Pocket Gamer Helsinki: What Asian Game Market is Right for You?

Latis-Global-Helsinki-Pocket-Gamer

Last week Latis was pleased to accept a speaker invitation at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki to talk about using Korea as your gateway into North East Asia. This week we are happy to be able to share the presentation with you and provide a summary of our key points.

 

Four Take Away Lessons

Point #1: Korea is wrongfully overlooked because of China and Japan

China is like the great whale of the mobile market. It’s a behemoth, high profile market and country in genera, and offers a lot of potential. Problematically, we are not always capable of seeing the total picture of that potential due to extreme market fragmentation. Chasing down China without a well refined strategy is a good way to get swallowed up.

When we think about Japan, at least where the game industry is concerned, the thing that generally comes to mind are the titans of the industry – Nintendo, Capcom, Square Enix, Gungho, etc. Japan is home to some of the most well-known IPs in the world. To compete in Japan and do well is to earn credibility for your talent in the world’s biggest gaming market.

Compounding this is the general perception that the Western world has of Japan due to its cultural exports. There are a lot of silly game shows, manga, and films that are well-known in the west and there is a general appeal to going to Japan because of them.

But what about Korea?

Even though it is the third biggest mobile market, it’s being over looked in favor of China and Japan. It has a strong and thriving mobile game market and, if you are serious about being an international game company, you can’t afford to ignore it. Along with Japan, Korea is a major driver of Google Play revenue and many of its characteristics make it the best of the three major North East Asian markets to enter first.

Point #2: Korea is easier to do business in than China and Japan

The first factor that makes Korea a great entry point is simply ease of business. This includes things like, how many loops do you have to jump through to do business? How easy is it to find an honest partner? How tight are business regulations? Can you expect transparency? The answer to these questions are going to greatly impact your ability to be successful business in any country you go to, but are often forgotten by developer-focused, or younger companies.

Where North East Asia is Concerned, Korea wins the contest hands down.

The world bank does an assessment of ease of business and has created an index to examine these factors. It includes: procedures, time, cost, and minimum capital to open a new business, protection of investors, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, strictness of regulations, transparency, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial activity, good practices and government regulations, and transparency of business regulations.

South Korea ranks 7th on that index, with Japan coming in at 27th, and China lagging way behind at 96th. This ultimately means that South Korea has a more open business environment with less risk. For those that already have a lot of experience and a network in one of the three big markets, it might not mean much. But particularly for first timers or mid-level companies with not a lot of capital to risk, these are

Point # 3: Korea’s market factors mean less investment, less risk

Some of these market factors include:

  • Korea has one of the best mobile networks in the world with ~91% 4G coverage. Japan hovers around 68% and China lags far behind on network infrastructure with 4G only available in major cities.
  • Korea is one of the first smartphone markets to reach near saturation with around 73% of people owning a smartphone. Korea is a great test case for how consumers will act in a near-saturated market.
  • Korean and Japan both far out perform China in buying power. Where Korea and Japan have similar rates for unlimited data plans, Chinese mobile users are looking at $100 USD for 5GB of data.
  • Though CPI data shows Japan is by far the best country for profit margins, those numbers do not include extra marketing budgets such as television spots and subway ads. Those upfront costs are considerably more expensive in Japan than they are in Korea.

Point #4: Korea’s soft power influence is supplanting Japan

For over a decade now, Korea has been taking over the importance of Japan’s cultural exports. Korean dramas became big in China first, then moved to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. They got huge in South East Asia, and now the Korean wave is firmly planted throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and even Myanmar. Music, fashion, television, movies, and games coming from Korea tend to do well in South East Asia, so performing well in Korea may open doors for you there as well.

There is also the soft power and recognition that is slowly building in the West with people like Psy. He represents a slow changing shift in the way that Korea is perceived by the West, and the relationship will only continue to grow. Over time this means both cultures will be more open to new types of content.

 

 

Testing Market Interest: Tips for Entering New Markets on a Budget

mobile game testing

To Test, or Not to Test?

Why are indie developers shy to enter new markets? We’ve heard the same answers from indies all over the world: it will cost a lot of money, success is a gamble, and they just might not have enough knowledge about a particular market to feel comfortable making the investment. Patrick Yip over at the OneSky blog wrote a great piece about how to use crowdfunding and localization to help you test your games. He’s got some great advice that applies to Western markets, but what about Korea and North East Asia?

We often hear of developers eager to take on the opportunities in Korea and China, or conquer the Japanese market and compete with the hall-of-fame IPs of Sega, Nintendo, and Sony. But financial and mental roadblocks always seem to prevent them from taking action. Just like Patrick says, it doesn’t have to be expensive and risky. If you’re looking to enter Korea, it just requires a bit of tweaking to your strategy. In this post, we’ll give you some tips on testing market interest in Korea on shoestring budget.

