The Chinese game market is a crazy and chaotic one. With consoles banned and rampant piracy, it's hard to imagine breaking into the China market. Yet, the market is growing at such a rate that it's impossible to ignore. Enter Chinese gaming publisher Yodo1.
The publisher is helping Western studios tap the "gold mine" that is China, but at the same time, they're bringing bits and pieces of China abroad.
Only a year and a half old, mobile games publisher Yodo1 has released some of the biggest Westerns mobile games in China, games such as Hero Academy, Cut the Rope and Ski Safari. Most recently, Yodo1 has been in the news with their acquisition of game industry veteran Jung Suh (co-founder of Gamefly) and their expansion out of China into the global publishing space with BonusXp's game Cavemania.
Little is known about Yodo1 in the West primarily because their work is in China; however, one only needs to look at elements found in games such as Hero Academy to understand what the publisher can do.
When Hero Academy by Robot Entertainment was localised for the Chinese market, Yodo1 was the publisher and localising team. Thanks to added Chinese elements, tweaked in-app-purchasing, as well as the inclusion of a Chinese Shaolin team to the game, Hero Academy did pretty well in China. After the Chinese version was released, there was an update to the global version of Hero Academy, and in that global version, the additional Chinese content of the game can be found.
"The fact of the matter is, we created this content for the Chinese market, and they [our partners] think this content would be popular in the West," Henry Fong, CEO of Yodo1, told me. "We decided not to go with further contract negotiations and just decided to throw that content out there."
Yodo1 provided the extra Chinese content to Robot Entertainment for free.
Fong laughs at the notion that Chinese gamers are different from Western ones. When I asked him this, he said he thought that Chinese and Western gamers weren't very different. Citing poor localisation and bad infrastructure as the main reasons why Western games have failed in China in the past, Fong says it's the environment that shapes the Chinese players.
So what exactly does Yodo1 do? According to Fong, Yodo1 works closely with Western studios looking to bring their games into China. Fong says originally when Defiant brought Ski Safari over to China, the game didn't do so well. Yodo1 took the game and replaced design elements to "localise" it for China. The game now has 25 million active users in China. It's a smash hit.
When Yodo1 works with a studio, they work on the code of the game and they localise and add points that they think will make the game work in China. Once that's done, Yodo1 maintains the game with updates and fixes, but that doesn't mean that they're done: They provide the additional China content to the studios as a sign of good faith; so Western gamers can experience some of what the Chinese players are playing.
Perhaps it is due to the success and the way that Yodo1 does business that they're looking to enter the global market. Fong says that Yodo1's expansion had a lot to do with their previous cooperation's with foreign studios.
"One of the reasons why we're launching global publishing right now is because we were asked by our development partners to do it," said Fong. "What ended up happening was a lot of these Western studios came to us saying that they had a great experience with us in China and they were having trouble publishing in the West."
Shifting their focus from the China market into the global publishing space doesn't daunt Fong. According to Fong the company philosophy says that if a market doesn't have competition, it isn't worth going into—whether that's China or the whole world.
Yodo1 will be publishing Cavemania by BonusXp, the same guys that brought us Halo Wars and Ages of Empires, as well as a game called Olympus Defenders later this fall.
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