Originally posted at VentureBeat
There is no single dominant network, no Facebook for all of China. The actual Facebook.com is blocked by government censors (Chinese sites all obediently and quickly remove “objectionable” content). No single social network will conquer the China market in the immediate future, least of all a foreign one.
Instead, there is fierce competition between the top four:
- RenRen (formerly Xiaonei) copied the Facebook model: it started with students and has since opened to all.
- Kaixin001 attracted white-collar office workers by focusing on fun, addictive social games.
- Qzone gained young teens and rural users via cross-promotional traffic from QQ Messenger.
- 51.com started strong in lower tier cities, but growth has since slowed.
This post will assess market share, profile the top four, and boldly predict the future.
Guest Blogger: Zhou Hao is the Founder of Winzone, which developed the browser game “Dark Agreement”（黑暗契约), which is now in Open Beta. Zhou Hao has four years of experience in the gaming industry, built a payment system that allows users to pay cash at Internet cafes in exchange for virtual goods, and is an expert blogger on BloggerInsight.com.
“Happy Farm” is exploding in China and the developer Five Minutes raised USD 3.5 million from DFJ (Draper Fisher Jurvetson). It begs the question: how can developers capitalize on the growth of social games in China?
Social games are a blessing for Chinese social networks. The revenue model for social and web games is proven. The alliance of gaming and advertising will generate the majority of income on social networks. Tencent's Qzone now proudly says, “No, we don’t display any ads from third parties. We use all our advertising to promote our own games!"
But this does not mean that all Chinese social game developers will benefit from these trends. To move from individuals or small teams to serious and profitable companies, developers will have to overcome three significant obstacles.
In China, web games are now part of a long industry chain. On the one hand, this is due to China’s enormous population (which brings countless young game players); on the other hand, it benefits from its successful industrialization. You can create a profitable web game as long as you have the following elements: various mature components and designs; fashionable graphics; and effective promotion channels. A little creativity in the details helps, but it can even be done without any creativity at all.
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