That is the comment of the brand director (CBO) Azur Games during the release of its game into China.
One of the world’s largest mobile game markets poses unique challenges for Azur Games developers.
China is one of the biggest markets for mobile games, but publishers in the country face unique challenges, from strict laws to strict limits on playtime.
Therefore, success in other markets is not an indicator of success in China. For game makers in other countries, entering the Chinese market requires learning new rules and complying with that country’s strict regulations.
CBO Azur Games shared about the difficulties of bringing a game to the Chinese market and how Azur Games overcome these barriers.
In mid-2021, Azur Games announced that it would start releasing super casual games in China. It took over a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars to lay the groundwork for this process, they have now launched over 25 games. “The Chinese gaming market is very different from the rest of the world, and there are a lot of new things that we have to learn,” said CBO Ivan.
All this faces ever-changing requirements for publishers and the games themselves. From this point forward, let’s talk about it all step-by-step: process, licenses, marketing features, and a cost of $30,000 per month from a project that counts only organic traffic and time alone. Average playtime exceeds one hour.
One of the first hurdles mobile game publishers in China face is having to obtain one of two licenses: ICP or ISBN. The first is required for free games with ad monetization, the second for premium projects or projects with in-app purchases.
ICP is easier to earn, so for now, Azur Games only releases casual projects with ad monetization in China. Getting an ICP takes about a month and costs about $250 (prices vary slightly depending on where the license is issued). And think just a few months ago the fee was $100 and getting an ICP can be sped up to 3-5 days if you pay extra. Things are changing very quickly in China.
“The ISBN license is more complicated and time consuming, we are still working on it. Technically, all games must have an ISBN license, but in practice this license is only required for paid projects or projects with in-app purchases. However, this situation can also change at any time.” – Ivan shared.
Getting an ISBN can take 1.5 years and game publishers without an ISBN can be fined, so if such a game gets any attention from the authorities, it will immediately removed from stores.
Of course, in the process of making Azur Games, there are still shortcomings and mistakes. As they solve a lot of problems from outside but there is no legal entity registered in China. Besides, all official profile must be in Chinese and game can only be tested from China IP and with Chinese SIM card. A VPN won’t help, as smartphones still have a lot of parameters to determine your location.
Getting legal matters in order takes a lot of time, effort and money. It seems that simple things like creating a bank account, even for a registered legal entity, are very difficult. The company had to hire a local attorney.
The second mistake is to write a universal SDK using a software development kit based on an open source solution for all Chinese stores. Without Google Play and hundreds of local stores with advertising platforms and SDKs, Azur Games had to deal with all the technical issues. “Our Chinese partners have to integrate their own SDK for each store. One of the reasons for this is that they don’t trust third-party code, which also explains why you can only integrate local monetization solutions,” CBO said.