to marketing costs being kept low as community promotion can be utilizited in ways that other gaming genres cannot, because of the subculture related to the ACG gaming industry.

Take miHoYo as an example:

With high loyalty of users, such games can easily survive for many years.

Take the platform of Bilibili as an example:

—- 80%+ users were born between 1990 and 2009.

—- The yearly retention rate of full members is 79%+.

—- Each user spends 70+ minutes on the platform everyday on average.

ACG games promote more positive emotions among players: as the Vice President of Bilibili has stated, “The revenue from traditional games comes from hatred, from the competition between players, from the belief that I should be stronger than others; the revenue from ACG games comes from love, from the belief that I love the character.”

Why Chinese Developers Are So Good in This Area?

I. If you look at the well-known teams or companies today, you will find that the founders were all deeply influenced by Japanese anime & manga culture, and before some of these founders started working on ACG games. Some of them had been creating fan art, some had been tech “otakus” or “geeks” for a long time, and some had been running ACG fan communities.

II. There are already several good Chinese artists that can create Japanese looking characters and environment, and the developers learned how to work together with famous Japanese CVs, or the developers purchased the game licenses directly from Japan.

III. There were not many experienced developers for PC and console games in China, but for mobile games, Chinese developers started almost at the same time as the developers in other countries. Today, their ability to develop mobile games is as good as, or sometimes even better than foreign developers in some specific fields.

IV. Bilibili, NetEase Comics, Tencent Comics and other social media outlets have made ACG Culture easier to spread across China, attracting more attention in the process.

China has so many people, that even it were a niche market, it would have enough users and generate enough revenue to feed multiple products and development teams. This gives the developers the opportunity to focus on what they are good at. Nowadays, there are more than 80 million core ACG fans in China, and more than 310 million potential ACG fans.

If you compare Bilibili with Nico Nico (the Japanese website that inspired Bilibili), you will find that Bilibili has nearly five times as many views as Nico Nico.

A Look Back

  • Stage I: before 2013 – The pioneers were experimenting and accumulating experience.
  • Stage II: 2014 ~ 2016 – Several products stood out and succeeded, attracting widespread attention and more developers to join (that was also when mobile games started growing rapidly in China).
  • Stage III: 2017 ~ now – Through self-publishing or working with experienced publishers, looking beyond China to be commercially successful in overseas markets as Japan has done.

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About the Author

Orange is the Director of Investment and Partnership @ Krafton Group, formerly known as Bluehole, the company that brought PUBG Mobile to China. He is a game professional and a Chinese ACG Game specialist, who likes to write about the Chinese gaming industry in English for those outside of China who may find it difficult to keep up with the ever changing landscape that is the Middle Kingdom’s gamer. He resides in Hangzhou.

Editor, Ryan Carroll.