Test in App Stores, Don’t Try to Crowdfund

While Kickstarter and Indie-GoGo have certainly cemented their value in western markets, in Korea and Japan in particular, crowdfunding indies have a tendency to be viewed as amateur beggars. One look at the Kickstarter projects page for Seoul and you can see that it is a ghost town. Rather than look to crowdfunding, there are three common strategies for testing interest in your games in Korea:

1) Find a partner company and get them to run focus group testing for you. Latis Global provides focus group testing at extremely affordable rates based on the scale our clients need.

2) Run a focus group test through a technical college that focuses on gaming and have students and professors provide feedback.

3) Soft launch in a small app store and see the kind of attention you gather. Some excellent options include:

LG logoAs a carrier store, LG U+ is much less popular than Google Play or Apple, while still providing you with a large enough user base to see what kind of early traction your game can generate.

KT logoAnother carrier store, KT offers the same opportunities as LG U+ while offering a bigger user base.

 

samsung app store logoLaunching in the Samsung store provides the extra bonus that your game will be automatically QA’d for all Samsung devices. This is due to a corporate policy that all games in the store must run on all Samsung devices.

As Patrick noted in his post, it is highly recommended that you localize your app store pages into your target languages if you want to get an accurate gauge of interest in your games.

Find Feedback in the Local Gaming Community

Last, but not least, find feedback in online forums and gaming portals. Their users are often excited about gaming and eager to participate. This is one area where sourcing from the crowd is possible.

Probably the most active app forums in the country, HungryApp and Inven offer a massive user base to tap into for feedback. Once your game has been posted to some of the smaller app stores, you can open a forum on these sites and see what kind of feedback you get. Note that both websites are run in Korean, so it will likely require you to hire a point person to handle it, though this can be done for relatively cheap.

In Summary:

While crowdsourcing is a great tool that can be used to tap into new markets, taking a measure of the Korean market requires a different strategy. If you have to test on a budget, consider soft launching in some small app stores with a localized product page and gauge interest through community forums. The audience you’ll reach are more likely to be game hobbyists that are genuinely interested in providing feedback and evangelize your games.

Tell Us!

Have you tried testing your apps in Korea or Asia? Were your strategies successful? Why or why not? Leave a comment or tweet @CurtisFile. As always, make sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more about making your games a global success.

Lessons From GDC

Game-Developers-Conference-2014

 

With GDC well underway, the Latis team would thought it would be a great time to share some of the lessons we have taken away from the seminars and meetings we have attended.

From Social Whales Understanding and Leveraging a New Kind of Player

  • Customer to Customer marketing involves leveraging your most loyal players as a magnet to your game.
  • C2C strategies are equally as important as B2B, and B2C. Make sure you give them some thought.
  • Focus on keeping your most loyal players happy, and they in turn will make other players in your community happy.

From A Survey of the Modern QA Department

  • External QA service providers can find value in providing usability testing and build testing

From The Future of Localization Testing

  • Give your localization service provider your assets and deliver your files in one batch to increase efficiency.
  • The majority of quality issues are implementation issues (clipped text, overlapping text, corrupted text, untranslated text, wrong language, missing audio, etc.)
  • Non-native localization testers and functional testers were equally good at picking out errors as Native localization testers (except for Asian languages). You can leverage this to keep costs down.

From A Journey to the West: A Chinese Localization Primer

  • To solve UI constraint problems, provide a UI/UX analysis before translation begins and use German as a baseline length limit.
  • If the plot doesn’t appeal to the target culture, consider re-writes using in-house game writers.
  • If you have perpetually changing in-game content, ensure that you have a nimble localization processes.

From You Own the Game but the Community Owns You

  • Don’t reveal time lines. You will probably never be right and ultimately frustrate your audience base. Only reveal when you know you are ready.
  • Use your audience to your advantage and bring them into the creative process. They can help create all manner of promotional material for you (e.g. Kerbal Space Program used a fan to create cinematic trailer for a new release)
  • If you are honest with your fan base, it will pay off in the long run.

From Kickstarting Your Company, Your Game, and Your Community

  • Kickstarter is horrible for raising money, and this should not be your main goal in using it.
  • Most people don’t understand Kickstarter and treat it like it is an amazon store.
  • People expect something in return immediately after giving money to you. Make sure you have some value to give them once they have put money up for the project.
  • Kickstarter is about creating community and buzz around your game. Be sure to engage everyone that participates in your project and find ways to bring them into the process.

We will be updating this blog as GDC continues throughout the week, so please make sure to check back.

What lessons have you learned at GDC? Share them in our comments or tweet @CurtisFile. Remember to follow us on  LinkedIn and share your ideas with us there.