ChinaSocialGames recently had a chance to sit down with RockYou's Founder and CTO Jia Shen at the China Social Games Summit in Beijing to learn more about their future plans for the Chinese market. RockYou is an advertising network, application developer and global publisher.
Returning to Asia
Jia Shen and RockYou aren't completely new to China. Shen, a Mandarin speaker, and RockYou have previously launched two games on Renren in the early days of the open platform: Speed Racing and Superpets. Both games were modestly successful reaching the Top 5 applications list at the time but didn't last long. Shen is now returning to China with hopes of building more lasting relations.
RockYou recently announced their plans to begin partnering with Chinese social game developers to license and distribute games globally. RockYou wears three hats: it's an advertising network, a game developer, and a global publisher. Its advertising network, called the RockYou Monetization Plaftorm () generates 20 billion impressions a month, making it the top network on Facebook and within the top 20-30 in the world according to Shen. It allows for developers to earn money on their games through advertising, offers, services and in-game advertising. As a application developer, RockYou is 3rd largest on Facebook, with Zoo World and Birthday Cards being its most popular apps.
It's this experience producing, marketing, and monetizing top games globally on Facebook and other networks that Shen believes sets their services apart from 6 Waves and other companies offering international distribution to Chinese developers:
"We're going to be very deep partners... it's not a large, long-tail pump-through lots of games type of system. It's definitely choose the right title, modify it, and create the right game that will actually work in a different market... the model is completely different from 6 waves."
The Hong-Kong based 6 Waves is currently the largest publisher for 3rd party developers on Facebook (No. 8 developer overall), focusing especially on Chinese developers. But its localization is often shallow according to industry insiders.
Made in China
The first game sourced from a Chinese developer to be launched by RockYou overseas is MyCasino on Facebook, released in March 2010. The game is currently in beta while it's tweaked before an advertising push to scale it up.
Shen believes that international Facebook user preferences for game concepts and play are very similar globally and not different from Chinese tastes. The localization process RockYou undertakes is detailed but mostly focuses on visual elements. In addition to translating the game's text, the graphics are "internationalized" to suit Facebook user's tastes. When testing and improving games, they typically launch games on Facebook and advertise in small markets with low player acquisition costs like Indonesia to develop a group of beta testers. After RockYou feels the game is ready for primetime, they will push it through multiple channels including their internal platform and Facebook ads.
Jia Shen cited two "gigantic things" that Chinese developers need help with when going global:
First, American companies are iterating... on a larger scale in terms of gameplay, functionality. The big games, like ours, Zynga's, they put out new releases everyday. The way you re-engage and tune the crap out of things, Chinese companies don't do that. They don't even have that mindset, so it's an education process. We're trying to get them to understand that better, but they have to be really aggressive at that.
The second is performance-marketing. The MMO world has skewed things in China in a very big way where people don't really understand the rest of the stuff. And that's a problem. Because when you go to the US, it's really by-the-numbers: go and buy your users and do all the right targeting to bring down the cost of the user acquisition. Buy as many users as possible, black out your competition, in one big fat advertising spend. That's not something that any Chinese company--and most US, for that matter--get.
RockYou is looking outside the US to grow their product development pipeline and to leverage Chinese development costs. A typical game developed in the US costs 200,000 - 300,000 USD compared to about 30,000 USD in China. RockYou will be sharing profits with the local developers to create an ongoing relationship to maintain and update the game over time. Revenues are much higher overseas for successful games. Shen notes the general rule of thumb is that a if a Chinese user would pay 1 RMB, a Facebook user would pay 1 USD (6.8x as much). User acquisition is far more costly on Facebook than on Chinese networks though.
Going forward Shen think RockYou might be even more integrated into the China social game ecosystem by providing seed funding to local teams and perhaps even opening a development office in Beijing. Shen is an advocate of the small social gaming startup and wants to continue to be a mentor for new entrepreneurs.
Kai Lukoff contributed to this post.