Tencent Game Developers Conference: How to promote games in overseas market

At the Tencent Game Developers Conference on December 7, Zhou Man, Marketing manager of Tencent Interactive Entertainment’s product center of Global Publishing Department, shared her experience on the successful release of domestic mobile games “Dragon Raja” and “Saint Seiya” in Japan.

Zhou Man pointed out that the same Asian countries have very different cultures and player preferences. For example, the preferences of Southeast Asian countries and Japan and South Korea are very different. The most important point for different overseas markets is localized insights. Be more local than local, including players acquisition, advertising and marketing, and subsequent game operations.
Following is an excerpt of her speech:

Hello, I’m Maggie Zhoufrom Tencent Interactive Entertainment Distribution Line.

I’m working at the Product Center of Global Publishing Department

Early I talked to the organizing committee and learned that overseas marketing for Chinese games is an exciting topic for our audience. Today I’d like to share things I learned from promoting Chinese games in the overseas market.

As a result, we can say that cumulative experience from foreign markets concerning promotion and marketing comes from mistakes we made in the early days and lessons we learned in previous years. Here I’d share some examples our own lessons.

First, when it comes to gameplay verification how different can it be among regions.

For example, a specific gameplay in Southeast Asian, Asian, European and American markets was proved to perform well, or it was even the most popular gameplay in that region. More specifically, in regions of Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. So does it show the preference of Asian game players? I wouldn’t be so sure. In Japan this gameplay may not be liked.

The second thing is different user customs and reputations.In Japan, there was a UGC activity among game player community. As usual, the list of award-winning players was released in the community and we congratulated them happily which may see perfectly normal in China. But it could make Japanese players feel uncomfortablebecause they are sensitive about privacy.

Japanese players don’t want their information to be publish online. What we did might cause resentful feelings locally.

Third is the diverse aesthetic standards. For example, we made a set of very beautiful gaming materials. Shall we use them in all regional markets?

But in overseas market it’s not a good idea to be lazy or to cut cost by using the same content for all markets.

Therefore, the answer is no. Players from different regions have diverse aesthetic standards and there might be huge differences in local gaming ecosystems.

When not paying enough attention to overseas markets, problems will occur. Therefore, localization is a solution instead of having a fixed mindset. The key to overseas game development is to have insights in localization. But we have learned another lesson.Localization is not enough, we have to understand people there better than themselves.

The first key point is to build a team that is efficient and has zero barrier:

This team should have local insights and be capable of overcoming obstacles of time and space.

The second key is the so-called unity of product and effect. We should focus on both factors. The real player insight means think of their needs and meet their expectations

Last but not least apart from focusing on a big platform working on relatively local medium and long-tail channels are precious opportunity to gain growth. Later I’ll explain these key points in detail.

First, let me introduce our team. When we were building our team we pay great attention to localization capabilities. We have mainly two types of people in the team

One is members with overseas background and studied abroad. The other one is members experienced in operations and have very good understanding of the foreign markets and resources.

At the same time we also need quick feedback and rapid coordination.

Thus, our product publishing brand, UA and design are all under a vast team and take responsibility for a new product revenue KPI.

In the past two years, we released products such as PUBGM, AOV, Dragon Raja and Saint Seiya, all of which not only had excellent performance in overseas market but also accumulated resources for Tencent.

We have also had many influential marketing cases. Since Dragon Raja and Saint Seiya are both new games we released in Japan this year, I mainly use it as an example. Let me talk about details of the cases.

We have also had many influential marketing cases. Since Dragon Raja and Saint Seiya are both new games we released in Japan this year, I mainly use it as an example. Let me talk about details of the cases.

The first one is Dragon Raja. When it was first released in Japan, this good-looking game was very competitive as it has advantages in UE4 engine and fine arts.

In fact, when we first got this product we noticed uncertain factors. For starter, Dragon Raja is a popular novel by Jiangnan in China, but it was not translated into many languages. Therefore, its influence did not reach Japan by the time. It didn’t have a large reader base.

