Zenna Apps discusses the gaming secrets of China and South Korea

Xsolla had a little chat with Inna Zaichenko — CEO of Zenna Apps. This small company has been working in Asia pushing out western games into Chinese and Korean markets. We’ve discussed the pecularities of the Asian market, payment methods and the necessity of test launches.

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Xsolla: Inna, hello! Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little bit about Zenna Apps.

Inna Zaichenko: Zenna Apps has been working since 2011. We have 25 employers. At first we wanted to work with mobile apps but after careful analysis we figured that games is a much more lucrative business. I think that most games today suffer form the lack of quality marketing. We’ve decided to find a special niche and give our partners a new business opportunity. Zenna Apps is an agency, which works with marketing and pushes out games in Asia.

Why Asia?

Inna Zaichenko: Because this is a quickly developing region, which grows faster than most other western markets. We wanted to seize this opportunity.

You’ve been working in Russia and China. What’s the biggest difference between these markets?

Inna Zaichenko: Asia — this is a dynamic market that shapes the main trends in the gaming industry. Local users demand high quality games. They are much more active than Russian gamers, and also more solvent and spend more time in games than their Russian colleagues. Asia shows great ARPD, user retention, ARPU, LTV. The biggest problem for the western importer of games is that Chinese and Korean gamers prefer local products. That’s why localization is so important for the Asian market. You have to take into account cultural and national peculiarities, gamers’ preferences, dialects (there are over 50 dialects in China alone!), their ability and desire to pay, legal aspects. These factors influence the art, gameplay and monetization of the game. China has very special views on usability which are different from the western standards. Piracy is also a great factor. There is no unified payment system which can also affect your success.


What are your main sources of income? Why is it so difficult to organize payments in China?

Inna Zaichenko: Our main sources of income are lead generation CPA/CPI/CPM/CPC. There is no traditional non-incentive CPI in South Korea. However this is a pure heaven for motivational install, targeted ads in social networks, context ads from local search engines Naver and Daum (these search giants have their own gaming platforms). Naver Game is a platform for hardcore and microid games. Japan has different ad-preferences: CPA/CPI, context ads, offline ads, TV-ads, video-ads. The most effective advertising methods in China are CPI, targeted ads in social media, video ads. And your should definitely pick up the right distribution partner. It is super-important. F2P remains the best way to monetize games in Asia.

As for the payment methods, China has alibaba.com and alipay.com. I recommend working with mobile carriers China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom. Local stores have their own payment systems Tencent, UC, 91.com. The search platform Baidu for example recently started taking Bitcoins. Be ready to work with each and every one. It’s essential to have a great payment partner here.

What is so peculiar about distribution platforms in China and South Korea?

Inna Zaichenko: You should definitely take into account local stores and gaming platforms China has over 400 app portals including Baidu, 91.com, Tencent, App China, nDuo, 360.com. The aforementioned are among the most important ones. South Korea has T-Mobile, LGU, Naver, Mobage. Don’t forget about the messengers Kakao Game, Line Play, WeChat.


How do you localize games?

Inna Zaichenko: We’ve got some Asian staff. They do the translation and localization work. Sometimes we collaborate with local partners who help to adapt games. Localization is a very important step for us. We translate the content and nationalize the product. We adapt the art, sometimes change the gameplay and monetization model, help with different payment methods and systems.

Do you work with testing in Asia?

Inna Zaichenko: It depends on the client. Sometimes they give us ready projects, which are just a couple weeks away from release. Then there is no testing in the general sense of the word. But we always make a test launch. This is absolutely essential to measure the main peculiarities of the games’ effectiveness and to optimize the marketing budget. Nobody is interested in wasting money.

What advice would you give to a young team that wants to conquer China or South Korea?

Inna Zaichenko: You need a great product, localization, a nice monetization model and targeted marketing solutions. As for the games themselves, I would suggest aiming South Korea with midcore products. China is whole different story. When you enter Chinese market be ready to see your idea already fulfilled by some local developer. The game will be less pretty and probably not so polished, but it will be enjoyed by thousands of gamers and get millions through IAP (which will be much cheaper than you’ve originally planned). This is no joke! The same thing happened to Minecraft in China. I suggest thinking your distribution strategy ahead. Asia is a different market which plays by different rules.

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