Tips for Localizing Your Game for China

China has a huge gaming market. It’s the largest globally with more than 700 million players and an estimated value of 424 billion yuan in 2022. And it’s going to grow even bigger with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14% between 2021 and 2026. That makes China’s gaming sector an attractive proposition for developers worldwide.

However, foreign companies hoping to tap into this lucrative market need to tailor their games to the Chinese audience. Translating text and words into the Chinese language is not enough – translations must reflect cultural nuances so that games are user-friendly, and games should be localized to enhance their appeal to players in China.

Localizing a game means adapting elements, including voice, video, text (in-game dialogue, instructions and technical processes) as well as pictures for the target market. That is done so that players feel that the game was made specifically for them.

Chinese gamers are more likely to buy a game in their native language with images and graphics they can identify with. So, localizing your games for China helps you to sell your products in the lucrative market, and attract more people in the country to play your games. As a result, you’ll reap more revenue. 

Game translation and localization will also help you to stay ahead of the competition. The more potential customers you appeal to, the more competitive your product is.

Therefore, localization is the key to opening the door to success in China’s gaming market. It sounds like a simple concept, but it’s actually pretty complicated. Here’s what you need to consider when localizing your game for China.

1. Simplified versus Traditional Chinese

Chinese refers to not one language, but a group of them. There are hundreds of spoken Chinese dialects along with several written variations. Therefore, you will first need to select the correct local variation for your game. 

If you’re localizing games for China, Malaysia and Singapore, choose Simplified Chinese (zhCN). What if you’re targeting gamers in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan? Or the gamers are part of the international immigrant communities? In such instances, use Traditional Chinese (Traditional Chinese Hong Kong (zhHK)/Traditional Chinese Taiwan (zhTW) instead.

2. Layout and Text Lengths

Chinese is a concise language. Text translated into Chinese often contains fewer characters than the original version. For example, when translating from English to Chinese, the resulting text length will typically be half of that the original text. But Chinese characters are more complex. So, you will need to use a larger font size for the translated text. Consequently, the content will take up more vertical space and may disrupt the layout of your game. Still, Chinese text overall is likely to occupy less screen space than English text, even with a larger font.

3. Gamer Statistics

Game developers need to know their audience to win in crowded marketplaces. There are now more players in China than ever before. According to market research firm Niko Partners, there are approximately 720 million gamers in China – that’s more than the combined populations of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Japan.

Gamer demographics continually change and evolve. So developers need to know the Chinese gaming industry well to make informed business decisions. Here are some key statistics on China from Niko Partners:

  • More than 97% of people aged 18-24 and more than 90% of people aged 25-35 in China play video games.
  • 48% of gamers in China are female.
  • 75% of gamers in China live in Tier 3-5 cities and account for 70% of the total game revenue. China’s cities are organized into five tiers with cultural and behavioral differences varying from city to city.

4. Sensitive Topics

Chinese regulators must approve a game’s content before it can be released to consumers. Therefore, game developers need to be very mindful about topics deemed sensitive in China. The Chinese government almost always bans games that depict skulls, skeletons, sexual themes, gambling, blood, and drugs. 

The National Press and Publication Administration is the organization responsible for censorship in China. Its guidelines state that works will be banned if they “endanger social morality or national cultural traditions.” Media that “promotes cults and feudal superstitions” will also be prohibited. In addition, themes such as organized crime and defamation are outlawed.

Several games have been banned in China. Alliance of Valiant Arms, a free-to-play online shooter video game was reportedly banned because it contains blood and vulgar content; while Free Fire was blocked because it contains blood, gore and has overly revealing female characters.

You will also need to tread very carefully when it comes to politics. Of note, the Chinese government outlawed Football Manager 2005 (known in North America as Worldwide Soccer Manager 2005) because Tibet and Taiwan were represented as independent countries in the game. In addition, Command & Conquer: Generals was banned for smearing the image of China and the Chinese army.

5. User Acquisition

China offers a significant opportunity for game developers as the world’s single largest mobile gaming market. In addition to adapting your game to China, you need to attract and acquire new players. Your potential customers are online and using social media, which is precisely where you need to be. A strong social media presence is fundamental. Here are some of the best social media platforms to reach gamers in China:

WeChat – a free message and calling app used by most people in the country. With WeChat, you can chat with followers and provide updates about your products.

Weibo – this popular Chinese microblogging website is one of China’s biggest social media platforms. Using Weibo, you can communicate with a large audience and increase your brand awareness.

You may also be able to acquire users through KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). These are the equivalent of influencers in Western markets. KOLs encourage people to buy products by promoting them on social media. Some KOLs have millions of followers and should therefore be a part of your marketing strategy.

Another way to promote your game to a wider audience is through video and live streaming platforms. Many Chinese consumers turn to these platforms to search for products and decide what to buy. Douyu, Youku and Bilibili are popular video and live streaming platforms that you may use to enhance recognition of your brand.

In China, Baidu is the most popular search engine. If you wish to create a website to promote your game, write your content in Mandarin Chinese to reach the widest possible audience.

6. Payments and QR Codes

If you want more people to play your games, you need to make it easy for them to pay. China has been steadily moving away from cash-based payments in recent years. While your customers in Western countries pay with debit/credit cards or via PayPal, Chinese customers prefer other payment methods. They include mobile payments such as TenPay (WeChat Pay), UnionPay and AliPay. 

It’s also a good idea to add a QR code if you can. This lets gamers scan and pay with a fingerprint instead of typing in card numbers. Today, Chinese consumers can pay for many things by scanning QR codes, from rent and rides to groceries and games.

7. Government Policies and Regulations

To thrive in the Chinese market, you’ll need to be aware of local rules and regulations, as well as how to navigate them. Unlike in other countries, you can’t just upload your game to Google Play or Apple’s App Store. 

Often, you will need an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) before you can distribute your game. Acquiring one can be a lengthy process. It involves several government bureaucracies such as the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the Copyright Protection Center of China (CPCC).

Here are other important regulations to take note of in China:

  • Foreign gaming companies are legally obliged to find a Chinese partner to register and publish games on their behalf. This is because the Chinese government forbids foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) from directly publishing games and acquiring ISBNs.
  • There are spending limits and a curfew for online gamers under the age of 18. 
  • And there are rules governing the real-name registration for online gaming.

Partner with a Chinese Gaming Localization Services Expert to Succeed in Chinas Gaming Market

Poorly translated and localized games result in a negative customer experience. Consequently, your game will fail in China. To improve your chances of success, you need to work with a professional translation and localization company like EC Innovations. We have a dedicated team of seasoned linguists who are also avid gamers. They understand what gamers want and how they speak. 

Our gaming localization services include in-game text, UI, user manuals, voice-over, marketing materials, legal docs, and website localization. With quick turnarounds, we deliver projects in the shortest possible time.

We have successfully helped many game developers localize their games for the China market.

Contact us at to talk to our expert team about localizing your gaming content for China.

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