However, the world view of the game starts from a near future Tokyo which could be a chance for us. The second thing is the total number of mobile game players in Japan is around 35 million almost equal one twentieth of China’s number. Among Japanese mobile game users only 10% of them have MMO experience. That’s around 3 million users. The Japanese market is very different from its Chinese counterpart.

You all know that in China from online games to mobile games the category of MMO has maintained an essential place. The entire user number is over hundreds of millions.

So we have to consider differences in gameplay and user acquisition strategy.

The third thing is that the customer acquisition cost in Japan ranks highest around the globe. Data probably showed that the customer acquisition cost is 5-6 times of that in China. Hence, our budget should be used on key areas.

The second thing is about Japanese players. What kind of people are they? In fact, we did a lot of research before through direct communication with Japanese players.

In summary they value their privacy They can be picky and tolerant at the same time. We also noticed that they may follow the latest trend while being creative and they love rituals.

One of the most impressive things that our team found is that Japanese players don’t like designs that are over-intimate, which is very interesting to us

I’ll explain more In Japanese culture there is a social norm of not to cause trouble to others which indicates their sense of social distance. That’s why we say RPG in this field attracts more Japanese players than MMO because it doesn’t require too much social burden. Players can have immersive experience while playing games.

When we did the survey last year we interviewed some local MMO players. One of them shared an interesting viewpoint.He said this union event was like a student society back in school days. Everyone strives for a shared goal and it feels good to grow together like this.

But they don’t enjoy burdens from close friends or marriages which are very commonly System at MMO in China.

Japanese players find this kind of distance isn’t far enough. Based on the insights, we make a lot of adjustments in respect to our localization products with a focus on four major aspects content, voice-acting, versions and publishing events.

These are important aspects especially the social distancing concept. I mentioned earlier, in the Chinese version of Dragon Raja we have functions like fate and soul mates while the Japanese one is a bit different.

As we did make a certain level of adjustments and change the part which requires teaming up into a different approach to allow users to play on their own.

As we learned that Japanese players are fond of rituals we added tailored features and publishing events

As for marketing and promotion, we officially announced the product in last December. By this April, we have already been through CBT twice and attracted a few waves of seed users.

We released nearly 8 PVs and later Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Miku. they are the most well-known voice actor and actress in Japan, joined and supported us to prepare a warm-up for the market.

We might still need one more boost. So we invited one of the most popular Japanese idols Shiraishi Mai, who is a former member of a famous Japanese idol girl group Nogizaka46.

Her image is very compatible to the style of our game and her appearance shares similarity with a role named Eriiin Dragon Raja. Thus, she is not only the favorite of male players but also liked by many female users

It is worth mentioning that it was a trendy topic of the first game she endorsed after graduation which best attracted the attention of Japanese players.

It is worth mentioning that it was a trendy topic of the first game she endorsed after graduation which best attracted the attention of Japanese players. What was our collaboration with Mai Shiraishi mainly about. We invited her to film two TVCs and a few Twitter interactions which we later incorporated into the game so that the gamers are able to take a picture with Mai Shiraishi in advertisement while playing games

A week after the launch of our game this ad has more views on YouTube than that of Hanzawa Naoki as the number one on the YouTube CM rank of the week.This was at the time.

Next I’ll talk about content marketing from different perspectives with a few examples.

First is about discussion, we know that 90% of players (in Japan) use YouTube and based on our understanding and observation of Japanese prank culture we designed a project named “what if a dragon comes to my place”. Then we invited Hajime

Hajime, a top Japanese influencer on YouTube and made a video with him by putting a dragon in his room.

The dragon came out from his ceiling, and the whole video is a combo of shocking and entertaining effects.

The dragon was a product of 3D printer and its a statue so its not a CG effect.

This is very interesting as the video was supporting the game. I remember the video view in 2020 the first half of 2020, in Japan has ranked the first. With statistics collected from the game when the video was released Dragon Raja ranked around the 20th among all games. The second day after the video was on YouTube, it climbed up to the fifth place.

