A quick look at female-oriented mobile games in the Chinese market

Looking from the other side.

I realised there hasn’t been much attention on Chinese otome mobile games despite the surge of new up-coming games by Chinese developers for female gamers. Although some games may not get localised into English, I wanted to offer a glimpse of the upcoming games to look forward to in the Chinese female-oriented game market.

I will be referencing from various Chinese and English articles about this subject.

A quick look at female-oriented mobile games in the Chinese market

The massive growth of female-oriented games within the Chinese mobile market is attributed to Love and Producer, also known as Mr Love: Queen’s Choice in 2017. According to Chinese video game news website GameLook, within the game’s first month of release, Love and Producer had surpassed 4 million downloads with 94.2% of its user base being female. Published by Paper Studio, who is also known for its successful ‘Nikki’ series, Love and Producer popularity with female players had taken the Chinese mobile game market by storm.

Paper Studio’s success had highlighted an opportunity and gap within the Chinese mobile game market, who have long overlooked female gamers. Previously, the Chinese mobile market was dominated by games such as highly popular ‘Honor of Kings’ and were largely catered to male audiences. Subsequently, the positive response from female players playing mobile games such as ‘Travel Frog’ and ‘Tasty Story’ established to developers that female gamers in China were hungry for more.

Tasty Story_食物语_compressed.png
食物語 (TW ver)/ Tasty Story is a simulation RPG targeted at female gamers. Tasty Story is developed by Guangzhou Tianti Network Technology Co., Ltd. 

Once seen as a niche market, female-oriented games have shown great revenue potential and have been making inroads into the mainstream game industry in China. According to China Gaming Industry Report 2019 (CN), China’s female gamers had exceeded 300 million users, accounting for 46.2 % of the total Chinese game users during 2018 to 2019. By 2020, Gamma Data reports that the female-oriented games market is expected to earn a total of RMB 56.8 billion (approx 8 billion USD) in 2020, with mobile games earning RMB 40.1 billion (approx 5.66 billion USD), or 70% of the market’s total revenue. With mobile making up a huge proportion of revenue earned, we will be seeing more female-oriented games released on mobile platform as  Chinese developers rush to get a piece of the pie.

In fact, tech-giants Tencent and NetEase have began publishing their own female-oriented games in hopes to cement its dominance in this rapidly developing market. Tencent is in its midst of developing otome game ‘Night and Light’ while NetEase is developing otome game ‘For All Time’. The developers have spared no cost in hiring popular voice actors, composers and illustrators, increasing the standards on how otome games are experienced on mobile.

光与夜之恋_Light and Night_Tencent_compressed
Upcoming Chinese otome mobile game 光与夜之恋/ Light and Night. Source: Light and Night Website, Tencent
时空中的绘旅人_To All Time_NetEase_compressed
Upcoming Chinese otome mobile game 时空中的绘旅人/ For All Time. Source: For All Time Website, NetEase

So what is a female-oriented Game?

In China, female-oriented games are very much influenced by Japan’s otome and idol games, where it is often acknowledged as the birth of the otome genre. In the Chinese market, their games encompasses a range of genres and categories targeting female audiences and tend to focus on graphics, plot and voice acting. They are segmented into three categories: 

  • Casual/Generic Female Games

Casual or generic female games usually has no romantic elements within the game and tend to target a range of audiences. Mostly played for leisure, casual female games include tile-matching, stat raising, palace intrigue, management and dress-up games.

Mobile games in this category include Royal Chaos, Travel Frog and Food Fantasy.

  • Maiden/Otome games

Taking on the role of a female character, the main focus of otome games is to develop a romantic relationship with one of the main male leads as you progress through the story.

Mobile games in this category include Love and Producer/ Mr Love: Queen’s Choice, Light and Night and For All Time.

  •  Boys Love/ Yaoi games

Taking on the role of a male character, the main focus of yaoi games is to develop a romantic relationship with another male lead as you progress through the story.

While yaoi is popular with Chinese funü also known as fujoshi by the Japanese which translates to rotten women, most Chinese developers are concentrating on developing casual and otome games instead.

However, there are also mobile games that combines game elements from two or all categories within the umbrella of female-oriented games. Such games include NetEase’s Yujian Love which combines tile-matching with otome and romance simulation elements.

Yujian Love PV by NetEase

At present, China’s female-oriented mobile game market shows no sign of slowing down. New games are constantly being developed and released, allowing female audiences to be selective of the games they play. The fierce competition would mean that developers will have to come up with newer ways to monetise and engage this audience group. 

Developers creating otome and romance simulation games will have to rise above and not just prioritising their efforts in graphics, plot, voice actors and music to please its gamers. For example, otome RPG mobile game The Throne of Girl developed by Rastar Game has included live 2D features as well as utilising notable Korean illustrators and popular Japanese voice actors to attract female gamers from China, Japan and Korea.

Rastar Games_The Throne of Girl_Chinese Otome RPG Mobile game
Upcoming Chinese otome RPG mobile game, 少女的王座/ The Throne of Girl which includes live 2D of male characters. Source: The Throne of Girl website, Rastar Games

In fact, the strong competition within the mobile market has seen popular female-oriented games in China already shifting their focus towards exporting its Intellectual Property(IP) to various commodities. For example, Love and Producer has gone on to have anniversary events such as ‘In his world: His Universe’, selling merchandise and will be releasing an anime adaptation this year.

Personal Thoughts

Personally, I think its great that Chinese developers are publishing female-oriented games in their domestic market. However with bigger developers coming into the market, some of the smaller game developers may struggle to compete in terms of quality and outreach.

I really do hope that we will see some of these otome games get localised into English, considering that majority of the English otome mobile games are still stuck with ticketed chapters, subpar game quality and translations. Google translating or direct translating a game in hopes that someone is desperate enough to pay for such quality is just going to drive players away from playing otome mobile games altogether! 😠

In the meantime, some Chinese developers are already localising their female-oriented games into English e.g Wish Interactive Technology Limited’s Yokai Kitchen. With Tencent and NetEase bringing their other titles into English, there is a good chance their otome titles may get localised too.

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