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Chinese developers need to better identify the needs of their players

Chinese developers need to better identify the needs of their players

October 20, 2014 | By Brandon Sheffield

October 20, 2014 | By Brandon Sheffield
More: Console/PC, Design, Business/Marketing, GDC China, China

"We serve the customers, that's our common goal," says Jeff Lyndon, president and co-founder of Chinese mobile game publisher iDreamSky, at GDC China today.

In China, he says you need to ask yourself how to polish your game, constantly, and target your users, constantly.

But who are these users? In mobile, there's been a huge adoption of smartphones - feature phones went from 85 percent of the market in 2011, to 0.8 percent projected in 2015. The history is very recent.

"Chinese players have the lowest collective age," he says. "If we have a look at the American players, they have a history that goes way back to the Atari 2600. They started at the age of arcades. Japanese players started back with the card games, after all Nintendo started out making card games. From the age of the arcade, they started their game history too."

"In China, the player age is very weird, from the development side," he says. "We started developing MMORPGs. We never bought games in stores - we started at CD ROMs, and downloaded our games on online services. It's a weird development style here. Most of our games seem very weird to overseas developers."

China also doesn't have many heavy users. "In our own age, we've found our own Mario, our own Dragon Quest," he says, and in China, that's largely casual games. "That's why Chinese puzzle games are still in the running. It serves the common people that are exploring the market of mobile games. In China, angry birds still has its own lifecycle, it's still popular here. They're the first games I played in my life. It's like my first girlfriend, it's very special."

Again, he reminds developers they must focus on the users. "In our industry, regardless of China or overseas, we're all marching in this direction," says Lyndon. There are three kinds of user, he says; those who are still playing a popular game, those who played but left the game, and those who never played it.

"As a developer we need to focus on two groups of players - those who played the game but stopped, and those who have never played."

"For our teams, I have to tell them, because they might follow a myth," he cautions. "For example, some of our developers might think they need to defeat or target a specific game. So from different dimensions they think about how to beat it."

"But they might forget one point," he adds. "If the player is still playing that game, then there's no need for them to change to a new game. They're retaining that player because they've spent money there. In this Chinese market, if you played this game for over three months, especially for PC, the [player's] reason [for still playing] is the same - 'I've spent money on it and I have a circle of friends there.'"

"Is it because people are really fond of it? I don't think so," he says. "Now it's also a chat tool for him, not just that it's a good game. It's difficult to wean those players, because the cost is too high for them to give up their items and time. So as a developer we need to focus on two groups of players - those who played the game but stopped, and those who have never played.

This, again, means you need to pay attention to the demands, and trends, of the players. China has not excelled in this regard, he says. "We haven't innovated. We need to start doing big innovation, overwhelming innovation, so we can make our way out," he says. "We need to identify the needs of the player, and know their demands."

Gamasutra and GDC China are sibling organizations under parent UBM Tech.

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