To sum up we had this achievement mainly because we have done sufficient research on Japans major media and cultural preference to gain a deep insight

The next case is about sense of participation we arranged an event in Japan named Solving Major Myths in Tokyo.

This campaign was inspired by folk culture in Japan.Those who know Japan well enough must not be surprised Japanese people love solving myths and puzzles and Dragon Raja has a gameplay of solving myths which fits perfectly with this tradition

We designed 5 clues that lead to awards. You can find clues from the gamer community, metro stations and even from the media to help solve the puzzle in the game.

Lastly, I’ll talk about the sense of ritual in Japan

Lastly, I’ll talk about the sense of ritual in Japan. Japanese people attach great importance to sense of ritual. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Tokyo Olympics are being postponed. In the previous summer time major Japanese cities will hold events like fireworks or temple fairs.

We also arranged a streaming event that was shown on the massive screen on the street of Shibuya.There will be a fire-breathing dragon that gamers need to write posts on Twitter to defeat.

If they defeat the dragon they wI’ll win the rewards and an invitation to a grand firework festival This event became a trending in Japan on Twitter.

We all say marketing is like a romantic relationship with users. In this way, researching on overseas gamers is definitely a cross-cultural relationship.You can sometimes get to know them from customer service. You have to be sincere when communicating with them to learn about their needs. Then you can promote your product and make marketing decisions.The solution sounds easy but requires hard work to achieve.

Lets take a look at the second case Saint Seiya. For such an old but successful Japanese manga series how we managed to bring it back to life again and how we succeeded at finding a new growth from this franchise. Saint Seiya is a project we released this September, we encountered a lot of challenges.

First, those who were born in the 80s and 90s including myself Saint Seiya is a classic we watched as children. However, its less known in China that Saint Seiya is so influential in Japan, as in China.

The second challenge was that Bandai, a well-known Japanese game company in the first half of 2016 and 2020 released two mobile games

IP based on Saint Seiya with this manga and endorsement from a Japanese company these two products already attracted the only Saint Seiya fans in Japan.

In this case, our target users are fans of older age group fans aged over 35 to even 40. The oldest age group can reach 50 to 60 years old. The media they use are not the same as ours. We have different information channels, to attract these core users.

and even more players we had made an effective investment to the market which is the key challenge we need to tackle in this project.

I will focus on the traffic buying with some key points. First, our UA strategy was very precise.We have plans for weekly gameplay and progresses that change over time. Let me use the first months operation as an example.

In the first two weeks we focused on core target users to attract them into our core user pool. In the next two weeks, we worked on high-value users. The high value refers to active users that continue to play the game and that are willing to pay for the game.

In terms of quantity, we employed a transition strategy. When selecting platforms we know major platforms such as Google, Twitter, Facebook Usually, they represent the largest proportion of our UA channel.But not this time because Saint Seiya playersare generally older. Besides major platforms we needed to find out local platforms including Yahoo Smartnews those are what we called vertical local platforms.

In fact, these long-tail local media had stable and favorable performance as shown in statistics. In the past, our localization channels accounts for less than 10%. But now in this project the figure was close to 30% which was helpful to increase its overall ROI.

The third thing is about the material. UA material is particular about accuration and conversion rate In our field, we have Pareto principle which means 80% of the outcome is brought by 20% of the creative advertisement. But why it is also critical to ensure the quantity of materials.

In the early stage of the Saint Seiya project we have prepared 300-400 copies of independent materials our weekly update number is over 30. This comprehensive evolving mechanism can support us quickly to make market decisions.

In terms of expansion into overseas market our challenges are what other foreign game companies are facing if they want to enter the Chinese market. The same market entry challenges. Here I would like to use an example of a foregin company: You must be familiar with the League of Legends. In this game there are many roles with Chinese features including the Monkey King and Zhao Xin. You can see the Chinese roots from their names.

So far you can tell one common thing that Chinese games expanding overseas markets and foreign games entering Chinese markets are holding insightful localization: To understand local people better than they do.

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